It can be hard to find the joy of Christmas when we live in a broken world. Could there be a more painful example of brokenness than a mass shooting of innocent children?
How do we say “Peace on Earth” when children are gunned down in schools and countries are at war? How do we sing “Joy to the World” after hearing news reports or seeing haunting images of terror?
We know of tragedy and pain throughout the world and some may even feel guilty at times for wanting to continue with Christmas traditions. But we also have a deep longing to experience peace and joy. How do we reconcile these emotions?
December is often decorated with sparkling lights, candy, sugar cookies, wreaths, and beautifully wrapped boxes. None of these things are bad, but they can mask the real Christmas. Christmas is not just about festive cheer, bright lights, and merriment. Yes, there is joy, but sadness and pain also belong in the Christmas story.
If we have our eyes open to the world, we see not only gifts and twinkling eyes, but also tears and heartache. We see broken bodies and blood. We see the homeless and hungry. We see abuse and greed. We see parents planning funerals instead of finishing their Christmas shopping.
However, even in the midst of this tragedy and brokenness, there is still a reason to sing joy to the world and peace on Earth. We have Christmas because of heartache, pain, grief, and tragedies. We need a wonderful counselor. We long for a savior to fix our broken world. Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus because of the brokenness. Christmas is deeper, stronger, and more important than the gifts.
Christmas is staring evil in the face and saying, “You will not win.” Christmas is choosing forgiveness over revenge. Christmas is working towards a better world. Christmas is praying for peace on Earth. Christmas is learning that hope and love are greater than despair.
Here are some ways to get into the Christmas spirit: Show mercy. Love your neighbor. Feed the hungry. Care for the poor. Pray for others. Share hope. Find beauty. Forgive. Be peacemakers. Express gratitude. Practice compassion. Comfort those who mourn.
This year, many people may have tears streaming while singing Christmas songs, but sing on we must. Sing about joy and peace on Earth. Sing about love and comfort this Christmas. Those are words of hope for our future and a call to action for our present.
Nancy Berns is author of Closure: The Rush to End Grief and What It Costs Us.