“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Can you hear the melody of this popular Christmas song? Maybe you can finish the lines of this jingle. This song and its melody are iconic for these days after Thanksgiving leading up to Christmas. Yet, as iconic as this song is, this year it is quite possibly more ironic — kids may not be “jingle belling," there may be no “parties for hosting" and we hear only muffled tidings of “good cheer.” Maybe you are like me and you have felt like the cheer and wonder of this time of year is suppressed, even depressed. Many of us are just not feeling like “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”
One might even say they feel oppressed in this unusual season of life. For some of you, your joy and cheer may be overshadowed by the ongoing government restrictions, forced isolation or economic hardships due to shutdowns. In addition, you may feel the shadow of the divisive political climate of the presidential election, the transition of presidents and parties, or the questions surrounding the presidential transition. Maybe the polarization of our nation around COVID, politics, racial justice etc. is manifested in your own home or personal relationships. Maybe you have lost loved ones or they are suffering sickness at this time. Maybe the rollercoaster of COVID case numbers infects you with fear and anxiety. Has your sense of care and caution crumbled into fear and anxiety about contracting the virus or bearing the burden that you might spread the virus.?
If you were to pause and check in with yourself, would you find yourself feeling suppressed, depressed or oppressed this holiday season?
Just because our circumstances are dark or our feelings are dark, that doesn’t mean we have to dwell in the darkness. That darkness doesn’t have to determine how we are and how we live.
Now more than ever does our generation need to be reminded of the light and liberation that comes from the greatest event in human history, the reason for this season. Whatever darkness we experience in this life — whether circumstantial, relational or psychological — we can overcome it because the light of God in Jesus Christ has shined into our darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.
Listen to these words of hope from the prophet Isaiah written over 500 years before the birth of Jesus Christ when the Jews entered over 500 years of darkness and oppression.
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned…. you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. ... For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.” — Isaiah 9:2-7
This light is Jesus Christ. The son is the Son of God. The Mighty God took on human frailty. The King of Kings has established a kingdom of peace and justice that has not end. God lived with us, among us, in our filth and darkness. Jesus entered the darkness of our world, our circumstances, our relationships, our injustices, our personal demons and depression. Ultimately, He entered the darkness of our sin, the source of all darkness. He became our sin on the cross and in His violent death He took the justice of God on Himself for our evil and for all evil in this world and He broke sin’s power over us. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5).
This is not merely a past historical event we remember at Christmas and Easter. Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection catalyzed a chain reaction altering the course of human life and history rippling through time. That light did not shine at one time; it shines now and for eternity. This is an objective truth that cannot be altered; it’s not merely a personal belief or perspective. However, this life-altering power is only experienced by those who believe in Him and receive the liberation from the darkness of sin that he offers. Have you been liberated by the light of Jesus? Have you surrendered to the Prince of Peace?
Though it may not feel like the most wonderful time of the year, we can still say it or sing it because we believe the truth. For those who look to the child born to us, for those who call him their “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” a light is shining in their darkness and it never fades.
Friends, there is no prison for the soul liberated by Jesus! There is no oppression that can suppress the joy of Jesus! There is no power that can put resurrection Hope back in the grave! Though we may not feel it, it is still the most wonderful time of the year. There can still be much mistletoeing, and hearts can still be glowing even though loved ones may not be near. Because of Jesus, we can not only sing, but live like “It's the most wonderful time of the year.”
Scott Barber is senior pastor at Worthington's Grace Community Church.