Vaneetha Rendall Risner has experienced loss and abandonment, which means her words about her experience of observing Christmas while heart-broken come from a place of personal experience and self-reflection.
She writes at Desiring God:
Yet for those who have experienced loss, the holidays often bring a sense of dread. I remember the cloud that hung over me as I approached the first Christmas after my son’s death. My world had stopped, but everyone else’s seemed to be moving forward. I recall the discouragement before the holidays after my post-polio syndrome diagnosis, when I was told not to wrap presents, shop for gifts, or entertain as I had in past years. And I shudder when I think about how devastated I felt the first Christmas after my husband left, as I reeled from the wreckage of our broken family. Joy to the world, especially my world, seemed impossible.
How do we enter this Christmas season, when loss feels ever present, without giving in to despair? How do we find joy when little is as it used to be, and our lives feel thin and empty? How do we celebrate the birth of Christ when nothing around us feels celebratory?
We lament. We read the Bible, even when it feels dry, looking for words that express our feelings and for words that declare God’s promises. We pray, even when we don’t feel like it, calling out to God in our distress and not pulling away in anger or indifference. We don’t look away from our suffering or gloss over it with platitudes. We sit with our Lord, sharing our disappointments and heartaches. We grieve what was and embrace what is, while meditating on his great love for us.
And as we do those things, our eyes will be opened to the truth of God’s words, the extravagant promises he makes to us, and the priceless gift of Christ himself.
You don’t need to muster up joy on your own this Christmas. Draw near to your Lord. Tell him how you are feeling. Pour out your heart to him (Psalm 62:8), and receive the promise and joy of Immanuel, for our God is truly with us.