The Christmas season is one we associate with celebration, laughter and joy. Hands down when I ask students their favorite holiday, this is the one that bubbles to the top of the list most times. Yet, the other day I was given a great reminder. A note from a local counselor sent to youth pastors said this, “Remember this season may be difficult for some of your students who are facing various losses.”
I thought in my own family of my sister who passed away several years ago. My parents miss her most this time of year. Good friends of ours lost two sons over a decade ago and yet, still Christmas leaves a gaping hole in their hearts.
In recent months I have had students open up to me that they actually dread this time of year for a variety of reasons. Some have shared the hurt over lost loved ones. Others who come from single parent homes hate that they don’t get to experience a “traditional” Christmas with a family who is together. Others will hear of all the presents friends will receive while they hope food is on the table. Perhaps they have parents who are former addicts and alcoholics who are sober now. It’s wonderful they are “better” but there may be holiday memories that weren’t so great. I got thinking about an acquaintance of mine who was financially successful just a year ago giving his children an extravagant Christmas, and due some poor choices this year is jobless, homeless, and penniless. The list of the types of losses students could be experiencing this Christmas can go far beyond the physical death of someone close.
Here are some things I think we can do to help:
Watch Our Words
We need to be aware of phrases like, “I’ll bet you can’t wait until Christmas,” or “Aren’t you excited for the holiday?” We may be talking to students who are not looking forward to that day very much at all. Let’s be sensitive to the reality that more often than not we won’t know all that is going on at home or in their hearts. It’s usually the students who appear to have lives that are “all fine” that are hurting the most.
Watch for Clues
Be aware of facial expressions and body language. Does an especially plastic smile cross their face when someone is talking about Christmas? Do shoulders slump or a flash of pain spark in their eyes? Do they say something like, “I guess so,” when asked about looking forward to December 25th? We need to looking into the hearts of students, especially at this time of year.
Watch and Listen
Sometimes students just need someone to sit and listen to them. There are times when we just need to know that someone else knows while the world is smiling we are crying. Be sensitive to blurting out, “Hey Christmas must be hard since your parents got divorced this year.” However, if a student offers a hint, like a shrug when someone is talking about Christmas, take them aside and see if they want to talk about it.
Watch the Season
I think our students know the “basics,” of the Christmas story. They may get the details right or wrong about who the wise men were or the shepherds in the field. Those are the words on the page. The fact that God would do whatever it took to restore a right relationship with Him is not just a tall tale or a warm fuzzy holiday thought. That is the definition of hope. Take the time to dig into the reality that Immanuel said He was coming, came and is still with us. Help your students turn their eyes back on the true Reason for the Season.
Just remember that even in the Joy to the World, there are some among us who might not be so joyous. The best we can do is to love them, and remind them of the powerful love who came to earth on that first Christmas morning.
How do you help this time of year?