Christmas is nothing withoooouuuut… ________!
I heard this phrase earlier today in a TV commercial. In that advertisement, a group of people filled in the blank. Some answered “Christmas is nothing without the gifts, the carols, giving, the small and big gatherings.” If I would answer it, it will be the gifts, noche buena and parties! How about you, how will you answer that question?
I am not rooting against all of these things, I’d love to see and experience them as well. It brings the spirit of Christmas in me. It’s nostalgic! After all, these are all just our way of expressing joy to ourselves and love for others.
But this thought came to mind: what about people who suffered great loss before the season? A week ago, a Typhoon Bopha, locally known as Pablo, hit the bottom part of the Philippines, leaving around hundreds of people homeless and families with members who died during the calamity. If I would be in their position, it will be hard for me to put a smile on my face by December 25th.
What about people who were robbed in their homes or got their house burned down with all their possessions? What about families whose members are abroad? What about children who have no presents to open because they don’t have their parents in the first place?
How can we say that there could be “Joy to the world” when some sectors of this blue planet are grieving over something?
Once again, this is not to condemn ourselves that just because we can afford to celebrate Christmas while others can’t, we should feel bad. God loves celebration, it is not a thing to be ashamed of. But our sense of reproach to such tragedies, I guess, is among the things we began to lose sight of during Christmas. We are so drawn into the idea that joy comes only with luxury. ‘Luxury’ that doesn’t necessarily mean riches but also luxury in relationships, which is the opportunity to celebrate with our loved ones or having a seemingly perfect family who loves us dearly.
Those are good sources of joy, no doubt about it. But it is not the only source of happiness. In fact, there is a better medium for joy.
Let us go back in time, to the span of early Christianity, a time when the idea of Christmas is not yet discovered. One unusually joyful man, Paul, who was in prison, doesn’t have a wife, away from his loved ones, and ready to be executed, wrote this in his letter to the church in Rome:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
– Romans 5:1-5 (ESV)
It is highly unnatural to see a imprisoned man who is about to face a death sentence joyful because it is highly unlikely to see a very hopeful man in a hopeless situation. Contrary to our earlier conceptions, the Word tells us that joy correlates with hope. The object of hope that Paul has gives it more stability and invincibility — the hope that, soon, we will fully experience glory of God. Now the rising question to this idea is, what is in the glory of God’ that made Paul’s joy so indestructible?
Heaven is a great place. The Bible says the streets are made of gold, each soul will have their mansion in there, and even the inanimate objects are moving in awe. More than that, heaven will not be heaven without the most beautiful being in existence: the glory of God. He is so good and great and beautiful that a living person will die by seeing His beauty. Without Him, the place will not be the ultimate utopia. Being with Him removes all the pain, sadness, grief, fear and suffering, as in Romans 8:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope.
-Romans 8:18-20 (ESV)
The Glory of God, that is soon to be revealed to us, is the only thing that can blast suffering to oblivion. It is the ultimate Hope! And it is very real and very powerful, and available to us right now. That is the very reason of Christmas, when Christ came to this world, he came to bring this hope into us. Without Him coming down to this world, we will soon suffer the same futility as this fallen creation.
We were hopeless and we can do nothing about it. But God gave us a way out when Christ came. He is heaven’s confidence. The one who will bring the people to the greatest good in existence. It will be so good that all the suffering of every individual will be nullified by a thousandfold. It is the hope that will result to a joy untainted by any worldly circumstance. Don’t you just want that kind of happiness?
Just see to it this way, a Christmas without gift or without your loved ones and the kind of grief it brings will be nothing compared to what is in store in you in heaven. Just like how the song continues:
Joy to the World; The Lord has come!
It will always be something to look forward for and to remind us that in all of this pain, thanks to Christ, there is Hope!