Tis the season to be jolly?

This year’s X-factor finalists sang first round songs which capture the different ways people feel about Christmas. Alexandra sang Silent Night beautifully and fittingly for Christmas as she reminded us of the birth of Jesus. JLS sang the old Wham number about a boy whose heart was broken Last Christmas. And Eoghan, with all his youthful optimism, sang I wish it could be Christmas every day, about Santa and snowmen and festive fun, being jolly.

Of course, lots of people at Christmas are like JLS; broken hearted, dumped, bereaved, families with soldiers on duty in Iraq or Afganistan, the recently redundant, the long term sick or depressed, children whose parents divorced. Other people are Eoghan sorts of people, young, happy, joyful, in the party mood, loving every moment of Christmas. They are the heart and soul of the party, always with a smile on their face. They love the presents and feasts. And that’s the way most people like to think of Christmas. It’s the season to be jolly, even if you have not much to be jolly about. It’s the time when people who are broken hearted have to put on a brave face.

I think two characters make us, especially Americans and Brits, think that Christmas is about being jolly, happy, festive. First, there’s Santa. He’s fat and happy, jolly, generous. The sort of person we all want to have at our party. The other character who keeps lots of people in the festive spirit is, Ebeneezer Scrooge. Scrooge is everything that Santa isn’t. He’s mean, miserable, cold, unfriendly, grumpy and stingy. No one wants to be like Scrooge. And so, with Santa as the positive image of Christmas and Scrooge as the negative image, people are forced to be jolly even when they don’t feel like it. Christmas shaped by Santa and Scrooge is a cruel Christmas.

Christmas is not the season to be jolly but joyful. Which is why it is essential for each of us to have our Christmas shaped by another character, Jesus Christ.

The day Jesus was born, an angel said to the shepherds “Fear not, I bring you good news of great joy which is for all people, that today in the town of David is born a Saviour who is Christ, the Lord.”

The birth of Jesus Christ, the Lord, the Saviour, is good news of great joy for all people. The joy comes from knowing what sort of Saviour Jesus is. That is, what he came to saves us from. When you know the real Jesus, he saves you from false joy or forced joy. False joy is what we whip up at parties but which pops like a balloon at the end Christmas. Forced joy, is the sort of joy the broken hearted put on. Like the tears of a clown.

Jesus also saves people from the fist of the devil. The devil is real, he’s nasty piece of work, he’s a fallen angel. We sing a lot about angels at Christmas. Not all angels are good. In one carol we sing, “remember Christ our Saviour was born on Christmas day, to save us all from Satan’s power when we had gone astray”. And so Jesus saves people from the fist of the devil.

Jesus saves people from a fascination with sin. Sin, that old fashioned word, simply means doing things we ought not to do and not doing things we should do. Jesus saves people from the folly of wanting to do the wrong thing, time and time again. And so, Jesus saves people from the fury of God. God is not happy with our sin, he’s furious. But when Jesus died on the cross he saved people from God. And so, knowing that Jesus makes peace for us with God, he saves us from the fear of death.

This Christmas, will you thank Jesus for being your Saviour?

“Fear not,” said the angel, “I bring you good news of great joy which is for all people, that today in the town of David is born a Saviour who is Christ, the Lord.”

If you have never thanked Jesus for being your Saviour, then today is a good day to do that. Thank him in your heart. Once you have thanked him, then acknowledge him as Lord. The angel said “ today in the town of David is born a Saviour who is Christ, the Lord “

Lord means Jesus is boss. He knows what’s best and so we should listen to him and do what he says. Acknowledge him as Lord.

As you love him and trust him, he’ll save you from false joy; forced joy; the fist of the Devil; a fascination with sin; from the fury of God and from the fear of death. This brings joy which lasts all year.

And then as Alexandra Burke sang the winners song on X-factor, so you will sing, “Hallelujah.”

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