Does Christmas Have to be Merry?

CHRISTMAS PERSPECTIVE BUILDER. For years when I was younger, I never bothered to ask why Christmas had to be merry. I and my contemporaries simply accepted Christmas being like that–merry–and we all made every effort to make sure it remained thus. Christ’s birth, after all, should be a happy occasion, and the inclusion of Santa Claus was proof that it should be.

However, hard times came to my family so that my dad and mom could hardly provide us with things that traditionally made Christmas merry, like new clothes and shoes and gourmet food. That was when I started thinking hard about Christmas and consulted the authentic record of how it all started. And I found out how sad the first Christmas really was and what joy was connected to it was not in receiving material things but spiritual. And Santa, the Christmas tree, and the little drummer boy weren’t connected with it in any way whatsoever.

Truth is, Christmas–or the remembrance of Christ’s birth–need not be “merry” in the way the world perceives merry or happiness to be. True Christmas showed us God’s idea of an ideal celebration of life on earth–extreme simplicity. And he showed us his real priority–the lowly. God chose to be born into a poor family, in the poorest town of Judah, and in a dirty animal stable where a simple manger made “room” for the Messiah which men’s inns couldn’t. No wonder, Jesus later said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”

Well, commercialism has glamorized that manger scene today, with glittering play of lights, gold and silver ornaments, and merry carols being sang about how Santa’s on his way to pamper kids with toys and goodies on his sleigh, but these are a false representation of what really happened during the first Christmas. Making Christ’s birth appealing so it can be a tool for boosting sales gave people the idea for centuries that Christmas had to be merry.

When I saw the truth in Scripture, I never worried about being materially “merry” on Christmas again. The important thing is to know why God sent Christ into the world as a simple, lowly human being and to be seriously at the heart of it all, everyday (not just during Christmas) for the rest of our lives. For instance, what good would a merry Christmas celebration be if you are still a slave to sin and worldliness? Christ was born so we could be free from all that, and be free indeed! Buying and giving each other gifts, having something new to wear, and having grand dinner feasts have nothing to do with it.

I thank God if there are blessings, and if there is provision to bless others as well. But if nothing like that is possible, so what? I and my wife teach our kids and our disciples in Christ to be happy in Christ alone, not in anything else–not in material possessions, wealth, achievements or occasions. Be thankful to God in everything, yes, but never to depend on anything or anyone for happiness, save Jesus. The thing is to learn how to be merry in Christ daily regardless of your life circumstances–and to transfer that merriness to others by the power of the Holy Spirit.


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