How to Celebrate Christmas Broken
I am broken. I believe in God’s healing and restoration but it doesn’t look like I imagined. I am getting used to embracing a feeling I always pushed away in fear and discomfort - my brokenness.
It comes up when I am disappointed. Disappointed because others move away instead of move towards me. Frustrated when people I have invested time and love in, return to their sin. Shame at my own imperfections. Loneliness - whether physically isolated from people who I love or who support me, or finding myself in a place not understood by others. All those things cause an ache to rise in my soul that I recognize from childhood but now have a name for it: brokenness.
Before I would try and numb it - as a teenager in self-harm or alcohol or too much rock music with sad lyrics. As an adult in withdrawing from others, meditating on negativity leading to depression; or voicing my complaints, disappointments, hurts and frustrations to anyone who might listen.
As I have embraced more healthy practices and God began healing the negative emotions of grief or a lack of forgiveness in my heart, I have grown to trust Him more, but I have also not got rid of that broken ache. It is still there. Although there are always new things to forgive, and new sinful reactions to disappointments and frustrations that I have to deal with, there are times when I know I am not acting sinful - I am just broken. We are all broken. Perhaps that is how we are meant to be in this current world, because brokenness makes us humble. And it is the humble who can see God, who can acknowledge their need for Him. And how we need Him because we just can’t face more brokenness without knowing He is going to flow through those cracks!
When I look at Jesus’ life - He was without sin, totally whole and spiritually healthy, but He carried that ache. Even before He became physically broken on the cross, His heart broke many times - He carried the grief of the death of John the Baptist, the stigma of being misunderstood and opposed by others who were meant to be fellow Jewish leaders, disappointment of the lack of faith surrounding Lazarus’ death, the weakness of His disciples in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus was no stranger to brokenness, but He chose to love still. To persevere. To make God’s power manifest through His broken life.
But what has all this to do with celebration?
December is a month when so many celebrations are going on, but as broken people it is often a time that is difficult. Family members may have passed away in the last year or relationships may be strained. Financial situations may bring worry and stress. Attending to the paraphernalia that comes with children can be overwhelming. Memories from Christmas’ past may try and rob us of joy.
When we embrace our brokenness and stand in it rather than escape from it, we recognize our need for God. He is then able to strengthen us to move forward.
Celebration is not about the denial of our brokenness - it is the supernatural empowering of God in the midst of our brokenness. It is the shifting of our expectations from ‘Christmas is a season of human wholeness and happiness’ to instead being a season of celebration where we recognize that Jesus came at Christmas precisely because we are broken and He came to meet us in it! There is a future hope of no sadness or suffering but Christmas wasn’t a celebration of that - Jesus didn’t come to eliminate suffering on this earth. Instead He came to suffer and to meet us in our suffering - He came as Emmanuel - God with us. God with us - in our brokenness and our need.
And that is what Christmas is a celebration of: remembering that our God didn’t stay in the perfect, whole heaven, but chose to leave it to dwell with us in the midst of our brokenness. He came perfect to the imperfect ones to demonstrate power in the midst of brokenness, and to point us to a future hope.
So when I feel brokenness rising up in me this Christmas season, telling me that it is too hard to celebrate or not worth it, or that nobody cares, I don’t have to get rid of that brokenness. Instead I can embrace it, stand in it and celebrate the truth that Jesus came to a broken world to meet me in it. That His Spirit now dwells in me - God chose the broken places of this world - you and me to be His temples until a new heaven and a new earth are created. I can then ask Him where He wants me to love. Where He wants me to keep being faithful to Him in this season. I can put my hope in His grace and power, rather than the expectations of this season which rarely satisfy.
So let’s recognize our brokenness this Christmas but also celebrate with the help of His power within us. Christmas is a day I am going to choose to celebrate this year. Leaving behind the feelings of rejection from past Christmases, leaving behind hard memories of miscarrying two Christmases ago, leaving behind my own expectations, I am going to choose to celebrate Christmas with those who are around and want to celebrate too - even if that is just our family! I am going to celebrating Jesus coming to earth and allowing Himself to be broken, in order to dwell with His broken people, looking forward to the day when we will all be whole again.
I am slowly enjoying Ann Voskamp’s new book ‘The Broken Way’. She puts in much better words some of what I have been unable to articulate as I have walked towards embracing brokenness in the last few ways. Definitely worth reading.
US readers click on the photo to find out more, UK readers you can check out here book by clicking here.
This post is the second in a series this month on the spiritual discipline of celebration. Find out more about a year of embracing grace through spiritual disciplines here.