It wasn’t until I had been an adult for several years that I learned that loving Christmas was not universal, even among Christians. I was shocked to learn that many people find Christmas and New Year’s the most depressing holidays on the calendar.

My source was a psychologist who had confirmed it in many counseling sessions.

How could this be? Even enemies seem to soften at Christmas. Belligerent clerks and delivery people seem sincere when they wish you good cheer; people do things for each other, give things to each other, seem to love each other.

My friend reminded me that I was the product of a close-knit family where Christmas was a time to remember, to reflect on the birth of Christ and to epitomize the love and servant attitudes my parents taught my brothers and me to live out through the year.

Think, he said, of the person who grew up in a sad, demanding, unloving home. Perhaps that person once idealized Christmas. In spite of all his or her troubles and feelings of insecurity, Christmas carried hope. Yet over the years nothing ever really changed as the season came and went, and each year the holiday brought only new pain.

The leading cause of Christmastime depression isn’t the tension of family get-togethers. Or the pressure of preparation. It’s the disappointment. Too many expectations.

Too much hope for magic that doesn’t deliver.

As children we hope Santa or our parents will somehow know what we most long for. Then we’re disappointed when the gifts don’t match our dreams.

As adults we hope injured relationships will be healed, that prodigals will return, broken hearts will be mended. By the end of the first week of January, our hopes are dashed.

While God is in the business of healing and helping, He doesn’t act on our timetable. He works in hearts, in minds, in souls in response to faith.

Do you suffer disappointment each year because of some unarticulated, maybe even subconscious dream that something will somehow be divinely fixed December 25th?

Dredge it up, think about it, talk about it, pray about it, work toward it. The only magic in the Christmas season comes from turning our thoughts to the greatest gift ever given or received: Jesus.

Concentrate on what He can do for others through you, and may this be your best Christmas ever.

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