It Doesn’t Have to be All Merry and Bright: Christmas Devotions for Teenagers

We are loved by a God who always keeps his promises. The Old Testament is rich with promises concerning our coming Messiah, and from the opening lines of Matthew, we begin to see those promises perfectly fulfilled, starting with the most intimate details of Jesus’ birth. Back in 2019, we invited you and your teenagers to join us for a 16-day Christmas devotional series centering around Messianic prophecies. This year we will round out that series with eight more posts, so you’ll have one for every day of the Christmas season. 

We pray your heart will be encouraged and your faith strengthened as you and your teenagers meditate together on the game-changing truth that our God says what he means and means what he says. O Come Let Us Adore Him!

It Doesn’t Have to be All Merry and Bright (or, Permission to Fall Apart)

A company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots. (Psalm 22:16b-18)

“WTH God?”

If you haven’t said this yet in your life – spoiler alert – you will. Merry Christmas ¯_(ツ)_/¯

But seriously, this is worth considering – particularly during Advent, a time when we anticipate the coming of Jesus. We need to know that we are not alone in our misery.

Because let’s be real – the holidays can be awful, making everything feel more intense. Our parents’ divorces, fights with friends, break-ups, deaths, all we don’t like about ourselves and our lives can sting a bit deeper with the ‘glad tidings of great joy’ swirling around us.

The pressure to keep it all together, to look ‘merry and bright’ can be overwhelming. But you don’t need to pretend that everything is okay. Every moment doesn’t have to be Instagram-worthy.

King David, the author of the above scripture, was no stranger to suffering. He was a man after God’s own heart, and he wrote a song that started with, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1).

What we hear in Psalm 22 is raw lament to God. And we know from Scripture that God heard him.

In fact, over a millennia later, Jesus chooses this very Psalm to be amongst his last words (Matthew 27:46). Re-read the passage above and see how closely it speaks to Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus is encircled by robbers, Roman soldiers, and Pharisees scoffing at his death. His hands and feet are pierced as he’s nailed to the cross. His garments are divided with the casting of lots by soldiers who know he is doomed to die.

But unlike King David, Jesus was not spared death.

“We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with us,” writes the author of Hebrews (Hebrew 4:15). If you’re hurting this holiday season, remember that King Jesus also knows what it feels like to be miserable. His love compelled him to endure death to deliver us. His resurrection gives us hope to press on. And Jesus’ ascension to heaven means that he has sent His Spirit, our Comforter, to be with us until Jesus returns in victory. So, feel free to lament before God – David did. Jesus did. It’s okay for you to lament as well. God’s Spirit is within you – let his Comfort fill you.

And when Jesus returns, no longer will God feel distant. No longer will we cry, “Why?” in misery.  Rather, “the dwelling place of God” will be among us, and “God himself will wipe away every tear” from our eyes, “and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4). This, too, is God’s promise.

Questions for Further Reflection

  1. What leaves you feeling broken and alone this holiday season?
  2. Where and how can you embrace God’s promise of the Holy Spirit to comfort you?
  3. With understanding rather than judgment, who around you needs to be embraced in their suffering?

Closing Prayer

Merciful God, take my misery, sadness, and disappointment as your own, and nail it to the cross. God of grace, give me your peace and fill me with your Spirit in such a way that I know in the depths of my being that you are with me and will never forsake me.

Click here for a downloadable pdf to share with your teenagers.

Click here for past devotions in the series.

Mark Howard was a youth pastor for five years before joining Elam Ministries, an organization that seeks to strengthen and expand the church in Iran and surrounding areas. Through Elam, he's had the opportunity to work with Iranian youth as well as talk with American churches about God's work in Iran. Mark has his M.A. in Theological Studies from Wheaton College Graduate School and serves on Rooted's steering committee.

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