The word can bring up so many emotions, so many memories.

For some, there are non-negotiables. Turkey. Eggnog. Cheesy potatoes. Family. Friends. New Pajamas. Evergreens covered in twinkling lights. Snow.

For some, Christmas is the one time of year all the family is in one place (whether they want to be or not). Mixed emotions.  Happiness.  Frustration because of grudges never brought to light.  Hopefully thankfulness.

For some, Christmas is a day that brings pain. I recently met someone who said they refused to celebrate Christmas because their mother died when they were a teenager, 15 years ago. In those 15 years, this person had not observed the holiday once.

For some Christmas brings disappointment and shame. I was behind a man at Target in Los Angeles who obviously didn’t have much, but was buying
Christmas presents for his kid(s). For under $20 he bought a teddy bear, a softball, a slinky, and some chocolates in the shape of Santa. It was Christmas eve, and I silently said a prayer for his kid(s), wherever they were, that they would know contentment and not become resentful or ashamed next to the other kids in school who got Iphone 5s for Christmas.

For our girls at My Refuge House, most of them receive Christmas presents for the first time in our home, having come from families that were very poor. We spoil them with new clothes and shoes and undergarments. But the day always provides a spectrum of emotions. Some of them inevitably shed tears, for siblings or parents who will be going without on the holiday while they eat a delicious meal. Some of them verbalize that it’s the best Christmas they have ever had.

And what always amazes me… is that joy and sadness can co-exist so intensely. The girls are joyful, they are free from bondage and enjoying new things and playing games and eating delicious food with caring friends who have become like family. But for our girls, many of whom were pressured into trafficking by their families, the longing to be with a family who cares for them more than for monetary gain, who puts their needs as children above any other need– that is a longing that cannot be expressed in words very well. But is felt deeply, in our home, on Christmas Day.

My prayer for you this season is that you will know contentment and joy. If the holidays bring pain for you, I pray that you have the courage to also enjoy these few days, alongside the anguish. Because the joy and sorrow
can co-exist. To dismiss either would be an injustice to yourself.

So, this Christmas season, join our girls in rejoicing for your freedom, love and blessings. AND, if there is sorrow, take time to grieve it. Both are appropriate on this day that we celebrate our God who left heaven to dwell humbly among men.  In fact, I think he understands our sorrow, during these days, more than we can even comprehend.