“I’ll Be Bummed for Christmas…You Can Plan on Me.”

Some quick thoughts on the practical application of Matthew 25:34-40 as we all careen headlong into the craziness of the American holiday season.

Thanksgiving, followed by the relentless insanity of the month-long run-up to Christmas, can be one of the most emotionally difficult and draining times of the year if, like millions of us, your family unit is not exactly “Norman Rockwell picture-postcard” perfect.

Particularly true for those who have recently been separated or divorced, it can seem like all of American culture is ganging up on you, conspiring to vividly demonstrate just how broken and damaged your life really is. Sure, you might have a really lousy day dealing with your ex and/or missing your kids sometime in April, too…but at least in April you aren’t getting hammered over and over again with radio, print and television ads that all trot out the perfect (intact) American family with impossibly white teeth, wide smiles, stacks of beautifully-wrapped presents and mugs of hot cocoa with whipped cream. The unspoken message behind these seasonal images is not at all subtle: “Your family should look like this one. Everyone should be together on Christmas Day, interacting as one big, happy family.”

This not-at-all-realistic message can be demoralizing to mothers and fathers who are just barely hanging on, just trying to keep the heat and electricity on in their apartment, let alone figure out a way to afford a few presents under the tree for their kids…who they might get to see for a few hours sometime Christmas afternoon. Speaking from personal experience, I can attest to the fact that there are few things more depressing than waking up Christmas morning alone – the first thought of the morning being, “Merry Christmas…I’m in this dingy, one-bedroom apartment by myself.”

And the hushed, closed-down nature of the world outside your window can be enough to freak anyone out. Seriously, if you ever find yourself alone on a Christmas morning, you can quite reasonably expect to walk out your front door and film your own version of Omega Man, the 1971 apocalyptic movie which features Charlton Heston as the very last man on Earth, the sole survivor of a worldwide plague. No one is out on the streets. Almost nothing is open for business. The only thing missing is the hooded cult of red-eyed mutant vampires.

All kidding aside, the holidays can be desperate times for many of us and, sadly, the vast majority of those with broken traditions will more than likely choose to “suffer in silence.” If you know someone going through divorce, I would urge you to reach out to them and show them the love of Christ in a tangible way. Invite them to share the Thanksgiving or Christmas meal with your family, for example. If they happened to get the short end of the custody/visitation stick this year, your invitation might make the difference between enjoying the day and finally breaking down and trying out the breakfast sausage at the local Breaktime.

Another idea might be to encourage them to participate in an event organized with them specifically in mind. On Dec. 5, The Crossing will host a seminar called “Surviving the Holidays,” specially designed for those in our midst who are reeling from a recent separation and/or divorce, and whose holiday traditions have almost certainly been completely scrapped in the process. This Christ-centered event will nonetheless provide practical, immediate tips for anyone – Christian or non-Christian – who has gone or is going through the break-up of the family.

If you are not separated or divorced, but you know someone who is, please consider turning them on to this event as a way of (1) letting them know you care about them, and (2) getting them some real, practical tools for coping during the holiday madness. (Who knows? Maybe they might even enjoy themselves and make a few friends!)

Sharing a meal or attending this seminar will most definitely not “fix” all the problems in the life of someone going through the pain of separation/divorce, but please trust me when I say that the best way to help someone cope with a fractured holiday tradition is to first and foremost take that first step – reaching out – that lets them know they aren’t alone. It might (might!) make a real difference in their ability to make it through.

Surviving the Holidays
Saturday, Dec. 5
10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
The Crossing

Cost: $10 (covers workbook, meal and childcare).
Scholarships available if you need one; just ask!
Sign up online:

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