[This article was originally written for The Salem News and may have been published there under a different title]
This past Sunday, our Senior Pastor, David Gidcumb, made a confession during his sermon. He said, “I’m not a holiday sermon guy.” I’ll be honest with you. I’m not either. I love Thanksgiving, I love Christmas, but I’m not the guy who tries to fit in a Thanksgiving sermon, or a Christmas sermon just because those holidays are imminent on the calendar. A little of that is because I have a thread of rebellion in me that wants to swim against the current. But mostly it’s because I have no desire to simply shoehorn a message.
Life happens, and it doesn’t care what holidays are coming on the calendar. As I write this, Thanksgiving will be this week and the reality of life is this. Many of us are in the middle of trials and tribulations that aren’t going to take a break just because Thanksgiving arrives on November 22. Christmas is coming thirty-three days after Thanksgiving. Will the pressures and circumstances of your life relent just because the observed birthday of Jesus Christ is coming? Not a chance.
What am I getting at? It doesn’t matter where you are on your journey right now, don’t pile more guilt and shame upon yourself just because this year these holidays may not be picture perfect. Don’t shoehorn a holiday into your journey, with all it’s expectations, all its accoutrements, and decorations if it will only result in piling on disappointment, shame, and condemnation. Life is full of enough tribulation all by itself, so do yourself a favor and don’t allow a holiday to take your spiritual health hostage.
I know this isn’t what you may have been expecting for an article about the holidays and how special they should be to our families, so let me get to the meat of what I’m saying in the limited space I have been given. Again, I love Thanksgiving and Christmas and I try to make sure that when I come to the table with my family on these days I have a clear conscience and that all which needs forgiveness has been confessed and covered. But the reality for many of us is that our families aren’t always peaceful when these special days come around. If that’s you, let me speak some encouragement into your heart.
Jesus knows. He knows, and he cares. He cares about you more than you care about yourself. What he doesn’t care about are arbitrary dates that we have chosen on our calendar for holidays. The holidays have a dark side that no one likes to talk about. WebMD has even devoted a section to Holiday Depression and Stress. This is for you, broken friends, broken families, and those who are in tribulation during the time of year when those things make us feel condemned.
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18 (ESV)
If your holiday hopes have crumbled beneath the weight of relationship brokenness, there is one person who remains constant. Jesus Christ is our Advocate, our Peace, and our Comfort. Spend these holidays pursuing Him.