Raised Up Out of Darkness | December 12th, 2018
Deck the halls with boughs of holly, Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la; ‘Tis the season to be jolly, Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la…the words of a popular Christmas song that propel many people right smack into the spirit of Christmas. But for others? Not so much.
I remember the year my mother passed away. It was in the spring. When Christmas came around nine months later, I was still so overwhelmed with grief and sadness that there was no way I could suddenly put on the cheerful, jolly Christmas spirit that many expected me to have. It was a dark time for me.
For many others though, the holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year. They have their calendars filled with parties, celebrations, family gatherings, and fun, fun, fun!
The Dark Side of the Holidays
Christmas comes with high expectations of perfect, happy families getting together to enjoy elaborate celebrations. Beautiful decorations, delicious food, the clinking of glasses, giving and receiving gifts from everyone’s wish lists, and lots of laughter. When it does not meet those expectations, Christmas can be a time filled with sadness, loneliness, anxiety, and lots of stress.
If you are spending Christmas alone or have recently lost a loved one, this time of year can greatly intensify your feelings of sadness and grief.
Perhaps your family is experiencing dysfunction with addiction, abuse, disconnection, separation, estrangement, or divorce. These all can escalate feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Christmas may be a dark time for you because of the excessive commercialization of the season. The emphasis is all about shopping, giving perfect gifts, and being invited to or hosting great parties. This creates a great deal of stress and anxiety both financially and emotionally.
The pressure to spend a lot of money gives way to incurred debt, gaining speed throughout the holiday season. This often leads to a deep depression in January once the celebrations are over and the staggering bills from all of the uninhibited spending have filled your mailbox to capacity.
Christmas can also trigger excessive self-reflection and feelings of complete inadequacy as you compare yourself to others who seem to have more and do more socially. Knowing you are unable to meet expectations can lead to depression, fatigue, irritability, and stress. The increased demands on your time, energy, and patience can also take a serious toll.
Out of the Darkness
God never meant for Christmas to be like this. It is the time of year we are to focus, not on the great gifts we can give each other, but on God’s greatest gift, His Son. Out of His deep love for us, Jesus came to earth as a tiny baby so He could take the enormous punishment for our sins. He did this by dying on a cross and becoming resurrected three days later so we could be raised up out of our darkness, fully forgiven by His grace to be able to enjoy an eternal relationship with Him. There is no other gift that even comes close to that!
Throughout the years of searching for good quality vintage costume jewelry, I have come across several beautiful shell cameos which I have repurposed into adjustable rings. Most people have seen a cameo but have no idea exactly how it was made. When I began to do a little research on the process, I discovered the technique that cameo carvers use actually has spiritual significance. What a great surprise!
A cameo is a small, sculptured work of art that has had an image carved out of a material such as stone or shell with a contrast of dark and light.
The carnelian shell is most frequently used for carving cameos. These shells are a light peach or orange color and provide good contrast between the foreground and background. The background is dark and the raised image, also called a relief from the Latin verb relevo (to raise), is carved out of the lighter color.
The spiritual significance is that we are just like a beautiful cameo. We are God’s sculptured work of art. The Master Carver uses His tools of love and grace to chisel us out of our darkness and raise us up into the light. Once we are raised, there is no amount of darkness that can hide His light reflecting in us!
A New Focus for Your Sadness
Are you stuck in your sadness? Although it has been six years since my mother went to be with Jesus, I still find myself dealing with the sadness of losing her, especially during the holidays when I think about all of our special traditions and time we spent together making precious memories.
It is important to find a new focus and not continually dwell on everything that is making you feel sad. God’s gift to replace your sadness is joy. The Greek word for joy is chara which is closely related to charis meaning “grace” or “a gift.” Chara is how we react to charis. We have joy because of God’s grace.
I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! John 15:11
What is something you find in life that gives you joy?
For me, I find great joy when I am surrounded by my friends who love and care about me. This year, to help me change my focus from sadness to joy, I hosted a Christmas party last weekend at my home with several of my girlfriends. Everyone brought a pretty ornament to exchange and food to contribute to the meal we shared together.
I made a special Christmas appetizer with cream cheese, cocktail sauce, crab meat, and cilantro. It was a family tradition and one that my mom and I made every year together. It gave me so much joy to bring a wonderful memory from the past into the present to share with my girlfriends.
A New Focus for Your Loneliness
Although the world now has over seven billion people, it is still quite easy to feel isolated. If the relationships you have lack intimacy with deep, meaningful connectedness, you might find yourself feeling very lonely. God created us with the need for intimate relationships and He desires to have closeness with each one of us.
God’s gift to replace your loneliness is fellowship. The Greek word for fellowship is koinonia. As a believer, your deepest, most intimate relationships are going to be with those who love the Lord as you do and share that spiritual connection with you.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25
Participate in holiday activities in your local church so you can enjoy the fellowship of others and perhaps even make a new friend. Christmas is also a great time to begin or renew your relationship with God. He is always with you!
Find a new focus for your loneliness by making a plan to be with others if your family and friends are not going to be geographically close to you at Christmas. Invite people you know who have no family to celebrate the holidays with you.
Instead of staying home by yourself, spend the day serving others by volunteering at a homeless shelter, soup kitchen, or perhaps spending time with the elderly in a nursing home who may have no family around to visit them. Volunteering takes the focus off of yourself, a trigger for depression, and onto others who are in need.
There are plenty of charities that need your help and many lonely people within those charity organizations who would love to connect with someone.
A New Focus for Your Anxiety
Christmas can feel chaotic and stressful if you have too much going on and have set unrealistic expectations for yourself. There can be a very real fear of failure from giving the “wrong” gifts to hosting an unsuccessful party, not having the appropriate outfit, or having to interact with people who are difficult to be around.
The stress and anxiety that these potential failures create can adversely affect your mind, body, and spirit, putting a damper on your Christmas cheer. God’s gift to replace your anxiety is peace.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
Find a new focus for your anxiety by using these helpful tips for less stress during the holidays:
Remember to keep it simple. Pace yourself and do not take on more responsibilities than you can handle.
Set an appropriate budget and do not overspend. That way you can keep the joy in your gift-giving.
Limit your drinking as alcohol is a depressant.
Get plenty of rest and be sure to make time for yourself. Stay in good spirits by doing some of those things you want to do, not just the things you have to do. I personally take time for exercise, no matter how busy I am, which helps me have a better attitude and gives me the energy I need to keep up with the many holiday festivities.
Shine with His Light
It is so important to keep the true meaning of Christmas in the center of all you do throughout the holidays. Remember, you are celebrating the calm and quiet miracle of Jesus’ birth. He came to earth to bring you the treasures of abundant joy to replace your sadness, an intimate relationship with Him to replace your loneliness, and perfect peace to replace your stress and anxiety.
Accept these gifts from your Savior with an open heart so He can raise you up out of your darkness. His radiant light will then be able to shine through you toward others this Christmas as you celebrate His greatest gift knowing you are fully forgiven by His grace with a perfect, eternal Home awaiting you.
Sparkler #1: Prayer
If you are struggling with sadness, loneliness, or anxiety this Christmas season, ask God to give you an open heart to accept His joy, intimacy, and peace.
Sparkler #2: Action
Find a new focus for whatever it is keeping you in darkness so you can share the light of Christ. Remember to keep your main focus throughout the holiday season on the true meaning of Christmas.
Sparkler #3: Challenge
If you are feeling enveloped in darkness during the holidays, make necessary changes to your social calendar, spending, or manner of celebrating.
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