19 Dec 2008

Dark Side of Christmas: The Loneliest Time of the Year

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Christian hope, Christmas, Church, Jesus, Ministry, Preaching

What do you think of around Christmas? What do you normally see at a Nativity … even one at a church? There are usually animals. Mary, Joseph, Wise men all have there place. There is usually a star of some sort. And of course there are angels. Most Nativity’s are a whole lot of Luke with a little bit of Matthew thrown in for good measure.

The opening of Matthew’s Gospel is considerably different than Luke’s. He opens with that seemingly irrelevant genealogy (its not by any means!). We are then confronted with a scene that is horrific in nature. It is a crime that Tom Mueller in the December 2008 National Geographic declares “Herod is almost certainly innocent of” (p.40). In Matthew there are no angels that welcome the baby Yeshua rather we are confronted with “Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more” (Mt 2.18). This is what is missing from every Nativity I have ever seen in my life. There are no mothers crying for their children.

But there it is right at the beginning of the “good news” about Jesus. I too used to overlook that scene from the real Christmas … but not anymore. Matthew acknowledges something that needs to be acknowledged: Christmas is painful for many people. With the emphasis on family, friends, parties, giving gifts … we need to see the “Rachel’s” in our churches and our communities that “refuse to be comforted.”

These Rachel’s have suffered loss. Loss of loved ones. Some to disease. Some to death. Some to divorce. This time of year can be merciless for some, so much so that many even end their own lives.

At Palo Verde last Sunday we had a worship service centered around “Christmas: The Loneliest Time of the Year.” We began by reading Psalm 22 which confesses intense agony. Then the service was divided into three parts we read scripture that allowed us as a church family to embrace those who have suffered loss. We invited everyone to write down a name of some one and bring it down to the communion table. I was not prepared for the outpouring … people streamed to the table of brotherhood. Psalm 88 was read for the loss of our loved ones. Every piece of paper was read. We prayed and lamented together. After the third lament was over … with all those cards still on the table … we decided to take the Lord’s Supper and “discern the body” … perhaps for the first time. We were family and we were all one before the Lord. It was powerful. We closed the service with a congregational reading of Psalm 23. We began with embrace of loss and left with the comfort of the Lord.

This coming Sunday we are doing the “other side of the coin.” We will have a happiest time of the year … but first we need to see the Dark Side of Christmas. I encourage my readers out there to embrace those hurting. Sometimes Christmas really is almost unbearable … but we can be the very comforting presence of Jesus for them. The response to our service last week has been overwhelming.

10 Responses to “Dark Side of Christmas: The Loneliest Time of the Year”

  1. fraizerbaz Says:

    I find it ironic that truly *lonely* people will seldom admit that they are hurting. They are used to putting on a mask, and pretending that things are OK.

  2. kingdomseeking Says:

    Bobby,

    Could I have your permission to share this with the church I preach at? Besides my wife and I, we have several other members who have lost children and others who have also experienced some form of suffering that does not always lend to a “happy” Christmas.

    This is a wonderful post.

    -Rex

  3. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Rex if you feel this can bless someone then by all means use it for that.

    Shalom,
    Bobby V

  4. Justin Says:

    Thank you so much. I had never considered the pastoral relevance of the “weeping in Ramah” but you make an excellent point. Honestly, I’m a bit embarassed that I never realized this before. Thanks again.

  5. BillyWilson Says:

    a nice reminder, bobby.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Thank you bobby. I needed that. I have seen without seeing some where I preach that are hurting. Just last night one of our sisters left crying. She is early 50’s. Feb will be two years since her husband died. They were close. She has gone the through all the first years “stuff” as we too often put it. She still feels the same hurt. On the good side (and this is one side) heaven is closer to her than ever before. But here in the now she hurts. I hurt last because all I could do was say, I’m thinking of you.
    I wish I knew what to say to you. I wish for you your favorite thought…peace.
    Sonny

  7. Danny Says:

    Merry Christmas Bobby. I pray that God will give you peace this holiday season.

    Very good article. Some of us who have lived through some not-so-warm-and-fuzzy Christmas seasons can relate.

    Blessings to you my brother.

  8. Stoogelover Says:

    Excellent idea. Reminds me of a Mother’s Day many years ago when I focused on Sara’s grave and the fact that Mother’s Day can be a very lonely time of year for many reasons. If I were still preaching, I’d use your idea for a December service. I hope much healing came from this time of sharing and hearing God speak.

  9. Maria Says:

    Well said Bobby. =)

  10. Laptop Parts Says:

    Wow! That was quite the story telling! Im quite amazed at all the things you’ve done! No wonder your soo happy! Well I hope you had your fun and excitement. In the mean while, as winters kicking in right now, we might be expecting some change! A change in weather hopefully to the better :} I dunno, some how reading about what you wrote makes me remember things that I never thought I would have ever remembered, funny how that works doesn’t it??
    -Much LoVe

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