It Shouldn’t Happen at Christmas

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”
Matthew 1:23, NIV*

In the past few weeks, three people have lost parents or spouses, two have received bad medical news, and another is suddenly out of work. And these are just the ones I know! News coverage expands that list dramatically.

What’s the first thing we say? “It shouldn’t happen at Christmas.”

We have this instinctive sense that Christmas is about good news, not about pain. Some of that’s spiritual—the angels came proclaiming the wonder of God with us. Some of it’s human—remembering childhood’s warm anticipation of presents and surprises.

In the midst of the celebrations, pain happens.

Maybe that’s not so bad. The pain reminds us why Jesus came.

Let’s be sensitive to those who are suffering while the culture wants them to be smiling. Last week’s devotional thought was about “faithfully administering God’s grace” and one way we can do that is to bring God with us into every encounter. May His grace in us bring comfort and a sense of peace.

Father, I praise and thank You for the gift of Your presence. Jesus—Emanuel—God with us. Because You are with us, we are not consumed. Because You have rescued us, we have hope. Let us live in You and share Your presence with those around us.

Our song this week captures the tension between pain and joy: “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” sung here by Casting Crowns.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

6 thoughts on “It Shouldn’t Happen at Christmas

  1. Margaret


    Yes, one’s heart just breaks to see suffering, especially at this time of year….. We also have friends in similar circumstances at this time….. We cannot escape these happenings, but need to look to our Lord for strength to bear them — as if that’s enough to say…..

    It makes me think of the problems Joseph and Mary faced having to flee to Egypt — and all the people in the area going through the horror of having their baby boys killed….. The pain was excruciating….. There just aren’t words for it all.


    1. joannamallory

      Hi Margaret. We don’t think about these things unless we have to, but yes there was pain then as well as now. I can’t imagine the parents enduring Herod’s massacre. A friend pointed out today that living out our faith means weeping with those who weep as well as rejoicing with those who rejoice. God bless us all with awareness of His presence this Christmas.

  2. Ginny Jaques

    Great message, Joanna. So true. Christmas sometimes accentuates the pain because the joy around is so intense. But the bells still ring, don’t they? I love being your soul-mate.

    1. joannamallory

      Ginny, the bells still ring indeed. I remind myself of that when things look too dark.

      You had a blog post about how the joy came to stay and how that made all the difference. I’m still learning to recognize it at times, and I’m keeping an eye on your blog to help me learn. I know joy isn’t the same as happiness. I think it’s more like deep, abiding, unshakable confidence and trust in God who will not fail nor forsake.

      Waving at you from across the country and wishing you a blessed Christmas,

  3. Belinda Burston

    It is so important to be sensitive to those struggling with depression and loss, especially at Christmas, when the whole world seems to be happy and the fantasy of perfect family celebrations is portrayed everywhere you look. A good reminder to look around and see where an encouraging word, invitation, or visit should perhaps be more of a priority.

    1. joannamallory

      I agree, Belinda. I think there’s an increased social pressure to “put on a happy face” at Christmas so one person’s pain doesn’t cramp someone else’s party style. Not Jesus’ approach to people at all!


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