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Comfort and Joy

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
Luke 2:13-14

In the novel A Christmas Carol we find a cantankerous character named Ebenezer Scrooge.  This miserable man loathed the very thought of Christmas, so much so that when a caroler outside his door cheerfully sang out “ ‘God bless you, merry gentlemen! May nothing you dismay!’, Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost.”

Charles Dickens wrote this story to confront the extremes in English society during the 1840s.  The poor were now destitute; many were starving.  The wealthy carried on with their posh living, callous to the needs of individuals around them.  Those in government appeared to be unable or unwilling to change the deteriorating conditions.  So, even though the holiday season was upon them, the spirit of Christmas seemed nonexistent.

Although he penned this book long ago, many today feel as dismayed as Dickens due to current trends in society.  Impoverishment, insensitivity, and ineffectiveness still abound. Many people seem stymied with no north star to guide them.  Others are struggling with loneliness and loss.  And there are some who, like old Ebenezer, observe individuals celebrating this season and wonder: “Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry?”

 The explanation for why any individual can celebrate at Christmas is the same reason given to shepherds over two millennia ago:

Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! (Luke 2:9-11)

 What right does anyone have to be merry?  What reason could possibly exist to rejoice? Because Christ Jesus came to earth to save “all people.”   For a world that desperately needs both comfort and joy, there’s no other message that could be more meaningful.  Indeed, many of us sing a version of the song Dickens included in his “holy-day” tale which conveys this truth:

God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Savior
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy!

 Those tidings of comfort and joy were first sung by a host of angels just after Jesus’ birth.  That heavenly army  simply couldn’t hold back its praise: “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” For Christians—those who have had the fog of despair lifted and the frost of sin driven from their hearts—refocusing on our real status should be transformative.  Circumstances may be hard, but Christ is here to help.  Life may not have given us all that we desired, but eternity awaits where we’ll experience more than we ever dreamed about.

As Dickens hoped, the Christmas season can also be a time when we focus on the needs of those around us. After all, there are many “Ebenezers” in our lives who need to hear about the One who loves them and can become their everlasting source of comfort and joy. Oh, may this ring true to every believer around the world.  Let each of us sing out our own carol of Christmas, sharing the incredible news that Jesus saves!

Now to the Lord sing praises
All you within this place
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth deface
O tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy!

All of us at Sonkist Ministries pray this season of celebration brings much comfort and joy to you and your loved ones!

Thought of the Season

Wake up, my heart! Wake up, O lyre and harp! I will wake the dawn with my song. I will thank you, Lord, among all the people. I will sing your praises among the nations.

Psalm 57:8-9