Finding the Merry in Christmas When You Are Separated

Linda W. RooksBy Linda W. Rooks7 Minutes

For those who are separated or divorced, a “Happy Holidays!” or “Merry Christmas!” greeting can carry a hollow ring. In fact, if you are one of those trying to navigate the quagmire of relationships, feelings, and decisions in the season ahead while your marriage is falling apart, the words will likely bring feelings of dread—maybe even fear. Will I be with my children on Christmas? What will my spouse’s (or ex-spouse’s) attitude be? Will I see him (her)? How do I stay above water during this season?

The celebration that is supposed to bring joy, brings feelings of heartache and dread instead—something to endure and just get through.

In my ministry to those in troubled marriages, many emails come to me during the holidays with questions, fear, and uncertainty. Life is out of control, and the holidays only amplify the insecurity of troubled circumstances. Christmas is not supposed to be this way.

The First Christmas Was Messy Too

But perhaps, as you shrug off the usual traditions and trudge into the shadowy days ahead, instead of dampening your experience of Christmas, your troubled circumstances might actually help you look past the tinsel into the truth of what Christmas is truly all about. For Christmas was not born with colored lights, Christmas trees, and the joyous refrains of Merry Christmas. Christmas arrived amidst the restlessness of a small, dusty town bustling with strangers, where a young weary bride, traveling on a donkey while nine months pregnant, hoped to find an appropriate place to deliver her child.

Even though this was no ordinary child, even though she was bearing God’s own Son, she and her husband could find no place to lay their heads. Instead of comfortable surroundings or even a modest clean room at the inn, a smelly stable became the birthing place for the Son of the living God.

And that is how God came to us—not through a convenient, clean, and easy chain of events, but through tough and challenging circumstances. No warm, fine bed for Mary, the mother of God, no fragrant rooms, no support of family and friends. No, God came to us in the midst of doubt, confusion, political unrest, and physical hardship. When God sent his Son to be born on this earth, he didn’t clear an easy path for him. He didn’t have a room waiting in Bethlehem. It was hard.

But, cradled on a bed of hay, in the middle of the odors and pain, we see a tiny baby, the gift of God’s love, God’s Son, “the image of the invisible God,” (Colossians 1:15), born to bring light into the darkness, so we could live eternally with him.

When Things Aren’t as We Pictured

Oftentimes that is the way God still comes to us today. In the midst of the difficulties of life, as we struggle with questions, fears, and insecurities, God draws our hearts to himself. When the routines and pleasures of life are stripped away, when we find ourselves void of what is predictable, he lifts our eyes above the circumstances of our lives in search of new answers and new realities. And that’s when we find Jesus, the true joy of Christmas and the Savior of our souls.

So as you wrestle with your circumstances and try to make sense of the Christmas season along with everything else, while you try to find answers on how to get through this difficult season, stop for a minute and look up. God calls to you through his Word, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Instead of diving into the busyness of the holidays, sink into the arms of Jesus. Look full into the face of the One who came as a babe to show his all-encompassing love to you.

God has come to love you with a love you will not find anywhere else—not in a husband or wife, not in a parent, child, or friend. God’s love will never fail you. It is unconditional and everlasting. He will not always show you a clear, easy path to your destination. But he will be present with you always and guide you. And at just the right time, he may prompt the wife of an innkeeper to say, “I have a place for you. I have an answer. There’s a stable out back.”

Keeping Our Perspective

Two thousand years ago, Mary and Joseph didn’t hear the refrains of “Silent Night” as they gathered clean straw to make a bed for Mary to bear a child; they didn’t see the picturesque setting of a child being born in a manger as they settled down among the animals. It was hard.

But God came to them in the middle of these difficult circumstances, not just for them, but for us. Jesus was born into our world and into our lives. And this is the Christmas we celebrate … a Christmas born in hardship but wrapped in holiness and love, extending through all the ages of the earth into the glories and wonders of eternity.