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.