When December is Difficult

Do any of these words describe you? Hurried. Scattered. Stuffed. Forgetful. Busy. Behind. Broke.

If they do, you aren’t alone. Christmas is our annual reminder of why Santa takes the sleigh rather than the interstate and how the mall got its name. Strange how a season of peace so often becomes a season of panic.

For some, however, this time of year brings more than hassle…for some it brings heartache. Many use sadder words to capture their Christmas feelings. Words like: alone, discouraged, depressed, angry, hurt.

  • The sight of happy children is a reminder of a vacant crib.
  • The busy social schedule of some only highlights the empty calendar of others.
  • Images of families together reinforces the pain of families apart.

If this season is hard for you, if you’re looking forward to December 26th more than December 25th, then I’ve got a story for you to consider. I’d like you to contrast your plight with that of a young girl.

Here she is away from home, miles from family and her own bed. She’s spent the last five days on crowded roads enduring the winter chill.

As much as she tries to keep a good attitude, it’s not easy. This isn’t how she planned to celebrate the birth of Jesus. No matter how you cut it, this isn’t a good time of the year to be away from those you love. She’d envisioned a happy meal with family and friends and–now look at her–stranded in a city of strangers. Even if she could leave, she’d never make it home in time. Even if she had the time, she doesn’t have the strength. She needs some rest. She needs a bed. She needs some help.

The last few months have been about all she could handle. Ask her which is worse, the pain in her heart or the pain in her back, and she’ll be hard pressed to make a choice.

Her heart aches for her family. They’d gone through so much over the last year. Under normal circumstances, they’d have been thrilled to learn of her pregnancy. But pregnant before the wedding? With her conservative family and her bizarre explanation? And to have to tell the man you love you’re carrying a child who isn’t his? It’s a miracle he still married her. A miracle indeed. And a miracle is what she needs tonight.

Her back aches from her pregnancy. She’d envisioned giving birth at home, mom holding one hand, Joseph the other. Perhaps if they could all celebrate the birth of her firstborn together, then they, too, would believe. At least, that was Mary’s plan.

Of course I could be wrong about Mary’s plan. Perhaps the feed troughs and stables and midnight birth pains were her idea. But I don’t think so. I’ve yet to meet a mother-to-be who dreamed of using a cow stall for a delivery room and a manger for a bassinet and I doubt if Mary did either. So when Joseph returned from the inn and asked her if she was allergic to sheep, it’s a safe hunch to say she was surprised.

This isn’t how she planned to celebrate Christmas. Maybe this isn’t how you planned to spend yours either.

When you stop and think about it, Christmas hasn’t changed in 2,000 years. What brings us stress, brought her stress; but what brought her joy, can bring us joy as well, if we’ll allow it.

Do what Mary did:

– Trust God for a Christmas miracle. Things look bleak today, but they might change tomorrow. Don’t assume that your troubles will linger. Mary had faith to let God do a work inside her. Follow her example.

-Trust enough to obey. Mary did. She obeyed. She didn’t rebel, pout or demand a detailed explanation. She obeyed. We can do this much. Make it your aim to follow God as closely as you can.

-Sign up for servanthood. Mary told the angel: “I am the Lord’s servant.” (Lk. 1:38) Those who demand to be served are likely to be disappointed. Those who take the position of a servant are happiest because they have fewest expectations. Make it your aim to serve, not to be served, and the clouds will lift.

Let Mary be your model and, by the end of December you’ll be using these words to describe your spirit. “Joyful. Happy. Faithful.”

Merry Christmas,


© Max Lucado, December 2016