The following sermon was preached on December 18, 2022 at Sherwood Park Lutheran Church. Sherwood Park and St George’s collaborated to created this Blue Christmas service. You can learn more about St George’s and find links to their YouTube channel by clicking here. Photo by Laura Hope on Unsplash


May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable and pleasing in your sight O God, for you are our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

The lectionary passage that I preached on this morning was about Joseph so I have had Joseph on my mind this week.  In that passage, an angel appears to Joseph in a dream to tell him that what is happening to Mary is all part of God’s plan and there is no reason he can’t marry her. (Matt 1:20)

There are a lot of stories about dreams in the Bible.  Google tells me there are 21 Bible stories about dreams. Joseph dreams four of them.[1]

 Joseph’s dreams represent one sort of dreaming but we use the word “dream” to mean a lot of different things.

Dreams are the images, visions and stories that come to us when we sleep.  They often have something to teach us, even if that message isn’t as clear and direct as the ones that Joseph received.

Then there are the hopes and desires we have for our future.

When this second kind of dream becomes a reality, when something we have hoped would happen happens, we call it a “dream come true.”

When we see someone fully living into who they were created to be, someone just having a wonderful time we say they are “living the dream.”

But sometimes, our dreams do not come true. The things we hope for do not happen, but we don’t tend to call this, “living the nightmare.”

We don’t tend to say anything actually.

All too often when we are in pain our instinct is to hide. All too often when we see people who are in pain our instinct is to withdraw, to avoid, to pretend we don’t see what’s going on.

If we’re not careful we can all become trapped in a game of “Let’s pretend everyone is always doing well every minute of every day.”  If we’re not careful we can start to believe that everyone is doing well every minute of the day, everyone that is, except us.

One of the popular songs of the season, which you’ve likely already heard a few times at the mall or when you’ve been getting your groceries, begins with the singer stating emphatically “It’s the most wonderful time of year!” and in the next verse, “it’s the hap-happiest season of all.”

There is no room for nuance, for difference, in this proclamation. Christmas is the most wonderful, hap-happiest season of all.

Which implies that if you aren’t feeling your most wonderful, hap-happiest then there is something wrong with you.

The problem isn’t Christmas. The problem isn’t the way society chooses to represent the season.

The problem is you.

And as I mentioned earlier, when we are feeling bad, our tendency is to hide, to pretend we’re OK. To try and make everyone else feel comfortable even though we may feel like we’re slowly dying inside.

And our tendency to do that in the hap-happiest season of all can be even stronger.

And that can lead us to believe the lie that the problem is with us, and not with the way Christmas is being observed.

But the message that Christmas is the most wonderful, hap-happiest time of the year is a pipe dream, a fantasy.  While it is true that some people will indeed have a lovely time this Christmas, the implication that that is everyone’s experience is just false.

And it is so important to name that.

Many people struggle with this time of year. With all the ways their lived experience falls short of the expectations of what Christmas should be like.

If Christmas is a hard time of year for you, you are not alone.

Many people will have a perfectly OK Christmas, with some rough moments that don’t match up to the expectations of the songs and the movies.

If your Christmas isn’t going to be perfect you are not alone.

Many people will have a lovely Christmas, that looks very much like the idealized version we see in films, with a beautiful meal and a table full of family and even then, even then, from time to time something will catch in their throat and a pain with pierce their heart, because when they look out over the table filled with loved ones, they will notice the person who isn’t there, the loved one who died or could not or would not attend, the person who is dearly missed.

If your Christmas looks like that, you are not alone.

The message that Christmas is the most wonderful, hap-happiest time of the year isn’t a realistic message, and it isn’t a gospel message. It isn’t good news. These words that we read tonight from the gospel of Matthew tonight are good news:

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’

Are you feeling weary? Are your carrying a heavy burden?

You are not alone. And God sees you, loves you, and cares for you.

God invites each one of us to come, and find the rest and the peace that sinks deep into our souls that only they can provide.

In Advent we prepare for Emmanuel, for God with Us to come. We prepare for a baby who will become a king like no other.

And God doesn’t wait until we have it all together, until we are all perfect to arrive. God has no expectation of a most wonderful, hap-happiest season or perfect people. God doesn’t want any one of us to hide when things are hard or to pretend or to slap on a smile when we are crying inside.

God has abundant love and a deep, pure desire to be with us and bids each one of us to come, just as we are.

Which is very good news.

In the strong name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity. Amen.


[1] There is the dream I mention and then in Matthew 2, Joseph will be told in three separate dreams to take the family to Egypt, then to return to Israel and final NOT to go to Judea.