Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4, verses 9-10.
The full text of verses 7-10 reads, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” In a way, it’s almost unfair to chunk them down to analyze them apart. A solid teacher of the Bible will remind you to use Scripture to interpret Scripture. We must be careful to not solely rely on outside analysis or take each verse out of context. To set the record straight, this isn’t out of context.
What I am doing, however, is reminding you that, on its own, these verses are ripe with contrasts and that these contrasts are especially impacting here at Christmastime. Let’s be honest: they have impact on any day of the year. Yet who could truly read “grieve, mourn, and wail” at this time of the year and not see the poignant, ironic bent of it?
Here’s another thing: humbling ourselves by grieving, mourning and wailing: they’re part of the reason for Christmas. I do believe there is a ‘war on Christmas’ going on in American culture, yet I’m not one of those who wants to harp on ‘Jesus is the reason for the season.’ To me, that’s self-evident, something that even the most strident non-believer sees and knows. I don’t need to pig-pile the point. But why have a Christ? It’s to save us from ourselves, from our need to constantly repent in front of a just God and hope He is in a good mood that day.
Christ was born in that dirty stable to die for us. He was born to live, teach, love, and die for a bunch of folks who, when judged by our own standards of selfishness, aren’t worth it. To really grasp this, we need to grieve, wail and mourn for the terrible things we have done. My lewd thoughts; your angry moments; kids’ selfish times; anything bad that we’ve done. We should grieve, mourn and wail in repentance…as we hand our sins, grieving, mourning and wailing over to Jesus so He can take them away forever. Without our Christmas reminder, the start of that process seems a little less bright.
We are 12 days from Christmas – get your partridge in a pear tree ready – and here is James, speaking these complex truths. Advent comes a couple of months before Lent, when we should reflectively grieve, mourn, and wail for the cost our sins’ require. But with Christ in our hearts, let’s lay aside the hurt and embrace the hope. Today.
Christmas Lord, I believe in You.
What have you thought, said, or done that should make you grieve?
What do you really want for Christmas?
What contrasts do you see in these verses and what do they mean to you?