Those who suffer alone at Christmas

I feel the need to write this, despite it not being in the ‘Christmas spirit’ of the world these days. I fear it may be sad, or slightly painful, and I honestly wish nothing but the happiest Feast for all of us. But then, sadness and pain are realities of our lives, and there is something violent in the way in which we reject them during our moments of joy, for by banishing pain we do violence against those who are crippled by it. We force them into silence and condemn them to the deep loneliness of their suffering. There is something essentially not Christian, even anti-Christian, in the distance we impose between our joy and the pain of others.

I write this thinking about very specific (and, unfortunately, very many) people I know who are carrying heavy crosses on their shoulders, alone and in silence. I write this thinking of you, who are alone on hospital beds; you, who are trapped in your homes caring for your elderly parents; you, who have lost a loved one and feel the pain slowly suffocating you as Christmas draws closer; you, who look at your loved ones as they are stolen away by debilitating diseases, dementia or Alzheimer’s; you, who are abandoned by all in prisons; you, who are abandoned by all because you have lost one too many battles with alcohol or drugs; you, who could never recover from abuse, and for whom no one cared enough to really listen to you and help you get up and start again.

Christmas belongs to you, not to the world – have no doubt in your heart about that. Christmas is not about making merry with wine and gifts, putting our feet up and relaxing. Christmas is not ‘time off’, but the otherworldly joy of a Saviour who comes precisely for you. For you, who suffer. For you, who are alone. You are the reason for the Feast. Your pain is the reason for Christ’s Incarnation. Christ does not come to put His feet up and rest for a week – He comes precisely to start His Work of Salvation, His Ministry in the world.

He comes not for the merry-makers (although His love always includes and never excludes), but for those who labour and are heavy laden – heavy laden with sin, with pain, with sadness, with loneliness, with abandonment, with not being seen because your pain spoils the bubbly empty joy around you, with being silenced because what you need to express is ‘too sad’ for the Christmas period. How far have we fallen from Christ’s love when to express the pain of a human heart is judged as insensitive behaviour because it affects the lazy celebrations of the world’s ‘X-mas’? How far have we fallen when we deem it ‘insensitive’ to express pain and to reach out for the human interaction that could offer our neighbour a moment of freedom from the loneliness of the cross they bear in silence day by day, hour by hour?

But do not worry, and have no doubt. Christ is not of this world, and He comes precisely to transform (that is, to change) this world. Christ does hear. Christ does see. Christ does not even need you to reach out and beg for help, for He reaches out first and He begs you first to give Him your pain. Christ begs us to pile all our filth, all our sins, all our suffering on His Divine shoulders.

Christ does not come into the world at Christmas expecting to rest, but to act. Christ does not come to be pampered, but to start His journey to the Cross. The gifts He wants from you and I are precisely our sins, our loneliness, and our pain. He wants to take it all away from us, for He alone is Love.

I don’t want to write more, although my heart overflows right now. I started writing this post apologising, in case someone should be offended. I now realise that the very need to apologise is the result of the same pressure which is put on all of us to hide the pain we witness and experience, and to accept as normal the walls of indifference society builds against anything not ‘Christmasy’ enough. We should not apologise, for Christmas is ours, not theirs. We should not apologise, for the Coming of our Saviour is the real meaning of Christmas. Hopefully, if anyone is offended, they will find the grace to be troubled by, and to question the reasons behind feeling that way.

I just want you, the ones burdened with pain, to know that you are not alone for Christmas. In the silence of your loneliness, in the emptiness of your homes, in the abandonment of all people, in the stories you are not allowed to tell and the images of pain you are not allowed to share – in all of it, you have Christ within you. At Christmas, the world will have Christmas trees, rich dinners and gifts, but you will have Christ as the Divine Guest of your heart. You will have the Source of Life in the cave of your being. I am in awe of you, I bless you, and I ask for your prayers that miraculous night.

11 Thoughts.

  1. thank you!!! this is exactly how I feel….and along with my personal pain is a certain anger…because of being silenced..either through my own imagined force-field or of that imposed by society.

