“I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel…”
-Charlie Brown

I hate to admit this, but in the past, I have written off this bewildered confession as evidence of weak character on good old Charlie Brown’s part.  How can anyone not be happy at Christmas?  There are lights and parties and movies and treats and friends and snow and presents…  Why, you couldn’t escape Christmas cheer if you tried, I’d have thought.  Clearly, this was just a means to a story – almost an unbelievable stretch, to be honest – and our protagonist would get over himself in the end.

Cut to me sitting in the living room just last night.  It was a perfect Christmas moment.  I was quietly basking in the glow of the Christmas lights and the fireplace.  My family had just bid farewell to the last of about twenty-five good friends and relatives who had attended our Christmas Open House.  Candles were burning, my tummy was full of homemade treats, and the house had settled into an almost poetic stillness.  It was even snowing outside, a particularly rare gift in this region.  All was right with the world.

At least, it should have been.  Yet even in the beauty and tranquility all around me, I could feel nothing at all.  I wasn’t sad.  I wasn’t lonely or stressed out or fearful.  I just could not connect with my surroundings and all that they should have imparted.  I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel…  I get it now.

Observing the media during the Christmas season (which they cheerfully insist begins in August), we get a pretty good picture of how we should be.  The grocer’s commercial assumes our typical families will be frolicking about the kitchen together.  Morning radio shows inform us of which toys and electronics are every happy kid’s must-haves.  Jewelers’ billboards demonstrate the ideal couple’s celebration, which is backlit by the frosty glow of a skating pond and featuring a diamond no smaller than your average beagle.  These are the messages we receive.

It is no doubt due to all of this helpful guidance that Christmas has a stereotype of inciting depression.  For instance, my family’s baking projects may involve dancing, but most likely in an effort to extinguish spontaneously combusting butter, or to peel the youngest child from the refrigerator’s ledge.  My divorce was final years ago (probably due to a glaring lack of ice) and the economy has made a mockery of must-haves for anyone.  It becomes easy to wilt under an inadvertent message of inadequacy and failure.

Thankfully, Isaiah 42:3 tells me: “A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out.”  I don’t know for certain yet whether the root of my blues is circumstantial, psychological, or biological, but I know this: God will not let me be snuffed out completely.  Above all things, Christmas is my reminder that God keeps His promises.  I know that He remembers me, and that He will preserve me.

My new church has a tradition that I think is very cool.  In the middle of December, they hold a Blue Christmas service designed to address this phenomenon.  It is structured around dealing with the pressures and feelings of loss that are so common this time of year.  Basically, it gives us an organized setting in which we have permission to feel whatever we need to feel, and to receive grace and prayer for it.  I will be attending with a sense of profound gratitude.

If you are among the blue this season, I would like to encourage you to find a similar outlet if you can.  You are not alone, nor are you defective.  You have a good reason for feeling – or not – this way.  I pray that you may find resolution and relief, and that your flame will be rekindled.

If you are not one of us, I implore you to be kind.  We will try not to cry all over your party clothes.

originally posted 12/13/10

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