Christmas is a time of joy and anticipation. We celebrate God coming to earth and bringing life. In the words of the Christmas song by Andy Williams, it’s the most wonderful time of the year!
But where does the joy come from? Does it come from the family time, the rest, or the candlelit services? Does it come from an eagerness to pull the wool over our eyes and pretend the world is perfect?
Do we sometimes oversimplify the disposition of the season? For many people, Christmas is a time when memories of loss and hurt come crashing in around.
True Christmas joy starts with the realization of pain. We have lost loved ones. Terrorists are attacking our world. Our wrong choices made it necessary not just for Jesus to come to earth, but for Him to die to save us.
I have sung the Christmas hymn “We Three Kings of Orient Are” my entire life. It was written by Rev. John Henry Hopkins in 1857. These words are probably familiar to you:
“We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star.
“O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy Perfect Light.”
The first verse and chorus speak of Jesus’ perfect light. But have you ever seen or heard of the fifth verse?
“Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes of life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb.”
This verse acknowledges the pain. It celebrates Christ’s perfect light by remembering His sacrifice. It remembers that Jesus embraced pain and death so that joy and life could triumph in our hearts.
The reality that God became man and entered into our world so that He could save us from ourselves should make us ecstatic. We should party and be filled with joy.
But before the party can begin, we must take a real look at ourselves. We must see the loss, the brokenness, the sin. We must realize that we can’t change these things, and that is why we have Christmas.
Because Jesus came to take our pain and death and replace them with joy and life. “We Three Kings of Orient Are” is about joy, but the verse that remembers the pain is the reason the joy is so sweet.
We can’t ignore the darkness. We must remember the darkness so that when we celebrate the light, it glows even brighter.
So as you prepare to celebrate Christmas,
“Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice
Earth to heav’n replies.”