There is always hope.
This Christmas would have been one where we bought the special bauble. The one littered with glitter and holding the words, "baby's first Christmas". This year I would have been mashing up Christmas dinner and watching them immediately spit it out as they took their first taste of Brussels, and potato, and turkey. This year we'd have been sitting back on the sofa, a glass of mulled wine in hand, watching our four glorious children play with the gifts bought by friends and family and be thinking, "we made it".
This year does not look like that.
There is so much pressure put on Christmas, and as somebody who absolutely loves this season I hadn't realised that, for many, it's extremely painful.
It's a painful reminder of loved ones who are missed.
It's grief wrapped in tinsel and laden with chocolate.
It's fear and sadness, jealousy and anger, disappointment and despair.
There is a call to be kind. To be reminded of those who find this season so difficult and to be gracious and loving to those that we see. But there is also a call to be wise. To remember those that are struggling in the words that we say, the things that we post and the images we share. Because this Christmas there are some things happening that you need to be aware of...
There is a parent who scraped their last pennies together to get their child a gift and to provide a meal. It means that there is something under the tree, but that next month they can't afford to put money on the metre for gas and electricity.
There is a couple who have been desperately trying for a baby for years and who approach another Christmas without those cuddles and cries and sweet forehead kisses.
There is a marriage on the brink of divorce. Months of arguments and frustration put aside through gritted teeth for the sake of getting through another Christmas as a family and without the children knowing.
There is a mother no longer here. A father long gone. A grieving child missing the laughter that they brought.
There is an exhausted mother crying in the toilet wanting to simply take a break from it all, but having to wipe away the tears and face the day with a smile, knowing that the burden of Christmas falls heavily on her shoulders.
There are the workers. The ones who get up early Christmas Day and head out to their jobs, only to return once darkness has set in, the turkey is gone and the twinkling of Christmas has dimmed.
There is a man. A man with a cloud buried deep in his head, being told to man-up and handle it. A man, who grins through beer after beer and wonders if he'd even be missed.
And there are the children. The ones sat in their room hiding from it all, keeping as quiet as can be in order not to draw attention. Afraid of the next argument. Afraid of the next slap. Afraid of the next intimate moment done in secret in the darkness of the wardrobe.
Christmas is, and always was, about more than how expensive gifts could be or how much food could be consumed. It was always about hope. About a baby who came to change the world and rescue us from ourselves. This Christmas as we share and celebrate and rejoice in all we have, let's remember to share and celebrate and rejoice in that hope too. The hope of a God who loves, who breathes life into stillness, who spreads light when the darkness comes and who bursts into flame dreams and hopes and plans.
It's not the end friends, there is always