My Why audio version of this blog available here.
Well, if you’re reading or listening to this the day it goes out, it will be the 24th December 2021, Christmas Eve. And you may have mixed feelings about tomorrow, or maybe you’ve come across this another Christmas year, maybe it’s not Christmas at all and the word ‘weary’ just drew you in.
Well, welcome weary ones.
And if you’re not weary, then I’d advise you to stay with me anyway because you’re very blessed and potentially in the minority - and quite frankly the rest of us need you.
If you’re feeling lonely this Christmas, or sad, mourning, questioning, excluded, hurt, angry, processing, tired, scared, lost and anything in between, then you probably identify with these three words in the carol O Holy Night:
...the weary world...
This year, especially, a lot of people will be feeling weary, for a whole myriad of reasons. And the consumerised (if that's a word?) Christmas season doesn’t really help with any of these emotions. We’re bombarded with images of happy families sharing food, playing games, and generally enjoying each other's company. Which can very quickly lead us to the belief that this is what is going on behind every closed door at Christmas.
The season is entirely focused on making you buy things which will ultimately bring you ‘happiness’. A classy stylish tree will make up for the fact you don’t have any children, a fantastic light display on the outside of the house will distract people from your pending divorce inside, giving out the best Christmas cards you can find will divert people away from realising your child hasn’t spoken to you for over a year, serving extra hours at the homeless shelter will make the first Christmas without your partner easier to ignore, getting drunk at the Christmas party will show people you’re not crying every night because it’s the first Christmas without your mum, telling people you hate Christmas might prevent them asking what your plans are and finding out you rarely see another human being between Christmas Eve and New Year, telling yourself no one wants bad news at Christmas will give you the perfect excuse to not tell the family the cancer’s come back, sending out all the highlights of your year in a newsletter will hide the fact you’ve just started seeing a therapist for suicidal thoughts.
We’re encouraged to put on a brave face, because we assume everyone else is having a lovely, perfect day with their families. I’d love to know the stats of the reality of how enjoyable Christmas is for most adults.
In 2020, with Covid-19 in full force, it was reported in the UK that more than eight million adults were expected to be alone during the festive period with 83% unlikely to speak to anyone face-to-face on Christmas Day.
The thing is, if you’re very blessed, you’re brought up with Christmas being a magical time; presents, food, people off work, travelling, big meals, new fancy chocolates that we don’t get the rest of the year. It’s a selfish time to enjoy as a child and we loved it. Oblivious to the arguments, politics, financial pressures and work commitments the adults around us were fielding. Not having to buy presents for others, but receiving stuff left right and centre that we wanted ourselves. Living in the star, Santa, and light spangled moment, and enjoying every second.
Then when you’re an adult it appears the only way to fully keep this magic alive, is to have children or grandchildren around you, and live it through them, or create your own Christmas celebrations that involve no other humans.
However, in the carol ‘O Holy Night’ by Adolphe Charles Adam written in the 1800’s, it might mention ‘the weary world’ but those three words are sandwiched, nay completely smoshed, with words around them of hope, joy and expectation.
Regardless of whether you believe Christmas is about the birth of Jesus or not, there’s something for all of us in the first verse. I’ll break it down for you (but not in a rapper kind of way).
O holy night, the stars are brightly shining
If you read my blog ‘My friend, the moon’ then you’ll know how much joy I can take from a night sky, and on this night it’s the stars that are taking centre stage. For this carol talks about a holy night, a night where the world was about to be changed forever. A new life was coming into the world, but not any life, it was a life that even the stars would worship and shine for.
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth
Do you know what a Saviour is? It’s a person who saves someone from danger or difficulty. Aren’t we all in need of one of those?
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Do you ever just feel all the ways the world has gone wrong? All the stuff that breaks your heart open if you think about it long enough? Like we’ve taken a wrong path in so many ways? The world is pining, the earth, the trees, nature, humans, there is a pining in us for something better, something to be fixed, something to come and help us, something bigger than us, where we can just rest in the knowledge that someone else can fix this situation before it all goes to pot. Our world has long been pining for something, even back to when this hymn was written, waaay before our plastic and climate crisis.
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
I love these words. ‘The soul felt its worth’. I imagine that when a soul feels it’s worth it knows exactly what its value is. Do you know what your soul is worth? Well, it’s worth a lot. In the Christian world it’s worth the life of a Saviour, and to know that you are that important, to feel that worth - well that would be a pretty special moment for anyone. This goes way beyond knowing you’re loved in a human sense, this is a complete knowing of your value in the whole scheme of things and there’s not a single soul out there that’s not worth the life of this Saviour. Yes, even little old you, whatever country you’re in, wherever you are right now, washing up, sat in the car, sat at home, at your desk, on the toilet, in the bath, on a run, at the gym, feeding the kids, lying in bed - wherever you are - your soul is worth so much more than you know and if you ever felt that… well, then you’d believe me. And the response?
