The first time I heard the song “Blue Christmas” I was a young teenager. What I remember very specifically is my reaction to that song. I hated it. I couldn’t believe ANYONE especially Elvis would record a song that was so sad and all about the loss of a relationship and then have the audacity to call it a Christmas carol. My indignation over that song reached levels that only a teenager could achieve and for many years every time I heard that song I would react in much the same way as I did when I heard it for the very first time. Then a funny thing happened…I grew up. I experienced life in all its ups and downs. So now instead of indignation, I have an appreciation for the fact that on any given year, not everyone will have a Red and Green Christmas filled with joy, happiness, and Norman Rockwellian or Pinterest perfect images. But will instead, for a variety of reasons, have a Blue Christmas.
One of my own blue Christmas experiences was the Christmas of 2002. My divorce was final on November 20th of that same year, so I found myself facing a quiet Christmas day all alone. My children would be spending the day with their Dad since they had spent Christmas Eve with me. While I could have filled the day crying over what I did not have that year: A day spent with my children opening our gifts and doing whatever else together….I chose instead to fill my day watching old Christmas movies, reading books, puttering around my house doing whatever I wanted to do from cooking, to cleaning, to any one of my many ongoing craft projects. The funny thing was when my children finally did come home that evening, while I was thrilled to see them I really wasn’t ready for them to come home just yet. I discovered that I had enjoyed having the day to myself doing what I wanted for a change with no demands on my time except the ones I chose. I found peace in the midst of my grief over my divorce and the loss of ever having a traditional family again. I learned, very powerfully, that how I chose to deal with a situation was incredibly important to my overall well-being and peace of mind.
Which reminds me of a story about a young boy who so wanted to be Joseph in the Christmas play…he put everything he had into practicing the part and gave his best ever performance at the try outs but in the end he was chosen to be the innkeeper. Filled with bitter disappointment that his plans did not go the way he imagined he plotted…he was going to get even with his rival…the boy who did get the coveted part of Joseph. So on the night of the play, when Joseph came to the inn and knocked on the door and asked if there was any room in the inn…this little boy said: “Sure! Come on in! We have plenty of room!” Of course that was not the way the script went which is a lot like life. Sometimes life goes off script. We write what we want to happen but the lines get changed on us. We are left to deal with those changes and those changes can leave us feeling pretty blue especially during the holidays – and Thanksgiving and Christmas seem to be the times of year where want or loss of any kind is most keenly felt. So our holiday ends up feeling less. It is not as cheerful or as upbeat as we had hoped or wanted because our script has been changed.
Someone we love dies suddenly or after struggling with a long illness
Friends or family members we are close to move away
We struggle with a divorce
We lose our job
Our doctor gives us a hard diagnosis – cancer or some other debilitating disease.
What should have been a Christmas filled with fun and pleasure has now become a Blue Christmas. And so we find it very easy to sing along with Elvis:
“I’ll have a blue Christmas that’s certain…And when that blue heartache starts hurting
You’ll be doing all right with your Christmas of white…But I’ll have a blue, blue Christmas.”
What we want, what we desire, what we need, at these times is a word of hope something that tells us it will get better.
We find that hope in the pages of Scripture. A story for the ages about God who loves us so much that he sent God’s only son to this world as an infant to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. But if you look hard at the story about that first Christmas so long ago, you will see a story that is messy. It is a story about an unwed teenage girl pregnant by someone who is not her fiancé. It is a story of a baby born in a dirty animal stall, a story about the murder of innocent baby boys because King Herod feared one of them just might be the king the wise men came to see. It is the story of our savior born to bring peace into this world and yet was condemned to death…it is the story of light sent to shine in the darkness, the story of God’s never ending, self-giving mercy. It is the story of hope.
And here’s the thing: the story of Christmas cannot and should not be divorced from the cross. Jesus came into this world as a beautiful baby boy who would grow into a man who would die on a cross to save us from our sins so we can be a people forgiven. That is the hope of Christmas. The hope offered to us from the cradle in a manger and the hope we can hold onto in all circumstances. Christmas is not about all the parties, the decorations and tinsel, the lights or the gifts. Christmas instead, speaks to us about the vastness of God’s love, mercy, and grace. Christmas offers us the wonderous gift of hope in a world that is oftentimes scary and incomprehensible. Christmas, the true meaning of Christmas gives us the courage to live life in all circumstances.
One final thought about having a Blue Christmas: In our scriptures you will find the color blue mentioned, particularly in the Old Testament. It is typically described as the color of the robe worn by the High Priest. In the New Testament we have a description of Jesus as our High Priest. The baby whose birth we celebrate each Christmas season is the one who became the Savior of the world through his death on the cross and subsequent resurrection three days later. When we see the shadow of the cross in the cradle, we can see Jesus wearing a garment of blue…taking the blues from our lives so he can bear them on his shoulders.