I am a huge fan of the Christmas season. I love the love, the giving, the charitable feelings and everything that is a part of celebrating the birth of the King of Kings. But I also recognize that Christmas is a time of mourning for many. For many, birth and death are woven together into a tragic tapestry at this time of year.
As I read the book of Haggai, I noticed a date. The ninth month, the 24th day of the month. At the time I mistakenly thought that April 1st on the Jewish calendar was the same as January 1st on ours, so that would coincide with December 24th. (I realize that Jesus was most likely born in September, but have always been fascinated with the decision to use Saturnalia as the date we celebrate Christ’s birth, since I know the devil loves to have his own holidays–like celebrating Ishtar the fertility goddess at the time of Passover.) The ninth month and 24th day became a day of mourning for the Jewish people, first for the original temple destroyed by Babylon and then the second temple destroyed by the Romans. The feast day commemorated the date that the cornerstone was laid for Solomon’s grand temple, and it evolved into a day of utter despair. How like so many who end their lives during the Christmas season. It seems a double tragedy that so many leave us at the most wonderful time of the year whether by their own hand or God’s.
Even worse, the way some folks “celebrate” Christmas leads to increased suffering for their families. I know more than one alcoholic who made sure he had a booze-soaked Christmas while his wife and children were ignored. I know the pundits say it’s a disease, but I never knew anybody who ran toward cancer or heart disease like some folks run to their drug of choice. They throw their arms around it and celebrate it no matter who it hurts. The mantra of the world, “You are here to make me feel good,” is in every breath they take. They have t-shirts made and celebrate the fact that they are a slave to alcohol, drugs, lust, etc. and wear them without shame.
Which brings me back to Haggai: how can a day of celebration become such a day of sadness? The temple was celebrated and mourned for the same reason that Christmas is. The day of celebration shows God’s Providence, and the day of mourning shows the wages of unfaithfulness. The Hebrews RAN after other gods and God allowed them to reap what they had sown. They weren’t ashamed at all. We can see the parallels. Unfaithfulness takes the glory of God and makes it into something that breaks hearts and hurts children. Throughout history we see great celebrations and tragedies existing in the same space.
So what is the point? There is a time for everything. Don’t sing songs to a broken heart, but celebrate whenever you can. Life is short and full of trouble. Enjoy every blessing that comes your way. Make a conscious effort to thank God and to wallow in your blessings. Christmas is a time of great celebration and terrible sadness. So love the heartbroken and celebrate your loved ones. Even the weird ones. And look forward to the new year. Celebrate the new beginning with relish. May your 2017 be rich in blessings and bereft of sorrow.