How can Christmas be such a happy time for most but not for all people?
Perhaps it is because–at least in our nation–customs surrounding the Christmas season bring to mind scenes of happiness. One might picture a scene filled with mirth as friends and family gather together. Another picture might portray a warm fire on a cold winter’s night.
Surely many of us can recall how even the simplest tasks multiply in ratio to the number of plans and purchases, all of which combine to overwhelm the month of December. But what might bring a temporary joy to some may also bring sadness to others. We are reminded regularly of those who cannot find any joy at Christmas because of war, disease, injury, or famine.
Christmas can also be a time filled with dread, creating gloomy thoughts over what one does not possess or what might be missing in this life–all complicated by the fact that there is just not enough time! Like a wet blanket on a cold day, true joy can be lost and happiness can be rejected with the scowl of a Mr. Scrooge, saying, “Bah! Humbug!”
How often do we fall victim to such complaints? Do we sometimes share with others the burdens we feel Christmas has brought into our lives? God forbid!
It was to people with just such thoughts that the prophet Isaiah was inspired to write: “The people who walked in darkness ahave seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined” (Is. 9:2).
The Lord had sent Isaiah on a mission to His Old Testament people. Because of their unfaithfulness to the Lord and willful disobedience of His will, they were going to be brought down by the Lord’s just wrath against their sins. Their way appeared to them as an endless night of hopelessness without any relief in sight.
Israel had become like a beast of burden. It carried the weight of its sin and its guilt, including the guilt of abandoning God. Their forefathers had experienced this physically and spiritually, while under forced slavery in Egypt. The Assyrians were going to do the same to them.
Israel’s great burden was to see only “trouble and darkness, gloom of anguish” (Is. 8:22). All mankind was condemned to sit in darkness forever because of sin.
Light Through Faith
But there was also light at the end of the tunnel! God had remained true to His word. Though they walked through the valley of the shadow of death, the Lord had not left them for dead, but had revealed the Light of life.
The Lord God promised the Light of life to all who believed in His Son, the Savior of sinners. The prophet could write: “You have multiplied the nation and increased its joy; they rejoice before You according to the joy of harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil” (Is. 9:3).
The same God of eternal salvation has not left us to despair, but to rejoice. The darkness of sin has been dispelled by the Light of life in Jesus Christ. He reached down to do battle against the darkness of sin.
God sent His Son to win the victory that continually eludes fallen man. It was a spiritual battle for eternal joy in the kingdom of God. It was a victory won by the birth of God’s Son in the flesh–the Christ Child! The victory was won once for all on the cross, and it is celebrated by those who have received the precious gift of His light through faith.
The God of all mercy reveals the Light of life in Jesus Christ alone in order to lead us out of darkness into His eternal light. The apostle John wrote of Jesus: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness” (Jn. 1:4-5).
Yes, it is true again this Christmas, regardless of our individual circumstances: “The people have seen a great light” because “upon them a light has shined.”
There is every reason to rejoice in the great light of the Lord Jesus who still says to you: “I am the Light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (Jn. 8:12).
–Pastor Rick Grams