Thursday, December 8, 2011

How Do You Rate on the ‘Cheerful’ Scale?

Children singing carols communicate Christmas cheer.

The other day we went to our nearby mall to do some shopping. Happy Christmas music filled the air; stores festively displayed the colors of the season; everyone seemed to be having fun.

This, we’re told, is the season of good cheer. And at least from outward appearances, it is. I observed people visiting with friends also out “holiday hunting.” Others went solo, searching for a special gift or unique treasure to give a loved one or friend. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” the popular Christmas song reminds us.

Or is it?

Ornaments and tinsel don't
always make for a cheery season.
Studies have shown at this time of year, many are plagued by depression. Feelings of isolation, despair, even thoughts of suicide, seep through the glaze of gaiety, the façade of frivolity. And no wonder: High unemployment; unresolved financial problems; rampant crime; global unrest; the ever-present threat of terrorism.

I even heard someone say this week that, at least in some areas, the traditional pledge “to be cheerful” has been removed from the Girl Scout pledge. “It’s not realistic for these times” was the explanation. Girl Scouts no longer expected to be cheerful? What’s the world coming to?

But I get it. Stress often intensifies during the Christmas season: Trying to please everyone on the gift list, feeling obligated to attend holiday events, wondering how to pay the “cost of Christmas.” Not to mention being reminded of lingering hurts and strained relationships. Where’s the “cheer” in all that?

The cheer, I’ve discovered, is in focusing on the real what – and who – of Christmas. It’s not about toys, tinsel or treats. It’s about Jesus, and as long as we remember that, we can rely on His cheerful promise: “In this world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

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