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Sorrow at Christmas

December 2008 | by Michael Bentley

Sorrow at Christmas

 

‘Christmas comes but once a year and when it comes it brings good cheer’. No one seems to know who first said that, but it’s not always true. Christmas can be a sad and lonely time for a whole range of people.

 

When I was a child I always looked forward to the festive period. I started school as the Second World War began. Although we all felt frightened and apprehensive, this did not dampen our anticipation of Christmastime.

     Our classrooms could have done with a lick of paint; the outside toilets were open to the elements; and a ‘tortoise’ stove in each room emitted a meagre warmth and, at intervals, choking coke fumes.

     However, none of that worried us as we eagerly awaited the activities which led up to the Christmas holidays. There were parties with cakes (made without eggs and decorated with a tiny splash of icing on the top) and the visit of a conjurer. But nothing surpassed the excitement of being chosen to play the cymbals in the choir’s performance of ‘The teddy bears’ picnic’. We sang our hearts out, accompanied by Henry Hall and his band (on a gramophone record, of course).

 

Does anyone care?

 

As a child little worried me, except when we scurried into the damp darkness of the school air raid shelter each time German bombers flew overhead. I knew little of the life and death struggles of our forces overseas or the problem of finding enough food for the next meal.

     That war is long forgotten by most of us, and we live in an era of affluence, but gloom and loneliness still invade many lives today. Families break up and children are thrown out of their homes because of debt, drink or drugs – or because mum’s new boyfriend doesn’t want them around.

     For such people, Christmas can be a lonely affair. Perhaps you are one of those for whom the world seems a very dismal place. Maybe you have lost loved ones on the battlefields of Iraq or Afghanistan. Your eyes may fill with tears as an empty chair reminds you of someone lost through illness or accident.

     With the orphan Oliver Twist, you ask yourself, ‘Where is love?’ – perhaps wanting to add, ‘Does anybody care about me?’

 

Lasting joy

 

You may pass churches ablaze with coloured lights and invitations to ‘come and join us’. But you stay outside in the cold because you have nothing to put into the collection plate. For you the sentiment, ‘when Christmas comes it brings good cheer’ is a mocking misstatement.

     But I want to tell you that someone does care about you. He cares so much that he sent his Son into our world so that people like you might have true and lasting joy.

     Jesus Christ was not brought up in a royal palace. He came to a cruel and violent world where greed, power and selfishness ruled – a world surprisingly like ours.

     He lived a simple, sinless life and went about doing good. But he died a cruel and shameful death, nailed to a cross of wood.

     It seems so strange that successful entertainers today sometimes become so depressed that they take their own lives. It seems so wrong that innocent children should be deprived of a loving home in their formative years. Yes – and it seems so unjust that ‘gentle Jesus, meek and mild’ should die a painful, traitor’s death. But if Christ had not shed his blood at Calvary, then none of us could be freed from the snare and loneliness of our sin.

 

Where is love?

 

‘Where is love?’ It is found in God, who ‘loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16). Christ Jesus came into the world first to pay the price of sin and then to demonstrate his power to save – by rising from the dead and ascending to a heavenly throne of mercy and grace.

     God’s love and divine friendship is freely given to all who cry out to the Lord Jesus in their desolation – to all who tell him that they want to be cleansed from the guilt and power of their sin. It is for those who reach out to him in a simple act of repentance and faith.

Michael Bentley

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Evangelistic