Several times since Thanksgiving I have turned on the Christmas music only to immediately punch it off again, opting for silence over seemingly superficial merriment. Usually, Bing, Nat, and Dean are chums I welcome each December. This year, however, their cheery voices have at times felt more intrusive and mocking than merry. Because the mess of life doesn't vacation at Christmas. People still senselessly kill other people, disease tears apart families, and the world aches with longing for a Saviour.
I've seen and spent more tears the last month than seems fair for this time of year ... A friend chokes out a dire prognosis, family quakes with incomprehensible tragedy, elderly eyes puddle as a woman explains she's outlived her loved ones, the news announces another shooting rampage. And Longfellow's words penned in the thick of loss 150 years ago flit through my mind, and I sigh, identifying.
And in despair I bowed my head.
"There is no peace on earth," I said.
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
of peace on earth, goodwill to men."
I start to explain to the kids why I don't feel much like decorating, why I'd prefer to pull my blankie over my head, stick my fingers in my ears, and sing "la la la la la". But even as the words are on my lips I realize that's not fair to them. They need a reason to celebrate. We all do.
A. W. Tozer said, "It is doubtful God can use anyone greatly until He has hurt him deeply." I partly recoil, partly rejoice hearing that. Afterall, who asks to be crushed, wounded, broken? But in the truth of Tozer's statement, lies hope. Hope that at least this pain has a purpose. That it's not wasted. That beyond my limited understanding and vision, there is a sovereign and loving God who still has all this turmoil under control .... and even more has a great and glorious plan in it all. The end-story has been written. And it ends well.
Like a whisper across snow, it occurs to me. I have more reason to celebrate this year than perhaps any other. Because 2000 years ago, a wee babe was born in a dank, dark stable descending into our dank, dark, sinful world to shine a light of hope. And that Light is still shining into our dankest darkest situations, delivering purpose, light ... hope to the pain. Celebrating Christmas this year may look and feel different. It may be done with a bittersweet ache, a true sacrifice of praise. But because of the Christ of Christmas there is reason to celebrate!
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep,
God is not dead, nor does He sleep
The wrong shall fail
The right prevail
With peace on earth, good-will to men!