“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son” (Luke 2:6,7).
Turning on the radio or strolling through shopping centers this time of year can be a unique experience. If you have celebrated more than a few Christmases, you probably noticed the shift in the kind of songs on heavy rotation. While it isn’t shocking that religious music has lost its dominance over the airwaves, some pop selections stick out for their subject matter. Rudolph and Frosty have been pushed aside for the upbeat heartbreak of “Last Christmas” and similar songs.
Sweetly sad songs capturing tragic times
One such seasonal pop song that never fails to grab my attention is “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues. It’s sad. It’s sentimental. New York at Christmas is the backdrop for a fairy tale that doesn’t close with a happy ending. The duet chronicles a couple’s quarrel. Bells ringing out for Christmas Day can’t drown out the disappointment and resentment of unrealized dreams. It’s messy and beautiful at the same time.
Sweetly sad songs capturing tragic times aren’t accidentally enticing at Christmastime. They tap into something that resonates with so many people this time of year. We formulate elaborate plans. We imagine sublime scenes in our minds. But what we actually get is usually less than a fairy-tale ending. Overly optimistic plans get derailed by bad winter weather. Unreasonably high expectations come crashing down with complicated relationships. Memories are often less than magical.
Mary must have had her own plans for her future. The angelic annunciation detoured her expectations onto an unsettling path forward. Dreams of delivering her son comfortably were dashed by census demands. We can imagine sublime scenes captured on sentimental Christmas cards, yet the reality greeting God’s own Son in Bethlehem was much messier.
Joyous hymns celebrating Jesus’ birth
So much better than a fairy tale comes the miracle in the mess: “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them” (Luke 2:6,7).
Christmas celebrates the birth of God’s Son into our messy lives. Into lives filled with disappointment and heartbreak comes the One who “became poor” and “made himself nothing” (2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:7).
Jesus entered our world in less than pristine conditions for the sake of people who have made messes of relationships. What we caused to fall apart with our Father Jesus came to repair. For all the unrealized expectations of our lives we struggle to overcome, Jesus came to give us a better hope. This baby we celebrate at Christmas came to live perfectly under God’s law in our place. For our messy lives, we celebrate the One who chose to come down to earth so he could bring us to himself in heaven.
You probably won’t be able to convince shops and radio stations about the superior quality of Christmas hymns, but you can honor Jesus by singing: “You came to share my misery, that you might share your joy with me” (Christian Worship [CW] 331:8). Whatever sentiments dominate your life this season, Jesus still comes to exceed what you could get from your best holiday imaginations. You can sing of this miracle: “This little child of lowly birth shall be the joy of all the earth” (CW 331:2).
Jesus is with you in the mess of life.
Author: Jeffrey Enderle
Volume 109, Number 12
Issue: December 2022
- Resolving to share joy - 2022/12/09
- Miracle in the mess - 2022/11/27
- Thank God for conflict - 2022/10/29