Repost from the archives of Ruthless Love, my former blog. Though we’re not facing the trials on my heart when I wrote this piece, there are others. Reposting this in hopes it will encourage those whose Christmas is anything but holly and jolly.

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I’ll omit the apology for not writing in a while, because honestly? It’s been a very challenging season of trials and this last heartache left our hearts bleeding and crying out for Christmas joy like no other. I’m not gonna lie, if any one of us is needing joy, I’ll be the first in line! As I’ve cried out for comfort and leaned on friends in new ways, I’m finding that the things I’ll share here are making all the difference. Perhaps this isn’t exactly a picture perfect Christmas for you either? Well, stick around, because you and me, friend? We’ve got front row seats to a Christmas miracle and the tickets are FREE!
I’ve asked God for a special reminder of His presence and love, and the song O Come, O Come Emmanuel has sprinkled crumbs on the trail to His glory and grace. My worship-leader-treasured-friend reminded me that most Christmas songs are written in a minor key, and you might be asking why? Longing. We are all longing for the hope, peace, and joy that the people of God craved before the first coming of Christ. They weren’t just waiting for months, or a couple years, we’re talking hundreds of years since there had been any prophetic revelation from God.  Take a nice, slow read of a few stanzas in the song at this link.

Do you see the longing displayed in those words? These were some seriously dark times for the people of God, friends. May we find encouragement in knowing that we are not alone this Christmas, and God is again this year bending low, humbling Himself and giving His presence in the midst of whatever circumstances we are facing.

Emmanuel, God with us. He is the friend like no other, who will sit down with you in the middle of your mess. He’ll hold you, he’ll cry with you. In fact, He came to share the sufferings of life with you. He is the gracious and compassionate High Priest. My mind is struggling to wrap itself around the simultaneous truths of God’s goodness and sovereignty, yet again. No need to feel guilt over that if you are there too. But regardless of whether or not you are able to embrace those mind-bending truths, you can confess your doubt and struggle to believe Him.

My mind turns to the beautiful young Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus. Because of her humble faith, we are able to enjoy the embrace of our Savior in hard and happy times. When we don’t understand why God is allowing difficulties, or when we are equally astounded at undeserved blessings that come our way (as we should be), we honor God by entering the mystery of His grace with the humble faith Mary had. She did not understand exactly what God was doing, but she chose to praise Him in the midst of it and she chose to embrace HIS plan for her life. It was certainly not an easy road for her, in many ways. I’m asking myself this Christmas, how can I embrace where God has me, both the good and bad, and praise Him still? How can you?

Though He will always come to find us, humbly entering our mess, we can bring Him glory by moving towards Him in faith as well. Remember, He wants to be WITH YOU in your pain. He is not asking You to wash up and put on that cute holiday dress before you can show up at the ball. He takes your hand, and invites you into His presence anyway.
I’m still learning to dance, but here are some steps I’m taking towards His embrace this Christmas…

Honesty and humility – Nobody likes platitudes, but sometimes speaking the truth as a bandaid over our pain (whether it’s our self-talk or the words of others) helps, and other times, the wound just keeps festering underneath. I know, because when the pain is gushing out bright red, your sweet little heart feels like it just might explode and who wants that? Being honest with a few friends, my husband, and most importantly, God, has been vital to surviving this recent loss. It is pretty humbling to have to admit how much we can struggle to believe (especially when that word is plastered all over ads and commercials this time of year) but no one can really help if they don’t know what you’re going through.

Friends like Philemon – If you don’t have friends like Paul had in Philemon, who encourage your heart and stand with you in the battle, start asking God for them. But most likely, I’d be willing to bet there is at least one friend or family member who is wanting to be there for you. Will you let them in? I can totally empathize here, as asking for help is again, humbling, but thankfully the people who love me are patient, and I’m certain your support network will be too.
Moving towards the pain, not away from it – Ouch. I know, I had to bring this up, right? Hiding in bed is pretty comforting too, but we’ve all got to face the day at some point. The pain and grief you are facing won’t go away, and maybe you are not ready to deal with the issues right now, but the longer we put it off, the slower the healing will be. Give yourself grace, but take some small steps every day to look at the wounds, allowing the Healer to bind them up and comfort you with His word.
Forgiveness – If nothing else in this post has spoken to you, I’m guessing maybe this one might? Unforgiveness is such a huge obstacle to joy at Christmas time, considering all the people we are mingling with. Small talk won’t cut it if there are years of misunderstanding that need to be dealt with. What if you had that talk you’ve been putting off for so long? Have you considered forgiving yourself too? The Gospel is Christ coming to earth, entering our mess, making a way for hope, joy and PEACE with Him and others for eternity.
Tears of worship – Remember those friends I mentioned? Another lovely friend comforted me with the fact that our tears are precious to God (He keeps them all in a bottle, the Word says, but it’s okay if you need that Olympic-size swimming pool next to mine 🙂 When prayer is hard, friends seem absent, and you’re just not ready to deal with the pain, tears are enough. He is WITH us, and willing to walk with us, wherever we are today, whether we are ready to heal or still curled up in a ball.
I hope you can find comfort in the mysterious joy of Emmanuel this Christmas, regardless of your circumstances. Remember that dusty, dirty stable where Christ was born? It’s okay if that’s what your heart, your home, or your relationships are looking like this Christmas. Jesus did not demand a perfect situation for His arrival on earth. He humbled Himself and came in the most vulnerable way. Wherever you are this Christmas, He wants to be WITH you there. Will you let Him in?
For additional encouragement, check out Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground) by Chris Tomlin and Hope is Alive by Ellie Holcomb. I’ve had the second on repeat lately, it’s that good 🙂

Great encouragement for the suffering in this broken, hostile world from Ann Voskamp (don’t miss the spoken word video at the end!)

Embracing the joy and mystery of Christmas {even when life hurts}

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