At Christmas, Remember the Broken People

For all the festivities, lights, gifts, and friends — the holiday is far too hard for some of our fellow citizens

My father was always excited about Christmas. Our family Christmases were known for having very tall trees, so many presents, and of course, hand-knitted stockings, all with our names woven into them.

All four of us girls received a new set of look-alike “Christmas Pajamas.” They were red-and-white flannel nightgowns made for the orchestrated magical descent down the stairs from our bedrooms into the wonderland of whirly-birds, Saucy-Walkers, and in my case – go-go boots.

When you exist in the sad netherworld of a broken or damaged family, Christmas often hurts more than it cheers.

Carrying the tradition into my own family, I appropriated recipes, stockings, the sense of excitement and general magic when it came to the Christmases I wanted for my own family — my three sons.

I’ll tell you right now: Finding stocking stuffers for boys is a zillion times harder than finding stocking stuffers for girls. Truly, however, filling my boys’ stockings was the most fun for me as a parent. It is what I miss most now that they are grown and my family — as it was when they were young — is gone.

A divorce, the loss of a loved one through whatever means, or the heartache of all kinds can make the Christmas music you hear in CVS cause a lump in your throat and bring tears to the edges of your eyes — when, really, all you wanted to do was to run in, grab some shampoo, and get on with your errands. Instead, you enter your car in the parking lot in a state of emotional collapse.

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Related: Sermon Spotlight: The Light of Christ Prevails

Christmas itself, at least in America, is so ubiquitous and inescapable and so driven by buying things to show how much you love your loved ones. So if you possess any emotional stressors because of the above-mentioned losses, each reminder of Christmas feels like a kind of death.

Many people cry on Christmas. Many people sit alone in empty houses. Some people kill themselves (it is a well-known and sad reality that more suicides happen during the holiday season than at any other time of the year).

This is because Christmas, in the idealized and, dare I say, distorted version portrayed in commercials and Christmas songs, is centered around “family.” And not all families are happy. Not all families survive.

Related: The Message of the Manger’s Animals

When you exist in the sad netherworld of a broken or damaged family, Christmas often hurts more than it cheers.

So this season, let us remember the broken people. Pray for them and bless them. They, in their tremendous isolation, are nearer to the isolation that attended the lonely birth of a special child who entered this world in a barn filled with animals.

Wendy Murray served as regional correspondent for TIME magazine in Honduras in the early 1990s, and later as associate editor and senior writer at Christianity Today. She is the author of 10 nonfiction books and a novel.

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