Unfortunately it is not uncommon to hear people utter this dismal phrase: “Maybe we just won’t have Christmas this year.” Yes, there could be tons of practical reasons to abstain from what many people usually associate with celebrating Christmas – trees, lights, food, presents, and all the trimmings. Usually it is the absence of loved ones that prompts these depressing words.
Deaths during the year, someone stationed overseas in the military, the first year a son or daughter chooses to spend with the in-laws, or some unforeseen turn of events can lead people to wish Christmas was simply over and done with. Certainly it is understandable that memories of past Christmases or unfulfilled dreams of Christmases that will never be, can make people terribly unhappy this time of year. Logic would tell us that a season of such happiness and joy is just hard for people who are grieving, sad, or missing someone.
In the 10th century, Pope St. Leo the Great began his Christmas homily with these words: “There is no room for sadness on this day.” Pope Leo knew something very profound: if there had never been a Christmas, then the world would be sad and depressing all the time. All our problems would overwhelm us and the effects of sin and death would drive us into despair. But because of Christmas Day, because of the birth of the Savior of the world, even the darkest days and the most difficult of times will never overwhelm people of faith. If we really believe that Christmas is what we say it is, then how can we say that we will simply abstain from celebrating it in any given year? What kind of faith is it if we believe we can only celebrate Christmas when things are going well and life is giving us everything we want?
This doesn’t mean that we’re expected to walk around with a Santa’s hat on, bake the usual number of cookies, and sing Christmas carols all the time. Grief, sadness, and loss are all very real emotions. Maybe we need to change our traditions somewhat. Maybe we need to learn that not everyone is given a “Merry” Christmas, but everyone can have a ” Blessed” Christmas.
Isn’t a Blessed Christmas a much greater source of consolation and joy? Don’t we understand that the Child in the manger is very concerned about our hurts, sufferings, disappointments and loneliness? He came to console us and let us know that we are never alone. The Prince of Peace wants each of us to experience peace in our hearts and in our homes. Sometimes this seems impossible, especially when we suffer terribly, but if we can believe that God is born into human history, do we then believe our problems are beyond His reach?
The superficial things we associate with Christmas, as wonderful as they truly are, are not the heart of this annual celebration. Thankfully, most of us will enjoy Christmas with family members and friends. But some of us will undoubtedly run into people, who for a whole host of reasons, need some encouragement to get into the Christmas spirit – the TRUE Christmas spirit. It’s not that these people need to celebrate Christmas, it’s that they need Christmas desperately. They need to know the transforming power of Christ’s Birth. He eases away cynicism, negativity, depression, sadness, hurt, loneliness – or at least puts them back in perspective. Pope Leo was right: there is no room for sadness on this day. Christmas shows us how to live and makes life everlasting possible. And there’s no sadness in that. May you and those you love have a Blessed Christmas!