Christmas is supposed to be a feel-good time of year, at least, that’s what all the stores and commercials and Christmas specials and traditional songs tell us. It’s a season full of joy and peace, the bustle of friends and celebration, and lots of food. But for many, there is more sadness at Christmas time than hope and happiness. One family is losing a precious little one that has been fighting for his life for quite awhile. Another family is separated and fighting to reunite. Another family is escaping an abusive relationship. Our hearts hurt, and all the words of Christmas greeting seem trite and empty.
And yet, sorrow is just as much a part of the Christmas story as joy and peace. I love the traditional Christmas hymns for this reason, because they capture this tension so well. While the stores play tunes about home for the holidays and chestnuts roasting on an open fire, the hymns remind us that before the joy and thrill of hope there was sorrow and pining and dismay.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light. The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.
God rest ye merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay. For Jesus Christ, our Savior was born on Christmas Day to save us all from Satan’s powers when we were gone astray. Glad tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy! Glad tidings of comfort and joy.
Why do we need comfort? Why does a weary world rejoice? Because there IS sadness at Christmas time; sorrow is just as much a part of the Christmas story as the peace and goodwill. But in retelling Christmas through the years, we’ve skipped the climax and gone straight to the happy ending. The result is that we’ve left many this time of year feeling as though they can’t relate to Christmas. And yet, those among us weeping and sorrowing probably have a better picture of Christmas than anyone else, because these friends start at the beginning of the story.
The Christmas story starts with hopelessness, sorrow, death, exile, mourning, fear, powerlessness, and pain. Why was there such joy that night? Because the light that shone in that sky heralded the beginning of the end of our struggle. There is healing and freedom and restoration through Christ.
Our mourning and sorrow does have a place in Christmas; there is a place for sadness at Christmas time. And yet, our weariness and fear and anxiety isn’t the end of the story. There is a thrill of hope, there are tidings of comfort because there is an end to all the suffering. That’s the Christmas story we can all relate to.