In the past, as a preacher, I dreaded the arrival of the holiday season (the period between Thanksgiving Day and January 2). The ads, the gifts, the stories of ideal family reunions, and the multitude of sad stories where everything works out wonderfully surround us in countless ways. Repeatedly we are told the perfect family not only exists, but that it is commonplace. Repeatedly we are told the ideal friend not only exists, but he/she is commonplace. Repeatedly we are told the “right gift” makes the difference. Millions upon millions of dollars challenge the American society to create and expect the ideal.

Why did I dread the holiday season? I dreaded it because I seemed powerless as an onslaught of depressed people surrounded me. For many, this is a depressing time of the year. The millions of dollars spent in advertising to elevate expectations create either a false hope or force people to deal with a painful reality. Either they expect something unexplainable to happen that will not happen, or they are painfully reminded of what they have lost. All I had to use to console the depressed was the message (a) that there are no ideal families, (b) there are no ideal friends, and (c) often personal desires are not fulfilled in our physical world.

For a family who has experienced a death, for a person living in inescapable poverty, for those victimized by troubled relationships, and for those who have always wanted what many they watch take for granted, this is not a time filled with joy. It is a time filled with reminders of what they do not have and are powerless to change.

To the depressed, overwhelming questions crash upon them like the tidal wave that precedes a coastal flood. “Why me?” “What is so undesirable about me?” “Why do I not have what everyone else has?” “Why can I not experience my desires?” “Why have I experienced so much trouble and so little joy?” “What did I do to deserve this?”

May I make some suggestions about making this a tolerable time of the year for most? First, be grateful. When you take your eyes off of what you do not have and place them on what you do have, it changes your priorities. Second, do not minimize the agony of the troubled. I understood long ago that if I changed places with the struggling, I most likely would be worse than they. Third, encourage those you know who struggle. It is amazing how awareness of the struggling, thoughtful statements, and kindness can change perspectives. Fourth, realize we exist in an unjust world. You cannot eliminate all injustice, but you can represent the God who cares and is the source of hope.

God’s good news is not about physical circumstances. It is about eternal realities.

Hebrews 2:17, 18 “Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.”

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 30 November 2006

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