When Christmas Seems Anything But Merry

“Merry Christmas!” she said cheerily.
On the inside, I was scowling. On the outside I returned the sentiment and kept walking (partly dragging) my two adorable  whining children to the car. Oh, the wonder of the holidays!(Remind me to not take my kids into Target again until after the first of the New Year!) 
You see, we have been are living on a tight budget these days. Last month we made the final car payment and proclaimed, “we are debt free!” Just in time for the holidays. Or, so I thought. 
Life never seems to work out the way I want it to, and some unforeseen expenses and circumstances have left us keeping a careful eye on the holiday spending. (We know how easy it is to get carried away and end up right where we just dug out of. So, we are choosing to say no to things that we want.Dave Ramsey, you’ve ruined us!) 
And so, when I see my friends post these beautiful pictures of their perfectly trimmed trees, or gorgeously adorned mantles, I about want to pull my hair out. Because we’ve worked so hard, and made such good decisions, and now I want to celebrate… by spending money! (And replacing some old decor we’ve carted from state to state for the last almost-decade.)
I’m sorry, I guess I have a case of the “frugal mans blues” this year.
And I have a feeling there are others who understand how I feel. Maybe you’re back on Dave’s baby step 2 like we were. Or maybe you don’t know who I’m referring to, but you’re living under a mountain of debt and you don’t know how you’re going to “do Christmas” this year. (In which case, I recommend that you stop reading this and Google Dave Ramsey.) 
Maybe you’ve been recently laid off, or had some unexpected expenses and you’re losing sleep and crunching numbers and feeling a lot like Scrooge these days.
And I am sure that many of you are dealing with something far worse than a tight budget (and a horrible case of “the wants.”)
Perhaps you were in remission a month ago, but the C word has reared its ugly head and you are heading into the Christmas season with chemo treatments on the calendar instead of caroling. Maybe you’re coming out of a bad break-up and the loss of that relationship has devastated you. Or maybe this is your first Christmas since you physically lost someone…and you’re wondering how you could ever celebrate without them.
You see people putting up Christmas trees and you’re wondering if you’ll ever have the mental or emotional energy to haul the boxes from the garage or attic. You hear people wishing you “a merry Christmas” and you just want to turn around and punch them in the face (Ok, maybe that’s just me.)
And it’s not that you are a Scrooge. You love the Christmas season. With the decor and food and songs. But, for some reason, you’re at a loss instead of feeling celebratory. And I’m here to tell you… it’s ok.

Because, on Christmas Eve 2000 years ago, there were plenty of people who felt just like you do: Forgotten. Scared. Looked over. Abandoned. Rejected. Alone. Full of doubt. Worry. Fear. 

And yet, Jesus came. In spite of all the darkness and doubt and fear. And today He’s coming for you. 
For some reason the carol “O Holy Night” has really commanded by my attention this season. So much so that I wrote out some of the words:

“A thrill of HOPE, the weary world REJOICES”

This phrase now sits on my mantle. I love looking up there  throughout the day and reading it. It is a powerful reminder. And it is something that I am proclaiming in my home. Even when the dark days seem to cloud over the “merry” part of the season.Because in the midst of a weary world that was struggling for HOPE, for JOY, for PEACE – Jesus came as a Savior for us all.

With Light for the dark places that we are surrounded by. With Hope for those situations that seem hopeless. With Joy for the days when there is nothing to smile about. With Peace for the circumstances that keep us up at night.

I don’t know what your circumstances are, but I know that He came for you...right where you’re at.
So, don’t punch the people who call out with their cheery “Merry Christmases.” Just smile. (Even if you’re only doing it on the outside.) And on the inside, hold on…  because HOPE is on the way!