"Jesus has always many who love His heavenly kingdom, but few who bear His cross. He has many who desire consolation, but few who care for trial. He finds many to share His table, but few to take part in His fasting. All desire to be happy with Him; few wish to suffer anything for Him. Many follow Him to the breaking of the bread, but few to the drinking of the chalice of His passion. Many revere His miracles; few approach the same of the Cross. Many love Him as long as they encounter no hardship; many praise and bless Him as long as they receive some comfort from Him. But if Jesus hides Himself and leaves them for a while, they fall either into complaints or into deep dejection. Those, on the contrary, who love Him for His own sake and not for any comfort of their own, bles Him in all trial and anguish of heart as well as in the bliss of consolation. Even if He should never give them consolation, yet they would continue to praise Him and wish always to give Him thanks. What power there is in pure love for Jesus--love that is free from all self-interest and self-love!"
--The Imitation of Christ Book 2, Chapter 11
There is so much written and said about the "holiday blues" and Christmas depression at this time of year. I think it is the rare person who is not afflicted by it in some measure either before, during or after the big day. For myself, I recognize that the contradiction between worldly preparation and the intense spiritual preparation cause some of this effect. It is easy to fall in love with the physical beauty of Advent and Christmas; so much so that my heart is drawn less toward the Creator and more towards the created. I am constantly drawn to created things that are beautiful and good but still fall so short of filling any void in the soul. At the same time, it is a tremendously fruitful season spiritually as I bring my focus to the coming of the Infant Christ. My heart is particularly lonely for His Presence. The result is a persistent ache and stretch between earthly "joy" and feasting and desperately seeking to connect with Christ; from trying to fill one hole with both desires and finding that it still remains empty since they cannot both fit.
The above excerpt from the Imitation of Christ has been a good companion to me this year. How faithful would I be if nothing went beautifully this season? Would I falter when my consolations were gone? Or would my joy and fidelity be unwavering even in the face of loneliness and suffering? Will I offer Him my loneliness and emptiness when the good feelings and emotions pass? Will I praise Him when my heart is broken and weary.
God is so good. I beg Him daily to hang on to me through my weakness lest I should cling to my own desires and reject the path to sanctity.
Christmas is a beautiful time and I am not suggesting that we avoid the festive preparation and celebration. But if we do find ourselves suffering an absence of emotional happiness this year, let's remember that Christ did not come so that we will feel good everyday; He came to offer a peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7) and a joy that does not fade when holiday company leaves.
Just keep on praising Him.