Then you and the Levites and the foreigners residing among you shall rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household. Deuteronomy 26:11.
It’s the week before Christmas and, if we’re having an honest conversation about Santa Claus, we need to face some facts about the world we live in.
We each know people who are having a tough time this year. One friend of mine is struggling to give her kids and grandkids the kind of happy Christmas she never had when she was growing up, and she feels she’s failing. Another friend of mine is struggling with the recent diagnosis of a terminal brain tumor. Yet another confesses her broken-heartedness on her first Christmas as a single mom following her divorce. One of my sons-in-law is deployed overseas, spending his first Christmas away from his wife and daughter; his wife and daughter are very much missing Dad. Another friend of mine is struggling with schizophrenia. One of my classmates is being buried today after her untimely death last week. I’m losing my house.
And we’re supposed to rejoice over all this? Actually, yes, and it really isn’t that difficult to do.
Think of “A Christmas Carol”, of Scrooge’s overnight transformed heart. Or the Santa Clause movie where Tim Allen brightens up the teacher’s holiday party by using a little Santa magic. Consider the lines of excited kids lining up to see Santa. Or the bell-ringer wearing a Santa hat who wishes you a merry Christmas when you drop a few coins into the red kettle. Rejoice. Rejoice, already. God gives us the basics but so much more. If you don’t believe that, go do some Santa watching at the mall. Reject the crass commercialism and just watch the little kids. Watch how they anticipate, and how a kind old man spends some time with them to listen and love a little. Then rejoice already. Rejoice on days good and bad alike because the same Christ Child, born on Christmas Day, reflected by a character we call “Santa,” is Lord of all.
In it all, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. You know it, the Christmas hymn. According to Wikipedia, the words to the hymn come from the 1700s while the medieval dirge to which they’re sung comes from France of the 1500s. Yet I love the song. It is actually one of the more hopeful ones you’ll hear this Christmas because the refrain constantly reminds us to rejoice over how Jesus Emmanuel has ransomed us from ourselves. How “Emmanuel” actually means “God with us.” How He is with us now.
Rejoice, too, because one of Emmanuel’s representatives here in our world is that jolly fat man in the red suit. That attitude of giving selflessly is cause enough to begin the rejoicing. The heart that gives is the heart of hope, and in the face of real adversity we need more of that hope. Only Jesus can truly give that hope, but you, me, and acting like Santa can share it. That’s what keeps the world going around. The people of 1500s France knew it. The magi knew it. Moses knew it when he penned Deuteronomy. And the men who play Santa at the mall know it.
I’m not trying to be Pollyanna concerning the hard condition in which we find ourselves. Living can hurt. Yet the very real antidote to being crushed by this world is letting ourselves be lifted up by God instead. Loss, death, and pain still happen, but they cannot defeat a heart focused on giving through rejoicing. Indeed, the only way to persevere through those things is with that rejoicing heart of Jesus. In hard times, that may be the only gift we can get or give. Like the song, so much of our lives is sung in a minor key. How much better it is, then, to consider the smile of Santa’s face, the touch of Jesus’ hand, and the fresh day today to rejoice one moment at a time.
For further reading: Matthew 25:29.
My Lord, I rejoice at Your wonder, at how You provide for us and love us. Help me to persevere through adversity today. And ease the pain of those who are struggling right now. Love and nurture them, Lord.