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December 17, 2019

When Memories of Christmas Hurt

Part three in our series, "How to Make Home for the Holidays Happier"

It is a time when our hearts overflow with joy and kindness. But it is also a time filled with stress regarding the rush of presents, dinners, decorations and yes, disappointments. Why disappointments? Because we all place on Christmas the pressure to bring great joy, hoping it fills the air with nostalgic sights, sounds and tastes.

We all differ in how we view Christmas or what our expectations are for a good holiday season, and this is often impacted by our experiences of Christmas in the past.

Hurts of Christmases Past

Many people grow up with fond childhood memories of Christmas, maybe the excitement of driving to a relative's house, the thrill of opening presents, and favorite dishes being passed around a noisy dinner table.

Others associate Christmas with chaos in the family, tight finances, or difficulty in a divorced family. Maybe Christmas was a happy time of year for you until the kids left home, you lost your job, the rift between you and your mother-in-law grew, or you moved away from family and are now alone.

Perhaps Christmas is a reminder that you aren't married, or that your children are not living their best lives. Or it could be that each year, Christmas has slowly lost its jingle as the unresolved conflict between you and your spouse moves you further apart.

And so, Christmas can be a reminder of your hurts when growing up, your dysfunctional family, of what you don't have, or the disconnection between you and your spouse.

A New Christmas Experience
I don't know what your experiences are around Christmases past, but if they are negative, I am very sorry for your hurt, pain and disappointments. Take time to grieve the bad experiences of past Christmas's or the losses and hurts you are experiencing in your life today. Talking about it with a friend who can empathize with you helps. Once you have cried a tear or two, realize that your past experiences, or life today, does not need to rob you of making the most of your current Christmas.

You don't have to be stuck with negative associations of Christmas. You can begin to carve out your own sweet memories by turning your attention toward the true meaning of Christmas and creating your own fun traditions. One day at a time.

A Joy-Filled Christmas Present
Begin today by listing how God, or the person who cares for you the most, would like for you to experience during this Christmas season. I am sure they'd want you to feel the full joy of the season. They'd probably pray for your heart to be filled with love and gratefulness. And for you to have the courage to rise up and out of your difficult situation with a renewed hope for your future.

Even though your heart might be heavy, those who care about you most might also suggest you:

- Don't do the same old thing this season and expect a different result; do something different—don't stress yourself out, spend too much, put the pressure on yourself to do it all perfectly, sit alone at home, isolate yourself, drink too much, or pick up the scrooge attitude when you hear the Salvation Army bells ringing. Neither expect your dysfunctional family to have changed over the past 12 months.
- Laugh a lot (maybe put on a Christmas movie?) … preferably with friends.
- Stay simple but meaningful.
- Enjoy the choirs, carolers and Christmas music.
- Go to a Christmas show or service.
- Re-read the story of Christmas from a modern-day version of the Bible.
- Be grateful for the gift of life and the many good things you have.
- Soak up the sights, sounds, smells and tastes that make up Christmas.
- Don't forget that God has got you, He is with you, and He will get you through whatever difficulties you are facing.

And I would agree with them. Give this Christmas a chance to be merry. I don't know you by name, but I will pray for all of you who read this blog.

We live in a broken, struggling, difficult world. And just because Christmas is here doesn't mean that pain, hardship and hurt will stay away until the new year. The realities of life are always all around us. But in the midst of life, let's encourage each other to look up and see the star of Bethlehem announcing the birth of a baby who has come, to be God with us.

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Might God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

"Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which means, God with us." Matthew 1:23

Part 1: When Home for the Holidays is Disappointing

Part 2: When Our Christmas Traditions Clash

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