Despite the festive, signature red and green of the Christmas season, I was blue—navy blue from head to toe.
It was my first Christmas as a newlywed and my first Christmas away from home.
It wasn’t that we were spending the holiday completely apart from loved ones. My husband’s family was driving eleven hours so that we could all be together. But it simply wasn’t my family. Life was just too expensive for us to travel coast-to-coast to spend the holiday at my folks’ house. So there would be no late-night wrapping marathon with my mom, no curling up with my siblings while Dad read Christmas stories, and no helping the little ones open their gifts and play with new toys.
How could I celebrate without them?
I never expected to ask myself that question. My family always focused on Jesus as “the reason for the season,” manger scenes figured prominently in our Christmas décor, and we read the account of Christ’s birth every year. But here I was feeling like it just wouldn’t be Christmas without my family.
Why was I celebrating Christmas?
In our fast-paced, materialistic society, the Thanksgiving-to-Christmas season is the one time generally set apart for family gatherings. But if Christmas means spending time with family, how can our hearts be merry when the ones that make the season special are so far away?
The first Christmas was also spent with families scattered far and wide—for a census. How vulnerable Mary and Joseph must have felt, so very near the baby’s time of birth but packed nonetheless into a strange city overflowing with people. Squeezed into a stable with the animals of wealthier citizens, the young couple faced Mary’s labor and delivery alone, without the help of mothers or nearby neighbor women.
The Son of God faced a different kind of separation in leaving heaven and His Father’s side to come into the world as one of His frail creatures. “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) was the cry that rent the heavens some thirty-three years after the night of the angels’ rejoicing outside Bethlehem. Pressed down by the weight of the world’s sins, Jesus Christ experienced the full agony of the separation from God that we deserved.
So why do we celebrate Christmas?
But the story doesn’t end with the separation of the crucifixion. We celebrate Christmas because the Son of God rose from that grave as our conquering Savior. The unbelief and derision from many of those Jesus came to save couldn’t diminish the hope inherent in His coming. The angel had told Joseph, “Thou shalt call His name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus doesn’t just offer hope to every hurting heart; He Himself is the hope people desperately seek. And Christmas is the season of hope because it commemorates the beginning of Christ’s work to reconcile us with God.
So how can we celebrate Christmas when our hearts are weighed down, either by grief over absent loved ones or simply by the stresses of life? We do it by finding joy in one, unchangeable truth—that God gave us Himself that first Christmas. He experienced our separation for us: “He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows. . . . He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4–5).
The ache of my first Christmas holiday away from my family still lingers these many years later, but because of Christ, I can always have hope. Because of Christ, those who love Him will spend eternity together. And because of Christ, Home is waiting—the Home and family we’ll never be separated from again.
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