Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on
Your troubles will be out of sight . . .
Let your heart be light. This has never been something I’m good at. If there’s a fear to chew on or a worry to consume me, I’m on it. If there’s a burden to be carried, I’ll throw it over my shoulder and then wonder why I’m trudging heavily through the day. If something can keep me up and awake at night, clawing through outcomes and reactions in my sleep-addled brain, I’m on it. My husband knows this about me, and sometimes in the middle of the night, when the thoughts are consuming my mind and heart, bearing down like a freight train, I wake him for a sleepy speech he has memorized: “There’s nothing more to do today. You’ve done enough for this day. We can pick these worries up in the morning.”
I’m not an optimist by nature, and I need the reminder from my very optimistic husband. I’m more of a “realist,” which I find is really just a nicer way to say worst-outcome-inventor. And my own nature besides, it’s not really been much of a light year, right?
COVID is still raging globally. Communities are hurting. Friendships are struggling. Everything is complicated, and nothing feels easy. And is Christmas really even going to feel okay this year?
For many of us, the answer is no. This was the year my favorite uncle was killed by a drunk driver. This was the year my baby brother was hospitalized nineteen times for a yet undiagnosed illness. This was the year my kids asked really hard questions. This was the year that kind of chewed us up and spit us out, didn’t it, friends?
I wouldn’t classify 2021 as a year in which I “let my heart be light.” This has been much more of a “from now on your troubles will be out of sight” kind of year.
Even in the good things (of which there were also plenty), lightness was hard to come by. There was both joy and difficulty all at once. Going back to school was both wonderful and hard this year. Starting a new full-time job has been both wonderful and hard. Returning to some of our pre-pandemic routines and rhythms has been both wonderful and hard.
What I want to tell you today, mere days before Christmas morning, is that both light and dark, wonderful and hard, joy and difficulty, is okay to feel — maybe especially at Christmas.
Here’s the thing: Often there seems to be an unspoken pressure or expectation that at Christmastime, we’re supposed to only be happy. Jolly. Light. And if we’re not, then we’re doing it wrong.
Let me say clearly: If this season is both wonderful and difficult for you, you are not alone, and you are not doing it wrong.
The pressure to be all things joyful is strong. Yet we know even Jesus, the One we celebrate this season, wasn’t joyful all the time. He escaped for time alone. He got angry. He wept.
And I think He knew we too would have big feelings to feel, burdens to carry, and thankfully He set a precedent of what we can do with them.
Lay. Them. Down.
I know it’s far more nuanced in practice, yet truly, Jesus’ example is both as simple (and complex) as that. It can feel like a platitude (Just hand it over to God and then everything will be fine!), and is often offered as such. However, it takes true strength to hand those burdens over to the One who carries it all anyway. When Jesus is burdened, He goes away to be with His Father. He prays. He feels the tears and anger, and He brings God into that place with Him.
Pretty sure Jesus doesn’t chew on it all night by Himself while tossing and turning.
It’s far too easy for me to forget what Jesus says and promises about worry, about burden, about fear, right in Matthew 11:29-30:
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
The Message version says it like this:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
God can handle all of our emotions. He’s ready and waiting for us to hand them over. And in doing so, we may not be relieved entirely of the burden. Sometimes it’s not that easy, rather just the first step of many. But once we remember we aren’t trudging through the day alone, once we hand over some of our pain and worry, once we know deep in our hearts that we are not forgotten or alone, our shoulders will feel lighter.
Jesus, God with us, offers a lightness of spirit that can carry us through long after the holidays. There’s hope. Christmas is coming, friends. May your heart be light.