What do you associate the holidays with? What do the holidays mean to you? In my case, I’ve been guilty of obsessing over the gifts I’m going to purchase for myself. I’ve gotten wrapped up in finding the perfect gifts for my loved ones, attending as many holiday parties as I can, and finding new ways to appreciate the story of our Lord and Savior’s birth. Some of those things are still significant to a certain extent but working in a hospital over the past few months have shifted my frame of mind when it comes to understanding how others process holidays. It’s made me realize that the very things I get excited about and celebrate may evoke strong emotions and bring back painful memories for others. I want to be sensitive to that.

A few weeks ago I watched a woman at work sit in the hallway shortly after her husband passed away. Family members eventually trickled in and surrounded her and phone calls were made but my heart broke watching them from afar. I returned to work but that image of her stuck with me.  I couldn’t help but think that Christmas would roll around and that family would be forced to go through the holidays without someone they love.  There are people around us and in our lives that are nursing heartbreak or reeling over the loss of a job and wondering how they’ll make Christmas “happen” this year. They may even be alone for the holiday for the first time. This time of year may serve as a reminder that the ones they love are no longer around. Everything that comes along with this time of year…the decorations, pressure to spend time with family and friends, the exchange of gifts, and the various traditions may pick at healing scabs and wound healing hearts.

I want to spread some holiday cheer and encourage to anyone who feels down this season. Christmas is much more than gifts and parties. The birth of Christ symbolizes hope to a world that desperately needs it. I realize that this holiday may be a different one for you or your family, you may even dread (or avoid) celebrating Christmas year after year but know that you are not alone. It may feel as if you have nothing to celebrate but all is not lost. You are loved. You are supported. You are needed. Despite the loss, the angst, or sadness that may exist, there are things in this life that are worth celebrating. Most importantly, there is someone who cares for you and is constantly present in the midst of our struggles. Jesus Christ, the greatest gift, was given to us so that we would never be alone and separated from God. I’m praying that you accept him into your life if you haven’t already. I’m praying that you are comforted during this time and that the peace of God surrounds you. May you find reasons to rejoice and be consumed with joy despite whatever circumstance you are facing.

I hope you all enjoy your weekend and all of the merriment that comes along with it. Please remember to spread kindness and grace to everyone you come in contact with (especially during this time of year). Find ways to give back to those that are less fortunate or simply be present for someone who needs company or comfort.

God bless you & Merry Christmas.