Brenda N. Henry, Carnegie, PA
- Holidays are often seen as a time for merriment and happiness. However, not everyone is experiencing those feelings. What are some other emotions that you are/can experience during this Christmas season (i.e. frustration, sadness, loneliness)?
- What are some resources that are available (in your school, in your church, in your community) to help with these feelings?
When Christmas Feels Blue
On Tuesday, December 13th, 2022, Stephen “tWitch” Boss – a dancer, musician, and DJ – died at the age of 40, from a self-inflected gunshot wound – suicide.
The consistent theme in the news reports and social media posts is shock. tWitch seemed to have everything going right for him. He had a good career. He was married with three children. He and his wife had just celebrated their ninth anniversary three days before. The reports all described him as happy, full of light, a generous and caring person. So why did he take his life? His family and friends said he was his usual self in the days leading up to his death. The only indication that perhaps something was amiss came from his wife on the day he died. She contacted the police with concerns that tWitch was missing and his most recent behavior was unusual. He was later found dead in a hotel room.
This story caught me off guard. It is hard enough to process news reports of senseless shootings in schools, grocery stores, and nightclubs. Learning that someone was experiencing so much pain that death seemed to be the only answer is heartbreaking.
Though the news is filled with speculation, we will never know the true reason why Stephen took his life. Stephen’s suicide is certainly a reminder that not everyone who looks well is doing well. Even in this seasons of Advent and Christmas, there are those whose loneliness, grief, depression, and vulnerability lead them to thoughts of suicide. Unfortunately, some people are successful. We do not learn until too late the extent of their pain.
- Do you know of someone who died because of suicide? How did you learn? What kind of help did you get to deal with this loss?
- Are there others whom you are missing this Christmas? What are some of the ways that you can remember how important they are to you?
- Do you have a safe person(s) to share your feelings with?
Nativity of Our Lord
(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)
For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.
The birth of the baby Jesus is good news. It is a proclamation of “great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” At least these are the words we find in the gospel of Luke. The angel informs the shepherds that the promised Messiah, the long-awaited Savior, is here. And in keeping with this good news, there is singing and praising by the multitude of the heavenly host. Another translation: a heavenly choir starts singing.
It is no wonder that many interpret Christmas as a time for merriment and cheers. All around me the stores are filled with glitter, bright garlands, and red bows. And of course, Christmas lights adorn houses, buildings, and streets. The “more the merrier” seems to be the emphasis. However, not all experience this merriment. The story of tWitch is a sobering reminder.
Our scripture passage also points to more than merriment. The first part of the angel’s proclamation begins with “Do not be afraid.” These words come before the proclamation of great joy. Why is that? Luke tells us that upon seeing the angel, the shepherds are terrified. So before the shepherds can receive the good news message, the angel first attends to the shepherds’ feelings.
Sometimes our feelings are not readily noticeable. When Mary first encounters the angel Luke tells us she was perplexed. (Luke 1:29) Matthew’s account suggests that Joseph kept his thoughts to himself about her pregnancy to protect her. (Matthew 1:19) Again, the angel attends to their feelings. “Do not be afraid” the angel tells Mary when she learns she is to be the mother of Jesus. (Luke 1:30) “Do not be afraid” are the angel’s words to Joseph when he learns she is pregnant and it is not his child. (Matthew 1:20) “Do not be afraid” are words of assurance that all will be well. God speaks this hope-filled message to us as we wait expectantly. It does not dismiss difficulty; it offers a way to move through the fear. Together.
The birth of Jesus takes unlikely people and brings them together. At the birth of Jesus, two groups of people meet each other and share in a life-changing moment – belonging and togetherness. They are not expected to respond in the same way. The shepherds came to verify the truth of the angel’s message. Mary would both treasure and ponder what she heard. And yet, they experience this moment together.
We too are invited to remember the hope-filled message of Jesus’s birth. Christmas is a reminder of the togetherness Jesus offers us. Wherever we are, whatever our situation, however we are feeling–we are not alone. With that, we return to the angel’s proclamation of “good news and great joy for all people: to you [individually and collectively] is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” We are never alone!
- Do you sometimes feel alone, as if no one understands or gets you? What have you done or can you do to remind you that you are not alone?
- How can you help someone not feel alone this Christmas?
- How might the Christmas story in Luke bring hope to those who are feeling blue during this holiday season?
- What are some of the resources in your community to help care for others who may be alone or feel alone? Can you put together a list and share it with a friend?
- Remembering that not everyone who looks okay is okay, can you identify three (or more) people with whom you can share a kind word (i.e a card, text) that lets them know that they are not alone? How can you make this a part of your Christmas tradition?
- Some communities share in a tradition known as Blue Christmas or the Longest Night. If your community does not, research what it is and see how you may include it as part of your Christmas tradition. If your community does engage in this tradition, what is something new you can learn about this tradition.
Gracious loving God, the angel proclaims the birth of Jesus as good news for all people. No longer are we alone, for Jesus is with us. The choir of angels rejoice in this togetherness as they sing praises. The shepherds share this togetherness as they tell everyone what they learned. Grant us the grace to live this togetherness as we learn to listen to each other and share in our moments – be it sadness, confusion, hurt or joy. And may we hold onto God’s promise we are never alone. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.