December 1, 2018 @ 7:00 AM

The Most Wonderful Time of the Yearis a popular Christmas song written by Edward Pola and George Wyle in 1963. It was sung by Andy Williams and appeared on the Andy Williams Christmas Album that year. The lyrics are happy and cheerful but do not mention the true meaning of Christmas. Is this song celebrating the time of year without knowing or caring why?

Christmas really is a happy time of year. Christmas time has a personality all its own—whether or not people acknowledge the birth of Jesus. There are so many things to look forward to at Christmas, e.g. family and friends, gifts, parties, traditional foods and yummy treats, just to name a few. But how empty it is without the reason for the season.

For some, Christmas time is not wonderful. It is hectic and stressful. There are so many things to do and places to go. There are unrealistic expectations, lack of sleep, overspending, and too many things to do. For others, Christmas is a sad and lonely time. Sad memories, family conflict, multiple losses make everyday hard and especially Christmas. What if Christmas was less stressful and hectic? What if we went back to the basics of Christmas? What if we could find the joy and peace of Christmas in the midst of heart ache?

My favorite Christmas Carole is O Holy Night in its original version, written by Placide Cappeau and Adolphe Adam, 1847. You cannot thoughtfully sing or listen to this song without focusing on the true meaning of Christmas.

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining.
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night, O night divine!

In the very first words of the first stanza we have the what and the why of Christmas. In the third stanza we are singing about loving one another because Jesus’ law is love and His gospel is peace. Jesus is the Holy Chain Breaker, “for the slave is our brother!” Written prior to the Civil War, this is truly an amazing lyric! Jesus is the Son of God, Immanuel, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6; Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 9:22)  Jesus is Christmas!

The very first Christmas celebration was the spontaneous response of the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks that first Christmas night. (Luke 2:8-20) They had just heard the angels announce the joyous news that their long awaited Savior had been born. The Hebrew Messiah had entered the dark and weary world. Joy to the world; the Lord has come!! This is the essence of why we celebrate Christmas. What else do we really need?

The very first Christmas was simple and quiet. There were no lights, no Christmas trees with ornaments and gifts, no Santa and reindeer on the roof. There were no cheese balls and fudge and Christmas cookies. It was a simple yet marvelous Christmas celebration of a Savior who had come to set us free. Even with pain and sadness, there is hope and peace at Christmas if we keep our eyes on Jesus, the Reason for the Season.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Dayis a carole with a serious and sad tone but ends with a hopeful message. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow originally wrote the lyrics in a poem entitled Christmas Bells on Christmas Day in 1863. Longfellow’s wife had died in a fire in 1860, and on December 1, 1863 he received the news that his oldest son Charlie had been nearly paralyzed by a gunshot wound fighting for the Union Army in the Civil War. Longfellow wrote:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Merry Christmas and May God bless us, everyone!