Have you ever wondered why some of our best known and best loved Christmas songs are a little, well, melancholy?
Surely during the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” the songs should be jolly and jingly?!
Instead, we have the dulcet tones of George Michael singing about his lost love in “Last Christmas” and crooners across the decades have belted that they will only be home for Christmas in their dreams…
It seems to me that there is something about the brightness of the season that draws attention to some of the darkness around us and within us.
There is something about the fear of Mary and Joseph as they are charged with the task of raising their Saviour, that prickles at our own insecurities and needles away at our biggest questions of significance and worth.
There is something about the news, of Word becoming Flesh and God becoming Man to face a life of poverty and pain, that reminds us of our own pain.
There is something about the jingles and the celebration and the hope; that sometimes stands in such stark contrast with what our lives look like.
Lives which do surely contain many moments of joy and jubilation, but lives which also contain anxious nights and tearful mornings.
For the one in four people who struggle with mental illnesses, the pressure of joy can make things harder. The exaltation to be merry somehow forgets the fear and confusion of Mary and Joseph, it forgets the reason that God came down in human form to be Immanuel.
God with us.
We have reason to rejoice, to celebrate and we should celebrate the glorious story of God coming in person to carry out his rescue plan for the world!
In our rejoicing, however, we also need to reach out to those who are far from joy.
When I was younger, I always used to sing the solo at church during the second week of advent which focusses on Mary’s encounter with an angel which changed her life. It is known often as the “sad Sunday” of Advent and apparently I have voice that suits sad songs. (I’ve never been sure whether that was a compliment or not, but I digress.)
Over the course of about five years I sang a number of songs from Graham Kendrick’s “Rumours of Angels” and as I have battled with my own health and the tried to find God in the dark, I’ve returned to the words of this song time and again.
“And did she see there
In the straw by his head a thorn?
And did she smell myrrh
In the air on that starry night
And did she hear angels sing
Not so far away
Till at last the sun rose blood-red
In the morning sky”
The words of that chorus remind me that Jesus did not only come to be born as a human, he also came to die as a human and in that the story of Him echoes words through the centuries to the hopeful and to the hurting.
You are not alone. God with Us.