3 Ideas to Help Those Who are Sad at Christmas
- Tim Thornborough thegoodbook.com
- 2016 7 Dec
The Unseen Misery of December 25th (and 3 Simple Ways to Help)
Peace, Love, Joy. Everyone wants Christmas to be wonderful. But beneath the surface for many people there is sadness. In this extract from his Christmas outreach booklet How to have a Happy Christmas author Tim Thornborough lifts the lid on the reality of the season for some people.
We’ve been fooled into thinking that our happiness at Christmas is to do with the things we have, rather than the people we are with.
The finest roast beast, with all the trimmings, cooked by the greatest chef on the planet is worth very little when it’s eaten in silence, or if there is a cold hostility around the table. As one wise man said:
"Better a meal of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred." (Proverbs 15 v 17)
Sadly, Christmas often highlights something darker. The pain of broken relationships is more real for people at Christmas than at any other time of the year. Even while we enjoy the company of others around the table, we remember those who are not with us, because they have died or are distant from us.
I first woke up to the fact that some people hate Christmas when I joined a new bank. As the first “telephone and internet only” bank in the UK, First Direct boasted that you could call them 24 hours a day, on 365 days of the year.
“What? Even Christmas day?” I asked the chatty woman on the other end of the phone while I was setting up the account. “Yes,” she replied. “The slots get filled up immediately the sheets are put up in March.” Turns out that people don’t sign up for double pay, but because they just can’t bear to be at home on Christmas Day.
It is advertised as “the season of joy, togetherness and delight”. The TV oozes glitter and good cheer; we expect feasting and fun with family and friends. But if the day does not deliver when so much effort has been poured into it, the result can be deep despair.
But it is quite hard, in the paper-ripping, face-stuffing, bubbly-quaffing whirl, to remember that it’s the quality and depth of relationships that really matter. So here’s how to have a really happy Christmas—focus on relating.
Plan your Christmas around having meaningful time with people. Not around the gifts, the glitter or the grub. They should be there to serve and improve your relationships with others, not to replace them.
Make the effort to be real with the people you are with. Take time to talk and ask real questions, and to give real answers to your friends, family or partner. Give and receive not just presents, but your time, your attention, your affection—yourself.
If there are children around, hang out with them—get down on the carpet and enter their world. Play with them. Laugh with them. Enjoy the wonder of simple things.
Christmas is also a good time for improving and developing relationships, but it’s also a time for working out where we are—for reflecting on where we have got to. The season marks another year in our jobs, our plans, our life—and especially in our relationships with friends and partners.
Soon after we were married, my wife joined a local law firm, which, it turned out, had a special opening just after Christmas. The waiting room was invariably filled with people wanting to file for divorce. Why? Because Christmas throws into sharp contrast what we know our relationships should be like and what they actually are.
And this points us back to the reason why we have Christmas at all. Christmas isn’t just about human relationships. It’s also about our relationship with God.
We are all made to love. To love the God who made us, and to love others. But our relationship with God has been broken through our selfishness. We have turned that precious gift of love in on ourselves. This is what the Bible writers mean when they talk about sin.
It is puzzling for us to see a world with so much pain. It is even more troubling when we have personally experienced grief, disappointment and tragedy. We’re tempted to believe that if there is a God, he does not care.
But the real Christmas tells a different story. Christmas is a celebration of God’s love for us. He gave his one and only Son to us, because he loves us. And this massive demonstration of his love was finally revealed when Jesus died on the cross. The price of putting our broken world together again was the death of his Son. That’s how much God loves us. That’s how much he cares.
When we think more closely about relationships, we are entering the real meaning and joy of Christmas—because God is calling everyone into a new relationship with himself through Jesus.
Three ideas to help those who are sad at Christmas:
1. Be alert for those who will struggle with Christmas. It’s worth asking friends, neighbors, people at church in the next few weeks: “What’s your plan for Christmas?” or “Do you enjoy Christmas?”. Be prepared to listen to why they struggle. Is it the anniversary of a bereavement or a broken relationship? Are they lonely?
2. Be prepared to offer a place at your table, or to just pick them up to spend an hour or two with you at church, in the afternoon or evening.
3. Send them a card or a gift. A caring note assuring them of your prayers for them will be hugely appreciated. “So sorry for your loss that clouds your enjoyment of Christmas. Thinking of you today, and praying that, in the sadness you will be comforted by the good news of our Savior’s birth."
How to have a happy Christmas by Tim Thornborough is available now.
This article originally appeared on TheGoodBook.com. Used with permission.
Tim Thornborough is the Creative Director at The Good Book Company. He is series editor of Explore Bible-reading notes, and has contributed to many books published by the Good Book Company and others. He is married to Kathy and has three teenage daughters and a boy.
Image courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: December 7, 2016