  2. This is such a beautiful message, thank you for it! I think many people put on the face of merriment in all the celebration of Christmas, and feel the deep pain they live with even more at this time of year. They feel failings more bitterly when things are supposed to be those false images of Christmas that marketers have given many us. I am grateful you have reminded us of the true meaning of Christ coming and that none of us are alone, it is precisely at these most painful times we can open ourselves more to Christ for our great need of him. When maybe we become more aware of our need of him. I am keeping the monastery in my prayers.

  3. I came across this blog entry while searching for an article about how one could celebrate Christmas amid suffering. I am in my forties, single, and taking care of my elderly mother and aunt. I was recently forced out of my job due to office politics and I have very little money left. No new job in sight and my aunt’s health deteriorated beginning December 22nd. Christmas Eve was spent taking care of her, who can’t get out of bed but has the energy to be nasty. The house stinks with her poop and pee despite our cleaning efforts, there appears to be no end to all the cleaning and no happy ending in sight. I felt so miserable as everyone around us celebrated Christmas Eve. I didn’t even eait for the clock to strike twelve. I slept by 7 pm, exhausted by all the caregiving. I feel numb and I feel heart-broken at the same time. I wonder sometimes if this is all there is to my life. I feel like giving up.

    This post offered me some form of consolation, thank you. I needed this to remind me I’m not in this alone and that God sees my tears.

    • Hang one Christmas type of ornament/bulb out there on a limb,…to daily remind you,…that God is with you…every day.
      Thats one thing…that might help. I have also taken care of my parents. So I do understand what you are feeling. And, the other thing I think might help, to realize, that just feeling compassion, is the most important thing,…when we are helping loved ones. And, even when we just sigh, out of the compassion we feel for others, that is worth hours of prayer to God. And God hears it. ( I believe this was said in this writing, called ‘ Prayer with Pain ‘. Link: He also said, that God will give us divine consolation, because of our compassion and prayers. And the edge will be taken off…you won’t feel such a strong sentiment. May God have mercy upon you ! Also maybe the town you live in, or county or state, might be able to offer some type of assistance to you, someone that can come in and help. You might want to check that out.
      Hope this helps a little. Remember you’re not alone, so many people have shared your experiences and have and ARE going through what you are. You are one, among many in the world, right now. Prayers are sent your way. Meg

      • Dear Meg,

        Thank you for your kind words of support and your advice. I read this just now. For some reason, I felt compelled to check this link. I was surprised and encouraged by your words.

        I just managed to put away our Christmas decoration now. I think I will pull one out as you suggested as a reminder of God’s presence.

        It has been a very difficult time for me and my family. I live in a country where nursing homes are very expensive, so that is not an option now. To be able to sleep a full six to eight hours, I go away and sleep elsewhere every month or so. There are some bad days, the kind where you wish the earth would swallow you whole. I just want the next chapter of my life to begin, and I hope there’s a happy ending.

        God has been using my friends as instruments to show support, which is such a consolation. No new job yet, but now, I just hope that if God wants me to focus on my family, that He would also help us in this stage.

        I was told this is just the circle of life at work. Still, it’s the hardest thing to go through. I don’t know how anyone survives this. Hopefully, it will be better next Christmas.

        Thank you for your compassion. God bless you.

  4. yes and mostly true, also this same Christ is Born celerbration, is every day, though ChristMas is being celerbrated even by non christian its just a Day for them , They dont understand! But for those of us who allow the , and those to dictake our Faith is our eyes looking at the wrong picture, the mind of those who imprison our selves became victims of not being part of the celebration, again keep your eyes on Christ not a so called holiday! God Heals everday, I was on my back open Heart surgery, 5 bypassases, back problems, and got addicted to fetynal, while recovery, and on top of that lost my mind , But If you believe that Christ is Christmas, and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to you, he will deliver you from ALL! God Bless You All on christmas Birthday !
    Love you through Christ , that lives in me!

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