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'Tis the Season of Anticipation or Dread?

Do you welcome the Christmas season or dread it?

I often wonder how many people anticipate the Holidays and how many people struggle because of the tension or conflict that it brings. Maybe, if you're like me, it's a mixture of both.

Typically I tend to anticipate the Christmas season, but the last few years the "most wonderful time of the year" has been especially difficult for me. As it approached this year I found myself completely wishing to bypass it entirely.

After recognizing why I was so apprehensive about it and after naming my past experiences and feelings I had hoped that I could be spared from its effects. I had hoped to be prepared enough to avoid the tension that has come to be a familiar companion in this season.

But, as you can probably guess, it has not. The Christmas season continues to be a struggle for me. And I think this is true for so many of us.

The reason why it's difficult for me isn't the subject of this post. Though I would love to share that story with you it is long and the details are not the point. What is important for you to know is regardless of the who, what and why's of my struggle surrounding the season, it's difficult, painful, and unwanted. It's unchangeable, uncontrollable, and unavoidable. And I'm beginning to realize that it's not going away.

Does this time of year have an effect on you too? Maybe it brings up some unwanted memory or feeling? A reminder of a broken relationship? The absence of a loved one? The lack of joy in an area of your life? Disfunction or hurt? The long wait that won't end? The subject doesn't have to be big or grand for us to be greatly affected, even the small things impact us greatly. It doesn't even need to be named for it to loom and hang like a heavy grey cloud, sometimes we just simply feel it.

Tension. Conflict. Unwanted hurt.

It can make a person dread the season. Or at least, dread what the season may hold.

Tension seems like a backward word to use during a celebrated time of the year. As believers, we reflect on the birth of Christ and it's the time of the year we pause to be reminded of what the gift of His birth means to us. Tension doesn't seem like it should fit. And most of the time we believe that it shouldn't, which only brings us to feel more it.

At least that's true for me. Maybe the same is true for you too?

In my own struggle, as I've desired to avoid this tension entirely, I've been trying to stop and listen to it. Listen to the frustration, the ache, the ways I want to escape the hurt, the triggers that cause it, and the lack I feel. And as I listen I'm beginning to recognize something about this unwanted pain, I'm beginning to see just exactly how this tension makes sense in this season; how this internal conflict actually holds a pivotal purpose.

The theme of it isn't new. The effects of how things are not right in this world have groaned since that cursed day in the Garden of Eden. Its shape and form have only taken its varying twists throughout time, to us individually and to us as a whole. The fact that we experience it for ourselves uniquely is not foreign or misplaced, it's always been since the fall of man and the Christmas season doesn't override it, in fact, it shouldn't be a surprise if the Christmas season highlights it.

In a saturated world of man-made love, joy, peace, and hope we often expect the celebration to suffice our soul; it only makes sense that we would be reminded of how our man-made effort doesn't satisfy. That our production of happiness would emphasize the lack of true joy in our lives. Our incomplete love would emphasize our dysfunctional families. Our hopeful gift-giving and receiving would highlight the emptiness of our hearts.

In a world that's broken and in a season where we reflect upon why Jesus came, it makes sense that we would be invited to experience His coming personally. To experience personally how something isn't as it should be is an open invitation to partake in the whole reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place. It's an invitation to receive for ourselves the real gift of His Son.

In a world where things aren't as they should be, Jesus came to give us unshakable hope. In a world where pain and sorrow lull like a constant wave, Jesus came to give us real and lasting joy. In a world where our personal struggles are relentless, Jesus came to give us surpassing peace. And in a world where we feel alone, Jesus came to give us unconditional love. These gifts were promised in His arrival and they are offered today because of His finished work on the cross.

The hurt, the tension, and the struggle we face in the Holiday season is the very invitation to experience the gift of Jesus for ourselves, personally and intimately.

God doesn't want us to be content with counterfeit versions of love, joy, peace and hope, He wants us to experience the real thing.

Instead of trying to avoid our longing perhaps we can recognize it as something that paves the way into His abundance. To excuse our pain is to excuse why Jesus even came.

He came to save us from our brokenness. He came, destined to bear the sins of this world into death. His birth held cries of both suffering and redemption. His life, death, and resurrection is the essence of joy and sorrow. Hope and despair. Peace and conflict. Love and rejection. To experience them both is to partake in His life. To experience them both, though upside down, seems fitting in a season that is purposed and defined by His very arrival. He bore the latter so we could walk in the way of the first.

Will we actually let the goodness of His arrival impact these places of our hurt? Or we will continue to believe that we don't need Him and keep trying to fix these places of tension with our own efforts?

Instead of seeing the tension of our struggle in the Holiday season as something that doesn't belong, let us remember that without it we wouldn't know or experience the unshakable hope, real and lasting joy, surpassing peace and unconditional love of our Savior. Let us remember why He came, why we celebrate and let us partake in these gifts ourselves.

If you're like me and struggling with the desire to avoid these unwanted feelings of the season, remember they are the very places for you to know your redeeming savior more intimately. It's why He came. To save us. To restore us. And to light the way before us, day after day. Love, joy, peace, and hope don't exist separate from our pain, they exist because of it. Jesus wouldn't have needed to come if the world had been right, He came because it wasn't right. And it's still broken, but we are made right in Him and can walk in the way of His coming and all the fullness His presence brings.

Instead of seeing the grey looming cloud over the Holiday season as something that keeps us from experiencing the abundance of it, let us recognize that it's the very invitation to experience the abundance of Christ's coming in a lasting and personal way.


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