A Reason for Joy

It seems as if with every year that passes there are more and more reminders by people that Christmas is not merry for everyone.  Whether it is due to the loss of a loved one, poor finances, or a heavy guilt, some people struggle having merry thoughts during Christmas time, and even more so when everyone else is trying to wish them a merry Christmas.  For the struggling people, gay happy greetings only remind them of how they have lost their reasons to be joyful this time of year.  I have a friend who just a couple days before Christmas lost a loved one in an automobile accident.  This friend is destined to be tempted each year around Christmas time to fall into a state of depression as everybody else runs around merrily while she is saddened by her memories of her lost loved one.  However, I think I have a plan for her, and for you if you are someone who struggles this time of year.

People sing of joy, peace, and hope during this time of year.  But I think that many people have completely forgotten why we can universally sing these expressions.  I think many people think of joy, peace, and hope simply because it has become tradition to send those kinds of salutations; the reason behind the tradition is mostly forgotten, but the tradition lives on.  Many people receive others with joy, peace, and hope because they think it is a good way to reflect on the year that passed and to think about the coming year.  But as we have noted, some people struggle to reflect on the past year with positive emotions, and the coming year does not look as if it will bring any change.  So if we make Christmas time mostly a time of reflection and forecasting, then we can indeed rudely force some people into a corner while we continue our happy dance.

So what is the cure to the depressive emotions and reminders that come upon people this time of year?  Please hop with me through a classic Christmas song that I believe will give us every reason to have joy, peace, and hope no matter how desperate our situation.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining

Here is the root of the reason we struggle during Christmas time.  The sin of the world causes difficult times.  Maybe it was the sin of the drunk man who caused the lethal accident; maybe it was the sin of the business owner who refuses to pay his workers what he knows he could pay them; maybe it was the sin of our own that led to our downfall.  Maybe it was not sin.  Maybe it was only an error in judgment that led to our pining away.  Maybe it was the combination of a lifetime of suffering through sin and error in the world that finally brought an aged loved one to the grave.

The whole world suffers in one way or another.  Yes, some suffer more than others, but everybody goes through difficult times.  Some people seemingly never come out of difficult times.  So why rejoice at Christmas time if difficult times have marked the past years?  Let us hop to another part of this song.

With all our trials, born to be our friend

A friend is someone who is with you through the trials.  Christ, the figure of Christmas, was born to help us through our trials.  No matter how bad the trials, He is there with us.  Christ is also named Emmanuel, which means “God with us.”  That is Christ, our friend, is with us, not up in the sky somewhere.  But He is even more than just with us.  He is with us and gives us reason for joy and to hope.  How?  Let us continue.

He knows our need, to our weakness no stranger

Christ came and experienced our needs, He knows our weaknesses.  He knows your sufferings because He suffered.  He knows what it means to lose a loved one, to experience hunger and poverty, to have oppressive rulers continually snatch any chance of advancement from you, and He also knows how sin can bring a separation from loved ones.  He was well acquainted with grief and sorrows.  He lived a life of suffering so He could sympathize with us.  When we call out to God in pain, He knows our weakness.  He even fully understands the deepest parts of our pain, the parts that we cannot even express in words but only in tears and groans.  He does not stand aloof to our pain; He immersed Himself in our pain.  But what good is it to know that Christ suffered like us?  Please jump with me to another part of this sacred hymn.

Chains He shall break for the slave is our brother;

And in His name all oppression shall cease

That is why Christ came to the earth.  He came to loose the chains of fear, doubt, and sorrow, and to stop the oppression of sin.  But you must be asking, “How did he do this?  Wasn’t he himself shackled and killed?  How could he possibly stop oppression if he was a victim of it?”  That is a good question.  He was indeed shackled and killed.  But He also made an interesting statement just before his arrest and death.  He said, “In this world you will have troubles, but take courage;  I have overcome the world.”  Christ knew He was about to die, yet He boldly stated that He had overcome the world.

How did He overcome the world?  By His resurrection from the dead.  By resurrecting, Christ showed everybody that death and loss does not ultimately win.  Christ wins, and anybody who follows Him wins.  He overcame death.  By resurrecting, He gave hope to a hopeless world.  He declares that the end is not the end.  By resurrecting, He brought joy to a mourning world.  He showed us that life springs eternal, that loss is only temporary.  By resurrecting, He delivered peace to a distressed world.  He gave us a reason to breathe slowly and deeply again.  We no longer have to stress about the future; while there may be trials and troubles, there is also an overcoming brought to us by Christ.

By resurrecting, He proved that He was supernatural.  He can supernaturally forgive.  Do you have some weight of guilt heavily draped across your burdened shoulders?  He resurrected to demonstrate that He is the giver of forgiveness and new life.  Sin brings death and guilt.  But Christ brings life and forgiveness.

This is why we sing of joy, peace, and hope.  Because Christ has changed everything for the world.  Now all trials can be redeemed by Christ.  In Christ, a lost loved one does not have to be lost.  In Christ, the “lost” loved one is enjoying true life.  In Christ, rewards for faithful living can be built up no matter how destitute one may be.  In Christ, worries about the future dissipate because He has secured a glorious future.  In Christ, all guilt can be removed with a heartfelt request.

But His resurrection is not the only way he afforded the world joy, peace, and hope.

Truly He taught us to love one another;

His law is love, and His gospel is peace

In His life, He showed us how to live.  He revealed to us that love should be our default mode of operation.  He exhibited humility, servant-hood, and self-sacrifice.  By being such an example, we know how greatly a life of love can affect a world and how much peace it can bring to an unsettled environment.  We should love one another through trials.  We should bring peace to a warring atmosphere.

Oh Holy Night!  The stars are brightly shining,

It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.

This is where we must restart.  Christmas is not supposed to be an end of the year celebration nor is it supposed to be a time for family and friends.  If Christmas is only an end of the year celebration and a time to enjoy family and friends, then certainly some people will have good reason to celebrate while others will have good reasons to mourn.  Let us restart our Christmas celebration upon the birth of Christ, the one they call Savior.  For without this start, there is no universal call for joy.  He is the Savior of our joy, peace, and hope.  When all seems lost, this Savior gives us reason to celebrate.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His name forever,

His power and glory evermore proclaim

Do you have this Savior of joy, peace, and hope?  If you do, then you have reason to celebrate during the Christmas season no matter how troubled your past may be or your future looks.  Join your voice with the many myriads who lay down their burdens at the Savior’s feet and allow Him to redeem your troubles.


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