Ever feel like your heart’s two sizes too small for the Christmas season?

I may have recently given my radio the stinkeye for its heartfelt counsel for me to have a holly-jolly Christmas this year, when I really felt like sulking, washed down with a swig of wassail and one of those little chocolate-dipped pretzels with sprinkles.

The Grinch stealing Christmas stockings

This…has not been my favorite Christmas season. I’ve mentioned I’ve been grieving some hard stuff, been dabbling in some inner anger. But this isn’t my first painful Christmas. The Christmas after my mother-in-law passed away was garlanded with so much sorrow and confusion. My first Christmas in Uganda was a total redefinition of the holiday, for both worse and better. Last year, too, with the robbery, was a little touch and go.

I guess I’m saying—I get the bittersweet holiday thing. It can feel like scalding your tongue on the hot cocoa–while everyone’s inviting you to the Whobilation. Tinsel layered on top of pain can feel false and hollow, a shade of self-betrayal. It’s the most wonderful time of the stinkin’ year.

Even in the story of the Grinch (well, the Jim Carrey version anyway)—his heart ultimately shrinks because he’s been hurt. He’s got termites in his smile and his heart’s an emp-ty HO-OOLE! because his wounds have bubbled into ropes of scar tissue.

What’s lurking beneath your inner Grinch?

Whatever it is, I’m not really suggesting slathering on more icing. Instead…allow me to extend my own ironic conclusion: That Christmas is an acceptable time to grieve—or fully grapple with the fear, disappointment, or hurt that’s hardening in little ice floes around your heart like a poisoned punchbowl. Author Sharon Brown writes,

It hurts, Lord.
It hurts in a very deep, empty place.
And I know that if I don’t keep the wound clean by naming it to you, it will become a nesting place for bitterness and self-pity and resentment and disappointment. I don’t want my wound to become infected.
Maybe there’s healing just in being honest. This is where I am, Lord. Please meet me here.*
Somewhere under all my green fur, I believe that like Job, I can grieve or be disappointed or fail or even feel far from God—and still seek Him and exalt Him. It’s not as I walk around my frustration or sadness, looking the other way…or even wallowing in self-pity!…but trudging through it, searching for signs of Him and His intricate care.
I believe my darkest griefs will in time still be eclipsed by the hope Christmas unwrapped for us. I’ll repeat one of my favorite Tim Keller truisms:

…all true prayer “pursued far enough, becomes praise.” It may take a long time or a lifetime, but all prayer that engages God and the world as they truly are will eventually end in praise.**

 

To me, Christmas is an acceptable time to grieve—because sorrow is often what’s necessary before triumph. (Even a grown-up Jesus, fully cognizant He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, first wept at his friend’s tomb. He didn’t jump right into “Joy to the World”.) Processing our loss or fear at Christmas is a chance to acknowledge why we needed a Savior: because this planet is so utterly broken. Because people walking in darkness needed a great light. Because we needed a Wonderful Counselor, a Mighty God, an Everlasting Father, a Prince of Peace who heard, Help us. Please. And responded in full force, healing from the inside out.

I still believe that kid in a manger came to carry our sorrows; to bring peace on earth, starting with my limping little soul.

I’m not saying to allow your inner Grinch to go ahead and snatch your joy (and take the stockings, too!). The Bible is stuffed with commands to choose joy and self-control; to come before God with thanksgiving no matter what we feel. What I’m suggesting simply that we walk through our emotions–anger included–before God, because we can worship Him at Christmas through those, too.

So—perhaps the solution to my inner Grinch is not to bind him with twinkle lights and stuff a cinnamon roll in his mouth. Perhaps he needs a little time to thaw. And who knows? Maybe he’ll show up at the Whobilation in his own time, plate held at the ready for a slice of roast beast.

 

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*Brown, Sharon Garlough. Two Steps Forward: A Story of Persevering in Hope (Sensible Shoes Series) (p. 97). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

**As quoted in The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms.

 

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