This is the time of year when I reprogram the presets on my car radio. Gone is NPR. Gone are the country and oldies stations, so Christmas music is the only option I have on several radio buttons. It’s my glorious, two-month hiatus from news, seventies hits, and contemporary Christian music. I love every song (even the ones about donkeys, hippos, and sultry pleas to Santa).
It’s also the time of year that I weep. I cry at everything. Christmas concerts, beer commercials, Facebook memories. And oh, how the tears flow when Mr. Gower pummels George’s ear and when Uncle Billy dumps the basket of cash on the card table in the Bailey’s living room. (If you haven’t seen It’s A Wonderful Life, do yourself a favor. It’s on Amazon.)
Last week, when I found myself tearing up over the silly Christmas epic, Snoopy vs. The Red Baron, whose Hun antagonist, rather than ending the hero Snoopy after forcing him to land behind enemy lines, offers him a Christmas toast instead, I pondered my drippy Christmas-time affect. What, I mused, is the common, emotion-provoking thread that runs through Christmas concerts, beer commercials, George Bailey’s beating, and a Christmas Eve truce? My conclusion: common grace and Jesus Christ.
Believe It or Not
Like the sun rising and the rain falling (Matthew 5:45), sentiment is one of the many blessings that flow from common grace. In his love and his providence and mercy, God has gifted each of us with blessings beyond measure. Common grace is why we become sentimental whenever we witness random acts of kindness or selfless sacrifice, hear an old song from a happier time, or celebrate holiday traditions. Sentiment is a good gift meant to point humans to the Gift Giver. Believe it or not, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is (truly) from above…” (James 1:17).
For Christians, though, grace is special and salvific, and love for God flows through the sentiment. The reality of Christ’s peace, beauty, hope, joy, grace, sacrifice, and suffering are why I cry at Christmas. They are why I persist in my belief, despite what the world thinks.
The common emotion-provoking thread that runs through all things Christmas is my love for Jesus Christ. I love him for infinite reasons, but here I will count four.
Jesus is beautiful.
“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4). Even the most shocking and marvelous beauty we can behold on this earth is but a mere reflection of the matchless beauty of Jesus Christ and illustrative of his deep love of beauty. Christ is the origin and essence of beauty.
Jesus brings peace.
Jesus, in John 16:33, proclaims, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Jesus does not say that our life will be easy if we follow him. He assures us it won’t be. But he promises to bring us peace in the midst of trials. A deep, soul-suffusing, unshakable Shalom that will carry us to eternity.
Jesus offers hope in our pain.
The psalmist, in Psalm 119:50, declared, “This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.” Pain, physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual, is woven into the fabric of the fallen world. Only Christ can offer relief through his great promises left to us in the Scriptures. These promises and Christ’s comfort are as real, in fact, more real, than the pain itself. The pain is temporary. Christ’s comfort is eternal. Consider 2 Corinthians 4:17-18:
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Certainly, the pain we feel here on earth does not seem “light and momentary.” The affliction of illness, the loss of a child, or the infidelity of a spouse are surely not light to our fragile bodies or momentary to our myopic minds. God knows this full well and weeps with us as Christ wept with Mary and Martha, even while knowing he was about to raise Lazarus to life (John 11). But true, deep, and authentic faith in Jesus Christ shines glorious light through even the darkest of circumstances to a glory and comfort that will never, ever end. We need not experience life on earth without hope because there is a sure future without pain with Christ!
The byproduct of believing in Christ is joy.
Joy, born from my love for Christ, is why I cry when George Bailey gets beaten because George, reminiscent of Jesus, forgives Mr. Gower, extending empathy and comfort. It is why I melt with emotion at the end of It’s A Wonderful Life because the portrayal of generosity and friendship mirrors my Savior’s posture toward me. And The Red Baron? That silly song recognizes the peculiar essence of Christmas, emulating Christ in the Baron’s decision to show mercy instead of destruction.
Jesus Christ left the glory of Heaven to condescend to earth. He wrapped himself in vulnerable flesh, submitting himself to the pain and heartache of the human experience. He did this in order to accomplish for us what we cannot: eternal happiness in the heart of our Creator. His love and his grace are boundless. I cry at Christmas because Jesus Christ truly is Joy to the World!
Leslie Schmucker retired from public school teaching to create a special education program at Dayspring Christian Academy in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She is the author of the upcoming book, Broken Children, Sovereign God: Rejoicing in God’s Goodness in the Midst of Childhood Mental Illness (Christian Focus, 2023). She belongs to Grace Baptist Church. She and her husband, Steve, have three grown children and eight grandchildren. She blogs at leslieschmucker.com, and you can follow her on Twitter.