“Tis the season to be jolly…” Or is it?
Just because we sing those words, doesn’t mean it really is “the most wonderful time of the year” for everyone. In fact, it is well documented that the season of Advent brings great sadness to so many people who struggle through the holidays. More people suffer from depression between Thanksgiving and Christmas than any other time of the year.
No doubt, many of you are feeling the heartache of a first Christmas without a loved one, or are separated from family, or are going through specifically trying times this year that have dampened your holiday spirit. That’s a reality, whatever song we sing.
But if the message of Christmas doesn’t speak hope and joy into our gloom at this time of year, it is hardly of value the rest of the year either. It was the angels who said on that first Christmas night, “I bring you glad tidings of great joy which will be for all the people.”
You have to remember, that when those shepherds heard the message from the angel as they tended their flocks by night (and were “sore afraid”) it was the “good news” for which they had waited a lifetime. In fact, God’s people had been awaiting their Deliverer for generations, since the prophet Isaiah had foretold His birth in a time of bondage and exile: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light,” he wrote.
In the least expected of ways, God the Father sent the long-expected Jesus into the world in a feeding trough in a Bethlehem stable. But the Light of the world had come, and He was–and is–“Emmanuel, God with us.” That good news still sheds a different kind of light on us all, even twenty centuries later, during this season of Advent, as we wait for Jesus to come again.
The problem for many of us is, we tend to look for our joy in places that have a long history of disappointing us. This time of year, we think that the source of our joy will be the latest techno gadget or toy, or whatever else may be on your Christmas list this year. Those things may bring temporary happiness–“oh, you shouldn’t have!”–but they don’t bring genuine and lasting joy.
However, each of us, whatever our lot, can experience the joy of Christmas when we stop and reflect, recognize the presence of Jesus, Emmanuel, and live in the light of His presence, even in the midst of a dark world. I hope and pray you’ll know that inside-out joy this Christmas season.
I count it such a privilege to be your pastor, and can’t wait to see each of you this Sunday at Shelby Crossings as we celebrate Jesus together.