Not Everyone Is Merry at Christmastime

It seems everywhere we look and every place we go, there's Christmas music playing, people shopping, commercials filled with laughter and gaiety; sparkling decorations and hearts filled with merriment and hope. But it's not that way for everyone.

There are a silent few...or a silent many, who are not merry at Christmastime.

Some people have lost loved ones this year through death, or by sin, that always separates. Some, like orphans, have no one to lose, but have constant dreams of finding parents who offer the sacrificial and eternal love of Christ rather than the self-centered, ephemeral love this world settles for. Then there are those who are alone in adulthood: widows, divorcees, and those struck with depression. The list goes on...and so do their sorrows.

To aggravate the reality of their lack of merriment, they are often pressured to join in on all the Christmas festivities whether they feel like it or not. And as Christians, if we don't, then we're often bombarded by insensitive questions and presumptuous statements about our faith, "Are you trusting Jesus?", "Isn't your joy in Christ?", "Aren't you grateful that Christ came? You should concentrate on that rather than your sorrows." I'm not denying we all need our faith tested in order to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. And I'm not ignoring the fact that some are falsely sorrowful (to get attention) and some sorrows are self-inflicted (by sin). What I am saying is that some people are genuinely (by no fault of their own) not merry at Christmastime. And those of us who are merry, need to be more sensitive to their pain.

"Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep."
~Romans 12:15 (ESV)

We're commanded to rejoice when good things happen to others. But often, we're envious and bitter. We're commanded to weep with those who are genuinely sorrowful, yet we often judge harshly and try to force cheerfulness. This seems like a simple commandment, but without the leading of the Holy Spirit, without the power of Christ, this simple commandment becomes an impossible task (Heb 11:6). Without having our minds renewed by the Word of God and our hearts transformed by His Spirit's work of sanctification, we don't have the wisdom necessary to discern truth from error (Prov 2:6). We can't rightly decipher whether someone needs a gentle reproof because their sorrows are self-inflicted by sin (which includes the desire to wallowing in self-pity), or if a person is genuinely and rightly (by God's estimation) sorrowful due to the various heartaches we all suffer in this life.

This is why as God's dearly beloved children, we all need to daily feed our souls with the Word of God. We need to study it diligently so that we might truly know what His will is, and gain wisdom from the power of His Holy Spirit (1 Cor 2:12-13).

"Through Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way."
~Psalm 119:104 (ESV)

Whether someone is sorrowful for the purposes of vanity or truth, I do not know, but God does. And before I communicate with anyone who is sorrowful, I must first pray and seek God's wisdom (James 3:17) in His Word, by the power of His Holy Spirit. For who alone but God knows what the hearer needs (Eph 4:29)? How will I know if the person needs a gentle reproof, a strong rebuke, or a shoulder to cry on with a loving heart that listens with tenderness and compassion?

God says He shows mercy on whom He chooses and compassion on whom He chooses. As His precious children, re-born in the likeness of Christ, ought we not do the same? If I, in my pride, proceed to communicate with a sorrowful person with "mercy" when they need rebuke, am I not getting in the way of the Lord's discipline (which is good) in someone's life (Heb 12:11)? Or what if in my arrogance, I rebuke someone who's genuinely sorrowful and needs an attentive and compassionate ear? If I communicate by what I think I know of the situation, instead of proceeding in prayer and careful searching of God's Word, then I will hurt rather than help the person who is sorrowful.

"And His mercy is for those who fear Him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty."
~Luke 1:50-53

So as you celebrate Christmas and enjoy a cup of steamy hot chocolate, a glowing warm fire, an enchanting skate on glistening ice, and making Christmas crafts while surrounded by loved ones, please look up from your merriment and look around...because there is surely someone in your midst that is not merry this Christmas. It may be evident, and it may not. But if you're seeking to bring the true meaning of Christmas to those around you, that is, Christ our God came to die—to save sinners like you and me, then God will open your eyes to those who are hurting. The Lord will use you as His healing balm to soothe their wounds, or as a light of truth to shine in the darkness of their sins so that they may be healed.

We sing, “Oh, come to my heart, Lord Jesus; there is room in my heart for thee.” But often that is no more than empty sentiment. If it were more, we would have room in our hearts not only for Jesus but for others also.

Jesus emptied Himself for us. He laid aside His great glory in order to help us. Do we lay aside our prerogatives to help those who need help?

For some it will be the first Christmas since the death of a beloved husband or wife, son or daughter. They will be reminded of their loss with every carol, every smile, every “Merry Christmas!” Others have poor health, and they will be left out. Still others are separated from their families—foreign students in our country, those who have to work through the holidays, spouses who are divorced from their children (as well as the former husband or wife) through the failure of their marriage. All these are left out.

Can you not include one or two in your Christmas—some student, some nurse, some single person, some poor derelict, someone who can never return the favor of a family Christmas to you?

Do you say, “Oh, but Christmas is a family time, and I don’t want to spoil it by including someone else.”

If those are your thoughts, remember that you were on the outside once. You were separated from Christmas in two ways. First, you were likely a Gentile, and Christ was Israel’s Messiah. Second, you were a sinner, and you were barred from God’s blessings by sin. Jesus came to include you. He came to die for you so that you, who were unclean and unholy, might be cleansed of sin and made holy. If you know Him and love Him, you will reach out to others.
~James Montgomery Boice
The Christ of Christmas