A Melancholy Christmas?

I confess to feeling a bit melancholy lately. It’s just three weeks until Christmas Day and I’m just not feeling it yet. We put the Christmas tree up early this year thinking perhaps that would create the right spirit, but not so much. We even did some outside decorating, but alas, that only brightened up the porch, not my spirit.

I’ve watched a couple of Christmas specials and heard some beautiful music. But there is something missing in the music. While I have heard two wonderful renditions of “Mary, Did You Know?” and “O Holy Night” by and large most of the holiday music concerns itself with romantic love and sleighrides. Now, don’t get me wrong I enjoy secular holiday music. Let’s be real, I need to hear Bing Crosby croon “White Christmas” and Nat King Cole serenade “The Christmas Song.” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” are timeless classics of the season.

However, as lovely as those songs may be, there is something sadly missing in the lyrics. But truthfully it isn’t the lyrics that bother me. It is the overall attitude that I find in myself and many of my brothers and sisters. In a time of global pandemic and political strife we need a message of hope and encouragement. The Word becoming flesh is meant to bring us just such a message. Luke tells us that the shepherds hurried to Bethlehem to “see this thing that has taken place” Luke 2:15.

My suggestion is that we need to go to Bethlehem and celebrate this humble birth, announced by angels, to the simplest of folks. Now, I’m not advocating putting a sign in the yard that proclaims, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” If you feel like doing that, then go for it. But my thought runs deeper than a yard sign.

Rather, my thought is about a transformation of the heart, which changes both attitude and actions. One of the most disappointing aspects of the current healthcare crisis is the attitude portrayed by some who profess to be the children of God. It is hard for me to understand how one can proclaim love for God and love for neighbor and not demonstrate compassion for those with whom we come in contact. Just yesterday someone told me that the pandemic is a hoax. I’m not sure the families of the dead would agree. The Child of Bethlehem reminds me that I have responsibility to place the needs of my sisters and brothers above myself. If I need to wear a mask to do that, I’ll wear the mask. It’s a small ask.

Even more painful is the extreme hate generated by the current political climate in this country. We have reached a point where it is deemed okay to send death threats to our political opponents. Really? This a Christian nation? One nation under God?

It is these attitudes and actions that pull my spirit away from the manger of Bethlehem and lead me toward despair. Despair, however, is antithetical to the gospel. Paul told the Ephesians that we are to shod our feet with whatever will make us ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. The Word is the light and life of a broken world. The Child of Bethlehem is the Savior of the world. Beyond easy slogans and bumper sticker theology. The only begotten Son of God showed us the heart of God, full of grace and truth. The Son promised the Holy Spirit to those who believe in him. The Holy Spirit manifests itself in certain characteristics: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23.

It is these fruits, manifest in the attitudes and actions of disciples of Jesus the Christ that make the birth of the Savior incarnational in a fragmented, sin-darkened world.

I confess to feeling a bit melancholy. The sounds of the season, and the lights on the porch are doing little to relieve the sadness. I don’t need “a little Christmas”. I need to see the face and hear the voice of God’s Son. Can you and I manage in the next few days to find Jesus in the faces and voices of our friends and loved ones? Can we find something lovely in the people with whom we have serious disagreements? The fundamental question that fuels my disappointment is deeply personal, “Do the people I meet and interact with, see the Child of Bethlehem in me?”

I recall a song from my childhood, recorded by Jimmy Dean. In part it says,

If I owned a great big house, I’d have a Christmas room.
When things about me all went wrong, I’d find Christmas still in bloom.
There would be a great big tree with evergreen perfume,
Its branches bright with memories safe inside my Christmas room.
In summertime when tempers flare, when peace seems a never thing,
I’d slip inside and I’d abide where herald angels sing.
But since I’ll have no great big house when Christmas goes away,
Then make my heart a Christmas heart that carols every day,
And let it be my Christmas where good will toward men shall stay.

My prayer for each of this Christmas that we will have hearts that find joy in life and possess hearts of goodwill toward all peoples.

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