Christmas is a time when everything is heightened. All things are universally amped up. If everything is coming up roses for you, then Christmas makes things come up poinsettias. However, if you’re blue, Christmas can make you very blue. If you have family problems, they are heightened at Christmas. If you’re struggling with finances, you’ll struggle even more at Christmas. If you’re lonely – chances are you’ll feel lonelier during the holidays. If you’ve recently lost a loved one, you’ll be facing the first Christmas without them. It is easy for those in mourning to feel forgotten by their church during the month of December.
I’m reminded of the line from Away in a Manger – “The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes, but little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes”. However, the Gospel accounts don’t say anything about whether the baby Jesus cried. Yet we’ve bought into the idea that crying, mourning or any expression of sorrow is incongruous with Christmas. However, if we strip off the fairy-tale varnish from the Christmas story we find that there is much sorrow – Israel oppressed by the Romans, a scandalous pregnancy, an arduous journey to Bethlehem. And what do we encounter after the blessed event itself? The flight to Egypt to escape the slaughter of innocents (Matt 2:13-18). Merry Christmas indeed.
The good news is that the Christmas story is about the arrival of God’s light that penetrates the deepest darkness. As worship leaders we must not ignore the darkness, but rather acknowledge it, and proclaim that the Light has come. I believe that the third verse of It Came Upon a Midnight Clear perfectly expresses this concept:
O ye beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.