Is It Wrong to Be Happy at Christmas?
I love Christmastime. When the house is all decorated and lit up, it has a warm and magical feel. We play Christmas music almost continually, and when it’s not playing, at least someone in the family is singing some carol or other. We cycle through a bunch of Christmas movies, from the deeply moving Nativity to the wacky and irreverently sweet Elf to classic favorites like Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life. At every turn, we are reminded how blessed we are to have Christ as our Savior, and how blessed we are to have each other. Personally, I tend to go through the month of December in a state of quiet euphoria, knowing that mine truly is a “wonderful life.”
Yet I’ve also experienced enough of the flip side of Christmas to know that not everyone is euphoric at this time of year. There were years before I met Lisa when Christmas was marred by loneliness or the sadness of a recent breakup. Then there was the Christmas after our nephew, Chad, died of leukemia. His death left a gaping hole which was even more keenly felt at Christmas, and even though the years have dulled that pain, it never fully goes away. Those experiences of loss at Christmas have helped me realize that some Christmas greetings are spoken through clenched teeth and muffled sobs.
Knowing that, I almost feel guilty for being as happy as I am at Christmas. My heart is so incredibly full, and I want to voice my joy and gratitude. Yet I don’t want to rub salt in someone else’s wounds by being too vocal in counting my blessings. Is it wrong to be happy at Christmas? Is it insensitive to say with Mary that the Lord “has done great things for me?” (Luke 1:49).
My favorite movie portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge is that of Alistair Sim, done way back in the 1940s or ’50s. Sim brilliantly captures Scrooge’s extreme ugliness before his redemption as well as his absolute giddiness after it. After Scrooge has apologized to Bob Cratchitt and promised to help him and his family, he scowls and says to himself, “I don’t deserve to be so happy!” Then he breaks into another wide grin and chuckles, “I just can’t help it!”
I understand how Scrooge felt. Sinful man that I am, I know I don’t deserve to be so happy. I know there are better men out there who have to deal with difficult situations and hard providences they didn’t bring upon themselves. I know people who feel the pain of divorce, abandonment, loneliness, sickness, and devastating loss at this time which is supposed to be joyous. I also know that I just can’t help the joy I feel this Christmas.
Is it wrong to be happy at Christmas? If it is, I’m afraid I don’t want to be right.