It’s that time of year again. For almost two months we put ourselves through so much unnecessary stress. We fret over Thanksgiving dinner and preparing the feast. We make travel arrangements to accommodate a true family get together. We struggle financially. We often create impossible goals of perfection only to be disappointed or worse yet alone.
We rush into Christmas with a fervor that slowly beats us into the ground. We overstretch the budget or max out the credit cards in order to buy the perfect gift. We hit the stores before the turkey has had a chance to digest. Holiday decorations are put up and lights exhibit the perfect Currier & Ives example of the best thing since sliced bread. On the outside we see beauty, but what lies behind the walls of those exemplary displays can often be the beginning of a very difficult season.
For those of us who rejoice in the true depth of the Christmas message, it’s often hard to understand how anyone could possibly be depressed during this time of the year. However, even those who know God’s promise to man was fulfilled on that first Christmas, are prone to sadness, melancholy and downright depression.
The slightest thing can trigger a memory of a lost loved one. Hanging a special ornament on the tree can remind of us something that happened on past Christmases. Opening a Christmas card from a friend you’ve not heard from in years can set off memories or sadness in an instant. You may have lost your job. You may have lost a loved one. You might be alone for the holidays. Your health may be in question. Still, we’re almost expected to be joyful, just because it’s that time of the year
Depression like happiness cannot be turned on or off like those lights on the tree. Our emotions act in the moment and we never know when they will hit us the wrong way. Just knowing that we’re not alone in these feelings sometimes is helpful, but depression is a very real thing and should never be discounted.
Some of my most memorable Christmases occurred during the worst of times. When you think about it, the whole Christmas story was steeped in trial and difficulties. The events leading up to the birth of Jesus were anything but joyful. A young virgin was impregnated by God, engaged to be married to her future husband. They were poor, even though Joseph was a tradesman. The had to travel over rough terrain to reach the little town of their lineage, with enemies at every turn. They could find no place to rest and Mary was about to give birth. Talk about depression. Yet, the angels announced the birth to shepherds. The sky lit up brighter than any Christmas lights. The Son of God was born in a shabby birthing barn for calves. God’s promise was being fulfilled.
Telling someone to cheer up at this time of year really doesn’t cut it. Think about it. This is the most emotional time of the year, yet God chose to come and live among us as our brother and take away all our cares, to heal our iniquities and to bring us to an eternal home in heaven.