It’s Christmastime. A time for smiles all round, general goodwill, frivolity of all kinds and for all kinds. “Joy to the world!” we sing; “merry Christmas!” we wish to strangers; the possible happiness in a new year awaits, maybe, and all seems well.
But we all know that this “joy” is flawed, broken, not up to scratch. It’s as if somebody has engraved the word JOY onto a cliff face – shouting joy out to all the globe but then this only raises the question of why the world needs to be told to be joyful. For we know that it is not.
The angels brought “glad tidings to all mankind” because man was not glad. They announced that “a Saviour is born” because the earth is in dire need of salvation from itself if from nothing else.
In fact, we all know of this defective joy, the dishonesty of the happy holidays, and the grieving of the season because we are always reminded of it. We are taught from the youngest age possible that although Christmas is fun and good, there is another side. The phrase “the real meaning” is volleyed about by all sides for all causes and for even more reasons.
For some this will be the first Christmas of real sadness, for some the last. For some there will be new and difficult challenges, not because of the time of year but just because there are things that are difficult which have happened now, now of all times.
And there we have it – “of all times” – the belief that at this time we have the right not to be disturbed by the messiness of living. Go away, leave your heartless hardship till later, if at all. Thus the joy of the season not only reminds but actively points us towards grief. The joy is spoiled.
But this is not as it should be.
The grief of the earth should be lifted by the joy to the world because that was its very purpose. Glad tidings of great joy were brought not to remind us of loss but to announce to us gifts. Or better, the gift.
When a Saviour was announced, it was not to rub in the painful truth of his necessity but rather to lift the weighty burden of the wait for his coming.
So it is that joy should not lead to grief as a logical progression, but that grief should lead to joy. When we feel loss, it then points to the Giver who holds the taken in the palm of his hand. When we experience pain, it shows us the Healer who promises an end to each of our tears. When we feel a wanting, a longing, a deep seated sense of something which is lacking, it leads us to the Provider who stepped down, stepped in, stepped out, and stepped up to the task and handed us joy when all we had was sadness.