Christmas season tends to bring out emotions in all of us – some emotions of sadness and some of gladness. A recent Google search of “Christmas makes me sad” turned up 347 million results with lots of articles telling us why Christmas makes us sad. Psychologist Ken Duckworth commented “Holidays are a great example of expectations exceeding reality for most people.” The office party is not as fun as the office planning committee promised it would be. The conversation over the Christmas family meal does not go as smoothly as hoped. We get our hopes built up for an amazing season and the reality of that season can fall short.
But others insist Christmas adds to our happiness. A recent Google search of “Christmas makes me happy” yielded 3 Billion results. Among those results are articles citing research that says putting up your Christmas decorations early actually makes you happier. To which some of us say “Bah humbug.” About putting up decorations early, psychoanalyst Steve McKeown said, “In a world full of stress and anxiety, people like to associate to things that make them happy and Christmas decorations evoke those strong feelings of the childhood.”
Because our situations in life change from year to year, some Christmas seasons will be more enjoyable and some will be marked with struggle. And we can experience both emotions in the same season. With the plethora of articles about Christmas sadness and gladness, here are three reminders for us preachers as we preach Christmas services:
Our Christmas services will be filled with people who are hurting.
I admire the courage of those who will show up to a Christmas service this year in the midst of a divorce, death, abuse, job uncertainty, and a horrible doctor’ prognosis. There will be people in our worship services this Christmas that are fighting to hold on to one iota of hope. There will be deep pain beneath some of the smiles for a Christmas picture. As we prepare to teach, we must remember many hurting people will be in the room.
Our Christmas services will be filled with people searching for happiness.
Blaise Pascal wrote: “All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views… though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words, by God himself.” Some go to a Christmas party or engage in a Christmas tradition to find happiness. And some avoid a Christmas party or a Christmas tradition to find happiness. But both aren’t fully happy because the infinite hole in our lives can only be filled with our infinite God.
We get to declare a message of good news of great joy for all people.
Centuries before Christ entered our world God announced to Abraham, “All the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring” (Genesis 22:18). When the angel found shepherds in the field, the angel told them “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). Jesus is the Promised One that brings joy to people from all nations.
The message we have this Christmas is a message for all people – for those in seasons of sorrow and those in seasons of gladness. For those in a season of pain, Christmas reminds us that “God is with us” and that we have a Savior who is able to sympathize with us in our weakness. He does not always eliminate the pain in this life, but He is always with and for His own.
For those who are on the happiness treadmill, always looking for something, Christmas reminds us that there is much more. As the shepherds were nomads who constantly roamed, we are too. And the good news is that Christ is here and He is joy. The infinite hole in our lives will not be filled by a great year in business, a new relationship, or an achieved goal. Christmas reminds us that God offers an inexhaustible and everlasting joy that is received and not achieved.