Christmas has always been a happy time for me – my memories of the holidays are nothing but good. Of course, that isn’t the case for everyone. Depression, anger, and sadness is compounded for so many during the holidays. Being surrounded by loved ones helps, but we’re not all so fortunate, and some have to deal with solitude, whether physically or emotionally. It’s during these times that we might wonder exactly where we’re headed, if things will get better, and maybe what we’re living for.
The answers to those questions, unfortunately, aren’t always happy ones.
Episode seven of Angel Beats! speaks specifically to these hard issues. The entire series, in fact, focuses on the theme of the meaning and significance of our lives, but it’s particularly pressed in this episode, where we for the first time learn about Otonashi’s life and a little bit about his death.
The episode is heartbreaking (as is much of Angel Beats). Otonashi’s entire existence has been built around his sister, Hatsune, who was hospital-ridden. He works only as a means both to survive and to buy Hatsune items that will make her happy. When she passes away, he’s of course grief-stricken, but eventually, it’s through his experiences with his sister that Otonashi discovers a new aim in life – to help others.
There’s a lot for many to relate to in Otonashi’s story, both in the desperation and depression in his life. But what virtually none of us can relate to is the miracle that ultimately occurs for him. For too many, there’s no sudden turnaround. Life doesn’t one day make sense – it just continues to be difficult and lonely. A miracle doesn’t occur for us like it did for him.
The Christmas story must seem the same at first glance – stories of magi and shepherds and miraculous virgin births aren’t at all relateable for people living in the here and now and dealing with anxiety or other illness. But when we dig deep into it, we find that the Christmas story connects to us more intimately than we might imagine.
The Christmas tale is a story of the destitute, of God leaving his glory to become the weakest of the weak, a baby, born in a literal pigsty, to parents who could only afford the lowest end of religious offerings. Christ didn’t come as a majestic king, as many expected, or as a powerful general, as others thought he would. He came as a human who would know what it meant to be penniless, homeless, sad, persecuted, beaten, and hated. He knew what it meant to be human. He became one of us.
This Christmas, look to Christ for hope. When all else fails – when even those that you love most cannot give you what you need, either because of their own weaknesses or something they can’t help (as with Hatsune and Otonashi), know that Christ will not fail you. He’s been there – He’s known what it’s like to be abandoned by all his friends and family, and even by His Father – to be isolated and pained with no one to turn to. And it’s that Christ that knows you and wants to be with you, always.
In a hopeless world, there is one hope. He is that hope.