December 12, 2013

Turn Those Christmas Blues to Gold

Christmas is a joyous but also painful time for many. My nurse just told me that she wasn’t sure if she was going to put up her Christmas tree because it reminded her of her husband who recently died of cancer. Another young woman in our office is grieving her baby boy’s diagnosis of eye tumors. Over the holiday, she will bring him to the hospital for eye surgery and pray for him not to lose his sight. Christmas may feel like more of an annoyance than a celebration to her.

What is it about Christmas that makes us so sad? We see uplifting Christmas movies on television, advertisements of folks busily buying gifts for one another and we work hard at creating an atmosphere of celebration. Lights sparkle on doorways, candles light up windows and neighbors give one another cookies and chocolates. My neighbor pulls his sleigh out, hitches up two enormous draft horses and gives the neighbors rides through his fields. With so much delight abounding, why are we so blue?

After six decades, I think I’m beginning to understand. The sadness, I believe, comes from many places and from different levels. First, when we see delight around us, we are reminded what we don’t have. Grandma is no longer here to make her famous fudge, a father may have left and his kids are reminded that their friends have fathers who are still home. Loved ones get sick with terminal cancer and happy times tell us that others don’t have cancer, we do.

Then there’s the ache of longing for what we used to have. I ache for my mother and father at Christmas. Christmas day was my father’s favorite day of the year and he spent months thinking of unique gifts for each of us. My mother decorated every nook and cranny of our home. I see the look on their faces when we came down Christmas morning. I see my nephew sitting on my dad’s lap. We ache for what we have no more and we mourn what we never had- these are the roots of sadness at Christmas. But I think there is something deeper too.

There is a spiritual component that disturbs us. We are reminded that a beautiful man-God came and locked himself inside the body of a little girl only to be born so that he could die. That confounds us on a deep, spiritual level. We are not conscious of it, but the sadness of Christ’s birth hovers over us. I know that this is true for me. A perfectly innocent child brought into the world to be the ultimate scapegoat. The cruel nature of his story makes us think that God might be mean.

That is exactly why we must drive through the sadness and the blues-however deeply they have gripped us and move past them. And we can move past them. Christmas happened, Good Friday came but then- the fulfillment of the mission came Easter morning. The perfectly perfect baby grew up, died, collapsed under the weight of darkness and evil because of me and you. BUT then, he finished the story. He walked out of the tomb. With one blow, he crushed every sadness you and I have ever held onto. He turned our blues into pure gold.

I was speaking with a priest recently when I went to EWTN to film Life on the Rock. Father Mark looked at me after half an hour and said, “With so much pain and sadness out there, how do you stay so hopeful?” I simply looked at the cross on his wall and pointed to it.

“Easy,” I said. “We win.”

Christmas is about us winning. It is a joyous celebration in the midst of our sadness because it lets us know that sadness, the blues and death itself all go away. So this Christmas, when the blues move heavily into your heart, focus on this truth. They all go away. You and I know the end of the story and we’ve read the end of the book and it says to each one if us- don’t worry about anything- even death itself- because God has our back. He helps us win.

Merry Christmas friends