So it’s Christmas next week. I feel like I should be excited. Everyone else seems to be. Decorations and carols and presents and plans everywhere you look. Gotta be honest though – just not feeling it right now.
This year, there are too many funeral bells instead of jingle bells. Too many friends struggling with the deepest and darkest of struggles. Too many hopes dashed. Too many things I wanted out of the year which just haven’t happened. Christmas shmaltz just isn’t doing it – I’m considering finding a Christmas hole instead.
My favourite – well, I guess really Advent carol, is “Oh Come oh Come Emmanuael”, and I’ve been playing it a lot recently. No jolly jingle bells and Christmas snow in this one, it talks of a nation longing for liberation and salvation –
“Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lowly exile here, until the Son of God appear”
This wasn’t the peaceful little town we’ve heard about (don’t get me started on the snow!) This was an occupied and weeping people, gathered not around a Christmas tree but an empty cradle – dozens of them – as Herod had massacred all the babies that might possibly threaten his rule.
This isn’t a jolly Christmas. No tinsel here. This is a people united in grief and terror.
And so, I guess I might just leave the hole alone this Christmas. Not because it doesn’t hurt – it does. Not because it’s somehow all ok. Not because a mince pie and Band Aid on the radio can chase the pain out of aching hearts, or the disease out of broken bodies. Not because the Christmas magic will drive out all terror, all injustice. Tinsel does not make up for missing loved ones. Presents don’t heal bodies. “Family Time” doesn’t bring world peace.
But I guess because the first Christmas was birthed in fear, pain and terror. A teenage mother desperately clinging to the promise that God will use the horrific situation she’s found herself in. A husband, watching his wife give birth to a baby that would never quite be his. A stinking stable, a hurried exile into a foreign land to escape a murderous tyrant.
Jesus didn’t come just so we can sing Handel (although that’s a pretty good reason). He came as the light in a particularly dark world, and his life and death give us the hope that, though the light flickers, it’s not going to be extinguished.
So I might give “Merry Christmas, Everyone” a miss this year. I’m sure it won’t miss me. But I will rejoice that though life is dark, the light has come. And one day, that light really will
“disperse the gloomy clouds of night – and death’s dark shadows put to flight”.
Come, Lord Jesus.