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The darker side of Christmas?

January 3, 2015

CandleAmongst the Christmas celebrations I was saddened to read in the newspaper that a couple were found in their house on Christmas day morning, after they appeared to have committed suicide. The Times reported that they were “’in deep financial trouble’ and had apparently decided to end their lives because they could not cope during the festive season”.

It is tragic that financial stress appears to have caused these parents of two young children to decide that life was not worth living and it is especially tragic that this happened around Christmas, which, at it’s root, is about the good news of God sending His son into the world to bring us life and hope:

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
– Luke 2 verses 10-12

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that Christmas is always happy and stress-free. I realise that for many it is a difficult time of year and that there can be all sorts of stresses and difficulties with families, illness, money worries, and other concerns. However, even though the sky may seem foggy, Christmas is meant to be a reminder that God entered our messed up world to bring hope to the hopeless and light into the darkness.  At times this hope may appear to be more like the first light of the dawn than the bright midday sun, but still the light has broken, still hope has dawned and with it comes change.

We can be tempted to think that the world Jesus was born into was so very different to the world now, perhaps even like a kind of fairy story, which can cause us to doubt its relevance. Of course in some ways things are different now, but as humans we still struggle, we still face difficulties and challenges, and crucially God is still the same in the face of them.

It can be easy to sanitise the Christmas story of Jesus’ birth; but even at the time that Jesus was born there was darkness.     At church we were reminded that when Jesus was young King Herod commanded that all the boys under the age of two were to be killed in Bethlehem to try to eradicate the true King and the enemy to his rule, Jesus, although Herod did not know who he was looking for so many families suffered immense loss during his search.  Even one of the gifts Jesus was given by the wise men foresaw trouble. Myrrh was used for embalming the body of a dead person and foreshadowed Jesus’ death and sacrifice (certainly a startling present, which I don’t think would be welcomed by parent friends of mine for their little ones!). Jesus entered a world which knew suffering and strife to show God’s immense love, to bring hope and forgiveness to a struggling world – and those most important truths have not changed.

At Christmas there is often a lot of talk about joy, which can be a difficult concept for those who are struggling, but even amongst difficulties we can know joy.  As Tim Keller helpfully highlights, “the opposite of joy is not sadness, but hopelessness”.  Happiness is an emotion experienced due to circumstances, whereas JOY is a deep security, an assurance, found in knowing the unchanging Giver of all things.  Even though happiness can seem alien amongst trials and struggles, knowing Jesus, the source of hope, which we remember at Christmas, brings a deep-seated joy, a hope which is so much more valuable than a fleeting emotion.

Empty manger, perfect stranger, about to be born
Into darkness, sadness, desperate madness, creation so torn
We were so lost on earth, no peace, no worth, no way to escape
In fear, no faith, no hope, no grace, and no light
But that was the night before Christmas…

– The Night before Christmas – Brandon Heath

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 10, 2015 1:51 am

    “At times this hope may appear to be more like the first light of the dawn than the bright midday sun, but still the light has broken, still hope has dawned and with it comes change.”
    Mike, my heart breaks for those who gave up all hope in the season of Christmas when hope is supposed to burn brightest. May we grow that dawn into brilliant light in this New Year, and turn hearts and souls to the promise of the Lord. He will ever provide peace, comfort, love, forgiveness, and mercy.
    May God bless you and yours in the New Year!

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