While the Christmas season is generally a time of joy, there are many people whose joy is replaced by grief and suffering. Encountering unexpected death, job loss, broken relationships or sickness always seems to be worse at Christmas time. How can we possibly be expected to celebrate or feel joyful when our world is collapsing?
One of the our best lessons can be learned by looking at a simple Christmas wreath. We observe that the wreath has two colors: green and red. Most people are aware that these colors represent the Christmas season, but what is the significance of red and green?
Green is the color of life. When we look at green trees or plants, we know that they are still alive. Applying this color to Christmas, we recall that Jesus became man for our salvation. The Word actually became flesh. Because of His earthly life (and death), we can all have eternal life one day.
On the other hand, the color red is traditionally used to represent blood or suffering. During Masses commemorating the feasts of Christian martyrs, the priest wears red vestments to help us recall the shedding of blood for the faith. When we look at the life of Christ, it is impossible to ignore the blood that was shed for our salvation. In the same way, each of our lives is touched with some form of suffering.
As Christians, our main goal should be to imitate Christ and one day reach Heaven. It is impossible to do this without carrying a cross from time to time. Jesus specifically told us, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). While we may reject and complain about suffering, it is a road that we all must travel if we expect to get to Heaven.
I understand that it’s easier to explain suffering than it is to accept it, but Our Lord can help. When we are suffering, He expects us to ask for His help. He knows that we can’t carry our crosses alone and is always ready to provide the necessary graces which will allow us to go on. Although it may be difficult, it is possible to experience peace in the midst of turmoil. Frequent prayer, Scripture reading and reception of the Sacraments are crucial for receiving the Lord’s peace.
Although it may be difficult at times, we know that this life is not the “end of the story”. We must always keep one eye on the eternal kingdom that awaits us in next life. Doing so will allow us to see suffering from a heavenly, not earthly, perspective and will enable us to accept not just the “green”, but the “red” as well.