Yesterday I put away my birthday cards, but only because it was time to make space for the Christmas tree and decorations. I love the festive season – tasty treats, twinkly lights, Christmas jumpers and yes, even those tired old songs playing in every shop.
But I know that for many people it can be a particularly challenging time. This week I was recording an interview on the Christian radio station TWR-UK, that will go out at Christmas. The show was a ‘fireside chat’ format (though recorded over Zoom – imagine your own fire), in which James Maidment-Fullard asked me and two other writers about our Christmas memories, Christmas traditions and more. He also asked each of us to speak about our books, and asked me, “how important is it for us to learn about contentment at Christmas?”
I think it is important all year round – hence the book – but I said it is very much needed at Christmas – perhaps more than almost any other time.
Much of our discontentment is about feeling the lack of something – having something we long for. All those Christmas adverts, catalogues, songs and films tend to highlight all the things we wish we had – health, spouse, family, a home… They tell us, all too often, that Christmas is about family, about laughter, about tables heaving with food, about getting the thing you always wanted.
I need to be careful here, because I have recently got the thing I always wanted – or at least am well on the way to it. If you’ve read my book you’ll know it arose out of my singleness. For years I have longed for a husband, but in the last few years I came to realise that God had given me a deep, joyful contentment in Him. I was no longer longing so deeply for a man to love. Then this summer, completely out of the blue, while I was happily getting on with my single life, I met up with an old friend, and fell head-over-heels in love. We’re not married yet, or even engaged, but things are moving in that direction, at God’s pace and in his timing. So it would be easy for it to sound like I now have everything I ever wanted, and for anyone who is still wrestling in the waiting to feel like what I’m about to say is a little hollow.
All I can say is, I believe this to be true, and I found that living as though it was true is one of the ways I learned to find contentment in God through all those years of singleness. I hope it is helpful and encouraging for you, or gives you something to say to encourage those you are walking alongside this Christmas.
Christmas is about family – but it is about the family that our earthly, biological families are meant to point us toward. It’s about the family our imperfect ones are meant to make us long for. It is about God making a way for us to become part of his family – to be made his sons. And it is about our true bridegroom coming to betroth himself to us, and inviting us to be his bride. (And both of these apply whether we’re male or female – it’s not that only men get to be called sons and only women get to be part of the bride. But that’s a conundrum for another time!)
If you’re feeling lonely and unloved this Christmas, remember that you are loved by the God who is love himself. That he came to you, and chose you. That he lives in you and loves you with a deeper love than any you could ever imagine. That he invites you to join his global eternal family, and is preparing a feast to outdo the most sumptuous supermarket advert.
If you’re feeling empty this Christmas – or your dinner table and bank account are – remember that Jesus gladly gave up all he had and emptied himself, to come and meet us in our emptiness.
In the book I talk about some of the big questions we can start to ask in the midst of our low times. I think probably the biggest is whether God is really good – how can he be, if he isn’t giving us this thing we long for so desperately? The message of Christmas is that he is so good that he gave us the best gift of all – himself.
When we grasp that, when we embrace him and surrender our desires to him, that is when we are able to find joyful contentment whatever our circumstances.
If you want to learn more about how to go about this, or know people who you think this message might encourage, my book, If Only: Finding joyful contentment in the face of lack and longing just might help. It’s currently (until tomorrow) 30% off in the Good Book Company sale (UK and US. 15% off in Australia), and is also available as an e-book and an audiobook.
The TWR interview will air at 10am on Christmas Eve, and 10pm on Christmas Day, and will be available to download later.