I wonder how many of you own a Christmas compilation album? You’ll find shelves stocked with them everywhere during the festive season, but despite the many different CDs available, they generally all have the same songs on them.
They’ll all feature Merry Xmas everyone by Slade and other cheery, upbeat songs that get you in the mood for celebration.
Not many of them will feature River by Joni Mitchell. It’s as much about Christmas as Noddy Holder’s hit, but it doesn’t get a great deal of air-play. It begins with the lines: ‘It’s coming on Christmas, they’re cutting down trees, putting up reindeer, singing songs of joy and peace’ – what’s not Christmassy about that?
But Joni goes on to sing, ‘I wish I had a river I could skate away on’. River is all about wanting to escape the pain of celebrating Christmas alone after a relationship has ended.
Though everyone around her is ‘singing songs of joy and peace’, Joni mournfully sings of how lonely and empty she feels.
I wonder how many people feel that way, as we approach this Christmas? For most people, it’s a time spent with friends and family, going to parties, receiving presents and generally enjoying themselves, but there are those for whom Christmas holds no enjoyment.
On December 25 this year there will be many people sitting alone, with no family coming to visit them, no friends to celebrate with, no presents to unwrap, and no turkey to enjoy.
Perhaps you know some of them – the grieving widow, the orphan, the man who’s lost his job, the young single mum? Do we expect the pain of life to magically disappear because it’s a special time of year?
I’m sure those people who find Christmas a difficult time look at those who seem to have it all – the tree, the lights, the mountains of presents, the family gatherings, the parties, all those things people picture when they think of Christmas – and wish they could have that. They think that then they’d be happy and rejoice that December was here.
Though there certainly is much pleasure to be had from a Christmas with the trimmings, that isn’t where the Bible tells us we find our joy.
In fact, if our Christmas lacks one vital component, then it doesn’t matter how much we celebrate the festive season; any temporary happiness we find will soon give way to emptiness.
In Luke chapter 2, we read the words the shepherds heard when the very first Christmas was announced: ‘But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord’.
There may not be any mention of turkey, snowmen or Santa Claus, but nevertheless this is the real celebration – Jesus has been born! The Saviour has come! Here is the source of all our joy. Jesus Christ, God’s Son, has come to rescue us from our sin.
What better reason to celebrate could there be? We can try all we like to find that joy in other things, but ultimately it’s like planning a birthday party for someone and then forgetting to invite them – it doesn’t matter how great the party is, it’s not serving its purpose if they’re not there.
You will have heard all about the miners trapped underground in Chile. When the story broke, it was estimated the men would be freed around Christmas time.
Thankfully, they all came out in October. But I wonder, if those men could have chosen between being rescued from their underground prison and celebrating Christmas on the surface, or having a Christmas tree, turkey and presents sent down to them, which would they have chosen?
How much more joyful with family and friends on the surface than with all the Christmas trimmings in captivity? The trimmings alone count for little. So, to have Christ as your Saviour means everything.
The angel says that this good news of great joy isn’t reserved only for those who can celebrate in style. It is for all people! There are many stories in the Gospels about Jesus spending time with the less fortunate of society, and the true joy of Christmas is no different.
This joy comes from knowing Christ as our Saviour. We celebrate his birth, knowing that, without it, there would be no hope for mankind.
The truth is that it’s possible to have the most joyous Christmas you’ve ever had, this year. You can rejoice that Jesus came to save you and that he will always be with you. By faith in him you can become part of his ever-growing family.