(A Note from Dawn: at Refresh we are Christians. We respect you if this is not your belief. We offer services if you are open to use of scripture and prayer (New Wine), but we will not include these if this is not your desire (New Living). This article is written from a Christian perspective).
Christmas: the most wonderful time of the year! Or is it? For many it is the most painful time of the year.
At That’s the Dream Farm, we are blessed to be able to work with the men of New Life Center’s Genesis Program: a long term residential recovery program entered by choice. These men are serious about overcoming their addictions and recovering from the impact of the traumas that set them up for addiction.
When we held a Christmas party for them, I wanted it to be more than a gloss over the painful Christmases of the past. A time to celebrate together, enjoy delicious food and fellowship, open gifts, yes. Yet we are Refresh, which means we seek healing and learning in what we do. So we braved the discussion of Christmases past.
One man wisely said he couldn’t share about Christmases in his past, as he felt to do so would bring sin. For many it is the most painful time of the year.
I shared Psalm 88 with the men. This Psalm is a prophesy about the end of Christ’s life as a man and foretells of the horrors he faced: crying before God day and night, his blessed soul full of sorrow, without strength, feeling abandoned, an abomination to his friends, shut in and unable to go out, desperate, suffering horrors, destroyed. This was a condition that Christ was born on Christmas to suffer. He has been in such dark places so He can connect with people in those dark places.
With connection and an understanding supportive presence, we can find healing for our traumas. Going to Christ with these unspeakable memories, one can find One who has also suffered the unspeakable.
I found myself at Church on Christmas Day continuing to reflect on this concern of Christmas being the most painful time of the year for many. While reflecting on my own pain surrounding Christmas, I pondered how we redeem Christmas for those to whom Christmas brings pain. And as I heard the familiar passages and gazed on the candle light, I realized this is why we celebrate Christmas. He came to bring Light to the world. To bring Light into darkness. To overcome the darkness of the world with his Light. The Light shines in the darkness.
So how do we redeem Christmas when it may be the most painful time of the year? By recognizing that Christ knows that pain and can connect with us there — by knowing he came to be Light in this darkness. As we are filled with His Light, we can seek to forgive. As He forgave those who sinned against Him, He can fill us with His peace that passes all understanding so we can forgive also. The Light shines in the darkness.
We do not need to forgive on our own, but with His light the darkness can be overcome. We can be freed from the pain: forgiveness is a step in gaining that freedom. His Light came at Christmas to overcome the darkness. Even though we may have experienced darkness in the worldly celebrations of Christmas that are not about Christ or Light or forgiveness, He has come to bring His Light into our darkness. He has come that we may have life, and life abundantly. The Light shines in the darkness.
May we walk in the hope that was shared in our circle with the Genesis program men: hope that we can find the joy in Christmas through the gift of Christ’s presence. May we hope that Christmas may truly become the most wonderful time of the year!
For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness. Ps 18:28