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
The response to a soul feeling it’s worth is a thrill of hope! But not just ‘a thrill of hope and the world rejoices’, a thrill of hope and ‘a weary world’ rejoices. Now, to be weary AND rejoice - well that involves one thing that I think I’ve harked on about a lot - choice. A weary person doesn’t just rejoice, they have to choose to rejoice and the only thing that makes a weary person rejoice in something is the motivation that it’s worth it. So when a weary world rejoices, we know something special is going on.
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn
Yonder means in the distance. In the distance breaks a new morning, but it’s not just the start of something new, it’s a glorious morning. You ever seen a glorious sunset? You don’t describe every sunset as glorious, it has to be pretty amazeballs to use that language, and this is where the hope comes in.
Through this one act, on a dark night, when the stars are shining, there’s the birth of a baby, a new beginning. Whether you can have children or not, babies are hope. So many people in the childless community write-off babies with their pain of not having one, but like it or not, they are the next humans that will change the world, they are the next voices that carry on after ours, and that's not always good because they are the next childless people, the next widowers, the next orphans, the next cancer sufferers, the next criminals, the next grievers, the next to die young, the next to be born into a body that doesn’t work as it’s intended, it’s not all perfect joy and smiles for every human, but at the start there is hope that they could be something great, the next global leader, the next gold medallist, the next great humanitarian, the voice to end slavery, the bravery to change a nation’s corruption, the musician to impact the world, the next best selling author, the next person who opens up their house for Christmas, the next litter picker around their local park, the next youth leader to start a movement from just three children at their house…
This baby, if you believe in the original Christmas story, was going to change the world. Like Him or not, He’s survived the test of time for 2,000 years and still now, people are killed on a daily basis around the world for choosing to follow Him.
So what do we take from this, weary peeps?
Well, I don’t want to ever push my beliefs onto other people, much as I love them, and on the whole I keep them a bit separate from my blogging where possible, but at Christmas - well I’ll be honest with you, sometimes Jesus arriving on earth is the only thing the season has going for it. I always want to offer you hope in your loss and in your grief, and at Christmas, the only hope I’m always left with, if everything else falls away from me, is Jesus.
In one of my favourite recent versions of O Holy Night, by Rend Collective on their Christmas Campfire Volume 1 album (you can hear it in the link below), they have a line in it that says:
O night divine, when love arrived, O holy night.
And that’s what I want you to know today. Love did arrive on the planet at Christmas, and no matter where you are, what you’re doing, how you’re feeling, or what you’ve done, there is love offered to you through the arrival of Jesus - it’s literally for every single human, so at no point are any of you allowed to respond with ‘It won’t mean me because…’. Doesn’t matter if you killed someone, if you had an affair, if you’re private habits are worse than you want to admit, if you mucked up a relationship, if you were never there for your kids, if you lied, stole, swore, rebelled, murdered, slapped, stood back, ignored, reacted, disappeared, if you don’t even compost… join the club. But it doesn’t matter, because on this night, this holy night, love arrived, love appeared, love came down - for you. Meaning you are never alone in your circumstances. Believing in a God doesn’t mean He pulls you out of all the horrible crap you’re going through, it means He’s there with you in it and understands.
And that my friends, is the only hope I can give you that lasts, it’s not consumed by the world, doesn’t date, doesn’t wane or die off, doesn’t leave, doesn’t sleep, doesn’t disappoint.
Christmas is not a story of hope. It is hope. Craig D. Lounsbrough
I know there will be lonely, desperate, suicidal people this Christmas spending the day in a room surrounded by friends and family, and I also know there will be hope-filled smiles on the face of someone without a single other human to speak to, and no presents under the tree, but with peace in their heart, because they know the true meaning of Christmas.
Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind. Mary Ellen Chase
And to keep you in that state of mind, and because it’s not a busy week for me at all this week (sarcasm), I’ve decided to spend extra time writing super short bursts of hope, Hopelets if you will, that I can release next week on our podcast feed, to make sure we put out something every day from The Silent Why, to help those of you who need it through that weird time between Christmas and New Year and into 2022.
Once in our world, a stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world. C.S. Lewis
Merry Christmas, weary world!
O Holy Night, by Rend Collective: