The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

Isaiah 9:2

My birthday was earlier this month, and then Christmas is just next week.  So, like the song says, it should be "the most wonderful time of the year."  Right?

Well, it's not.  In fact, right now it stinks.

For starters, at the beginning of this week I had to turn off the news.  I just couldn't take it anymore, and the state of the world, the downward spiral of politics, the pervasive greed and corruption of society and the indiscretions of public figures were just upsetting me too much.  So I filled my thoughts with Christmas music instead.

But initially, even that didn't help as much as you'd think.  Nor when I performed in a few evening Christmas concerts with a civic chorus, and we did indeed sing the Andy Williams classic:  "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year"... 

It's the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you "Be of good cheer"
It's the most wonderful time of the year
 
It's the hap-happiest season of all
With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings
When friends come to call
It's the hap- happiest season of all …

Those are nice sentiments and all, but it's just fluff.  Really.  So I scoffed at them as I was singing.  What about the real-life, bring-you-to-your-knees situations that are happening beyond the parties, the hosting and the ridiculous marshmallow toasting?  How wonderful is that?

I thought of a friend who'd just received word that a much-hoped-for job opportunity would not be going through as planned.  I thought of others who are undergoing physical ailments—some who have a long way's to go (though healing is in sight) and then others who don't yet know what their diagnoses will be.

I thought of a family in which ongoing adultery has just now come to the fore and is threatening to tear a long-standing, influential marriage apart.  And then still another who are now facing difficult obstacles in an adoption process that's underway overseas.

No, on the outset this is not the most wonderful time of year for any of these friends.  In many cases, it's heartbreaking, painful and hopeless.  More like the opening scene of "In the Bleak Mid-Winter" …

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter,
Long ago

That depicts the chill of life right now for many of us who are down in the valley.  For those who feel no warmth.  For those who are in the shadow of death.

But then, the carol takes a hopeful turn …

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain:
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty
Jesus Christ

In the midst of the "bleak mid-winter" circumstances of the world, a child was born.  The son of God.  Born to a virgin.  In a lowly manger.  What an unbelievable, miraculous and supernatural event that broke through!  The world would never be the same.  Love had come.

Lyrics such as these have helped me try to focus on Truth and not on the bad news and difficult life circumstances this week.  I've reminded myself that the only way to know what is truly "wonderful" about this season is to continually give myself over to God who, because of the gift of his Son, is now with us.  In him alone, do we find our peace, our hope and our eternal rest.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulder.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.  He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.  The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this (Isaiah 9:6).

Intersecting Faith & Life: 

You may feel less than wonderful today, and your situation may seem bleak.  If you feel like you have nothing left to give, you can still give what you do have:  your heart.  A Savior was born for YOU.  Immanuel.  God with us.

Further Reading:

"Love Came Down at Christmas"
Words:  Christina Rossetti, 1885
Music:  Irish melody

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and to all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.