Each of us has a different reason for being here tonight. We have grief, pain, sadness, loneliness, or depression that affect our daily lives. We have unexpected tears as we remember a loved one, a heavy heart as we seek companionship, a weight upon us as we think about celebrating the holidays alone, or a heart that is seeking something special, something extra from God as we gather together.
For so many, the holidays are a time of celebration. There’s glitz and glitters. Lights, shopping, Christmas carols and baked goods. There are big meals, family gatherings, and gifts. But for some, those things are overwhelming, for others they seem distant, and for others they are simply unappealing.
I don’t know what burdens you have on your hearts today. I don’t know the extent of your pain, and I only know some of your stories. But I do know the feelings of grief, depression, isolation, and sadness. I know how when those things overwhelm your life that you strain to breathe, you grasp for hope; that the weight of depression is like a wet blanket binding your body. The cheer of the season and the glare of the sun taunt you in your grief. The world keeps turning and people go about their lives ignorant of your pain seemingly without caring at all. You yearn for someone to notice your hurt, to see you, to truly know you and yet you fear that intimacy as well. For in being truly known you risk rejection. You don’t want to burden another. You don’t want your affliction to become theirs, and so you keep to yourself. Your heart aches and your soul cries out: “How long O Lord? How long will it hurt? How long until I’m loved again? Why did you still my beloved from me? When will I be free from this pain? When will I truly feel your presence?”
The light of promise and hope seem farther and farther away. Your stamina wanes and you’re not sure how you will reach tomorrow. You take one step at a time, sometimes stumbling, sometimes wanting to protest and simply stay where you are.
But the promise of hope beckons you on. “Come to me all you who are weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Christ’s promise echoes in your heart. “Come to me.” “Come to me and be refreshed. Come to me and be held. Come to me and be washed in peace. Come to me and relax. Come to me and cry. Come to me and mourn. I know your pain and I wish to comfort you.”
Christ calls to us in the midst of our pain. He calls to us in our sorrow. He calls to us in our dark night and begs us to hold onto hope. He begs us to see him and know that he cares. Our God, our creator, wants to be with us, wants to bear our burdens, wants to know us. And this season of Christmas is the ultimate reminder of God’s desire to be with us. God came into this world, through the person of Jesus Christ, so we could be convinced of God’s love. God was with us. Emmanuel. God continues to be with us. Emmanuel. God breaks through to touch us and hold us. God breaks through with love, and loves us exactly as we are—even when we hurt, even when we grieve, God loves us. God makes no judgment on our pain, but instead lived here and experienced it so we would truly know God is with us. God did not stay far off and removed. God did not stay distant and unknown, but God came to us through the Christ child. God lived what we live. God grieved as we grieve. God was lonely as we are lonely, so that when God conquered death, darkness, and pain on the cross we would know it was a true conquest, that our faith truly could rest in Emmanuel.
God is with us. God continues to be with you, even when you doubt, even when you hurt, God is there. Emmanuel.