'Tis the season.
No doubt somebody's making a list. Millions of peeps are checking it twice. Surely some-body cares if you're naughty or nice. 'Tis the season and Santa Clause is coming to town. But, everything isn't holly jolly for everyone this year. Or, any year, for that matter. We humans celebrate many reasons for the season. It's something of a religious holiday for the Christian community. Still, unbelievers of every sort string up the lights, decorate the trees, listen to and sing the music, give and receive gifts, eat the seasonal goodies, visit family and friends, remember past glories, and participate in charitable causes. The professionals over in the psychology department remind us that some people simply endure the holiday under the weight of the Christmas blues. You know, personal stress and depression magnified by the good cheer everyone else is experiencing. While the world is chanting Ho Ho Ho, these family members, neighbors, and friends are moaning Oh Oh Oh because life has taken a regrettable turn of some sort. Oh Oh Oh indeed..
Of course, Christmas 2020 is loaded with the baggage of that mondo bizarro I wrote about last week, the weird world of 2020. Crowd dynamics, social distancing. face masks, government restrictions, and the continuing dangers of Covid-19 have us all on guard to a certain extent. Even more, personal realities like financial pressure, normal sickness, grief, family tension, loneliness, separation, and every other human emotional crisis weigh heavier when the holiday motif is so visible everywhere. Then, there is SAD, the Seasonal Affective Disorder, the blues of gloomy weather, shorter days, blizzards, and the restraining four close walls of home. While the world around so many people is bursting with bows and ribbons, colorful lights, and tinkling bells, so many others are living in the shadows of dreadful truth. It's not always holly jolly.
Scripture offers guidance in our response to people whose Christmas season is blighted in some way. This Christian worldview we personally claim provides counsel as we live alongside of people whose Christmas isn't so merry---
1. Be understanding of the people around us.
The Apostle Paul reminded the Roman church to "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep" (Romans 12: 15, ESV). You know, a little empathy right now. Simon Peter wrote, "Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind" (1 Peter 3: 8, ESV). During the Christmas season we should all acknowledge the hardships of life and the fact that not everyone is dreaming of a white Christmas. Many are grappling with deep life issues that darken the season. We should be aware and understanding of their emotional stress. We should "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6: 2, ESV).
2. Dispense Joy and hope to the people around us.
Happiness is such a circumstantial emotion. What make things merry and bright may change with life circumstances that test and challenge us. This Christian worldview speaks of joy, hope, and peace as lasting spiritual realities to define the times. Again, the Apostle Paul wrote, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope" (Romans 15: 13, ESV). Being filled with joy and peace should overflow our lives so that we can abound in hope. Let that be your influence on the people around you this Christmas.
3. Encourage one another.
I love what the author of Hebrews wrote. "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near"
(Hebrews 10: 23-25, ESV). Be an encourager this year, especially to those you know are experiencing a down time at Christmas.
Yes, 'tis the season. Let's help make it the season for those having difficulty too.