If you live in a northern climate like I do, you are in the heart of winter. The ground may be covered with snow, it’s cold, and the days seem incredibly short. Frankly, I’m not a fan of winter. It seems that Christmas with all of the preparation and hype is a great distraction for a miserable time of year. Among those who live in northern climates, about 15 percent struggle with depressive symptoms (also called Seasonal Affective Disorder) during winter.
As much as we may dread winter, it’s a regular part of life. God created winter, just as he ordained the other seasons. Winter serves a purpose. Even with its beautiful blankets of white snow and comfort by a warm fire, winter represents death. All signs of life disappear, and everything appears dormant during winter.
This Christmas, I seem to be surrounded by those who are experiencing winter—not just the natural changes in the landscape but the loss of loved ones and the loss of dreams. In the month of December alone, my circle of friends have been touched by tragedy and grief. A mother gives birth to a stillborn baby. A teenager takes his own life. A wife of 50 years dies suddenly of a heart attack. A young husband loses the battle with cancer. And then there are other deaths. Deaths of marriages and dreams and careers. For them, Christmas doesn’t distract them from their pain and grief.
More than a Distraction
Christmas, the observance of the birth of the Messiah, was never intended to simply be a distraction but to declare that death and everything it represents has been defeated. Christmas, at its core, is about hope. Hope that we will see the ones we love in heaven, hope that this world is not what we live for, hope that we have an eternal treasure that death and loss cannot destroy. Hope in the midst of winter.
Our Christmas lights and holiday parties can keep our minds off the cold, the darkness and the death, but eventually the parties end, and we must trudge through January, February, and March. Even then, we hang on knowing that winter isn’t forever. Experience has taught us that the darkness of winter will soon be defeated by spring. Flowers will bloom, the sun will shine, and trees will grow new buds. We have hope.
Maybe this Christmas, the landscape of your heart feels a lot like winter. All life and joy are dormant in your soul, swallowed by the darkness of the season. The Lord allows winters in our lives for a reason. In fact, only because of winter can we one day rejoice in the miracle of new life in the spring.