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  • Writer's pictureRichard Parrish

December Reflection by Richard Parrish - The Dark Side of Christmas


The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone – Isaiah 9:2 (ESV).


The invitation to dinner with our friends sounded nice; the timing was the challenge.

Our holiday schedules were already tighter than a professionally wrapped Christmas gift. Finding one evening between Thanksgiving and Christmas would require thoughtfulness – and pliability.

Explaining our plight, our friends said: “We understand. We were looking forward to catching up, and just hanging out together on our patio” (yes, you can do that in Phoenix in December).

Her tone caught us. My wife and I recognized that we needed to pay attention – and accept – the invitation.

I’m glad we did.

That one evening – several years ago – revealed to me that I was not alone in how I struggle during the Christmas Season.

As I listened to my friend (a wonderful husband and father) reflect on his unhappy childhood experiences at Christmas, I thought we had come from the same family.

Since that evening, I’ve bonded with a friend who understands that for some, the dark side of Christmas makes the light hard to see.

The prophet Isaiah lived at a time where his people (Israel) had difficulty seeing the light. Distress and despair dominated their lives. However, Isaiah looks to God and is assured that their gloom will dissipate because they will see a great light (Is. 9:1-2).

It’s the LIGHT of Christmas that helps me get through the darkness!

Once again, I’m reminded that – like my friend and me –others struggle during the Christmas Season.

For some, commercialism casts a dark shadow over this time of year. We apparently need Halloween to give us a “sugar-rush,” which stimulates the purchase of gifts, with money we don’t have, to give to people who don’t need it.

No, I’m not opposed to gift giving and celebration.

However, I am aware of how holiday commercialization distracts us from the true LIGHT of Christmas.

Like Isaiah and his friends who lived in a land filled with thick darkness, I’m aware that there are those around us this Christmas season that also may struggle to see the LIGHT.

Some experience the grief of spending Christmas without the presence of a loved one. Others may sense loneliness this season, because of a divorce. Financial hardship is a strain on many during this time of year.

It’s no wonder that people feel the dark side of Christmas!

However, as dark as our world may appear, we are reminded that the LIGHT of Christmas still shines.

Isaiah’s (and Israel’s) despair turns to hope with God’s promise:

“For to us a child is born, to us, a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” - Isaiah 9:6 (ESV).

That evening, years ago on a patio in Phoenix, I was encouraged by my friend who – like me – understand:

The dark side of Christmas does not have to be debilitating.

As we shared Christmas refreshments, talked openly about our struggles, we realized that it’s the LIGHT of Christmas, which provides HOPE for everyone.

May your eyes glimpse the LIGHT of Christmas, which is Jesus our Savior! And, may we always remember that even in dark times we have a Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace.


  • Is this the most wonderful time of the year for you? Why? Why not?

  • What practices help you focus on the LIGHT, Jesus?

  • What distracts you from remembering the Christ-child?

  • Who do you know that might be encountering the dark side of Christmas?

  • How might you reflect the LIGHT of Jesus to those you know?


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