For some, the holiday season is anything but a joyous occasion. The sleigh bells ringing, the gleeful anticipation, the holy promises belted out in carols, the jolly laughter of children, and the smell of fresh pine only remind some of us of very painful pasts. The pasts that haunt us with memories of the innocence that was snatched away by the beloved hands of family; physical and emotional abuse endured by a parent or a spouse; the deep melancholy of losing a loved one; the depressed financial reality that results from a gambling, drug and/or alcohol addicted family member; the constant echoes of petty arguing that keeps family divided; the betrayal and unfaithfulness of a loved one; or just feeling unloved and alone in the world. Let’s face it, sometimes the Christmas season is a reminder of the darkness that hovers in our lives on a daily basis, as a result, many of us do not see the hope and meaning of Christmas.
So, what is the point? Why are Christians supposed to get so excited about celebrating the birth of Christ? And, what does all this mean to our lives? Isaiah 9:1-7 tells us the significance of the birth of Christ. Although written by the Prophet Isaiah to the southern kingdom of Judah, there are truths we can glean from this passage that reveal the purpose of this most holy event. The fact that “there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress” (v. 1) means that we do not have to stay imprisoned by the pain of yesterday. As a result of the Light coming into the world, all people (Jews and Gentiles) no longer have to walk in darkness or live in the shadow of death because He increases their joy and shatters burdens.
He is the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (v. 6) who upholds His kingdom with justice and righteousness. Although we may never witness the punishment of those who perpetrated injustices against us or a loved one, “the time is coming when everything that is covered will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all” (Matthew 10:26). And, “He will do all this with the zeal of the Lord Almighty” (v. 7) not by our finite power, strength, or understanding.
According to Pastor Guy Lipkins professor at Crossroads Bible College, “Our focus is screwed up. We focus on the commercialism [of Christmas] instead of the Savior.” And, it is this commercialism that preaches a doctrine of false hope, false delight, and fleeting happiness by telling us the more we get (or the more people owe us) the merrier we will be. However, this world is not about us, our hurts, or our pain. Everyday our focus should be on Christ and longing to be in His presence; because, in His presence there is fullness of joy where He outshines our circumstances. Not to mention, the Bible teaches that Christians are to count it all joy when we encounter various trials (James 1:2) because “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Accepting Christ does not necessarily take us out of our situations, but the focus should shift from what happened to us to how can we use what we went through in order to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people who harmed us or to people who are going through what God brought us out of. When the spotlight is on Christ and the reason for His coming into the world, we can lose our lives in the life of someone else. As a result, we find joy unspeakable joy as we allow Christ to work in us and through us because a person who has never gone through what we went through may not be able to reach those who are going through those same agonizing trials. And, that is the point of Christmas. Christ is the joy to the world – the hope we waited for. He is the One who carries our burdens, heals our wounded emotions and skewed thinking. He is Emmanuel, God with us; the reason we are merry at Christmas.
There is no reason for a joyless Christian. If there is no joy in our lives, then we need to “check our proximity to the Savior” (Lipkins). When the world beats us to the point where we cannot lift our heads, then we need to lift our eyes (Luke 2:8-9), lift our hearts (Luke 2:10-14), lift our faith (Luke 2:15-16), and lift our voices (Luke 2:17-20) to the One who turns pain into joy. So, Merry Christmas!