In 1966 a musical hit Broadway that was a smash, Mame. You might not remember it, you might have never heard of it, but chances are you have heard one of the iconic songs sung in it, “We Need a Little Christmas.” Johnny Mathis sings the rendition most people know. So much so that you might think the song is much newer than it is.
Haul out the holly;
Put up the tree before my spirit falls again.
Fill up the stocking,
I may be rushing things, but deck the halls again now.
For we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute,
Candles in the window,
Carols at the spinet.
Yes, we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute.
It hasn't snowed a single flurry,
But Santa, dear, we're in a hurry;
So climb down the chimney;
Turn on the brightest string of lights I've ever seen.
Slice up the fruitcake;
It's time we hung some tinsel on that evergreen bough.
For I've grown a little leaner,
Grown a little colder,
Grown a little sadder,
Grown a little older,
And I need a little angel
Sitting on my shoulder,
Need a little Christmas now.
That last verse, which is only the middle of the song, particularly hits home. We need a little Christmas, “For I’ve grown a little leaner / Grown a little colder / Grown a little sadder/ Grown a little older.” How true is that of us? How much of us do we see in that little rhyming lyric?
Have we lost the Christmas joy? Or, have we been begging for Christmas to come early to hopefully reignite a joy now lost? Are we now “wiser” and therefore meaner? Do your hearts yearn for something greater? Do you ache in your very soul for something, anything, to give you hope?
All of the Gospels make one thing very clear at the very beginning, Jesus came to save us. Jesus came to rescue us.
Matthew 1 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”
Luke 2 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Shortly after Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary took him to be presented at the Temple in Jerusalem. As he was being brought in there was a man named Simeon who had been told, “that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” The words that this man spoke upon seeing the infant Jesus are familiar to many, for they are the Nunc Dimittis, the Song of Simeon.
As Mary and Joseph were still marveling at Simeon’s words he continued: “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:34b-35).
There is a song, Mary Did You Know? “Mary did you know / That your baby boy/ Would one day walk on water / Mary did you know / That your baby boy / Would save our sons and daughters / Did you know / That your baby boy / Has come to make you new / This Child that you delivered / Will soon deliver you.”
There is no greater joy than at the end of a long day of pain and heartache, of seeing the smile on my son’s face as I pick him up from daycare. My daughter has recently started smiling, too. That smile that she flashes at two o’clock in the morning as she wakes me because she is hungry, totally makes it worth it.
We celebrate Christmas because of the reason Jesus came. That reason is the Passion and the Cross. Mary, did you know the words that Simeon spoke meant that you would watch the Son that melted your heart when He smiled be condemned as a criminal and sentenced to death? Mary, did you know that you would have to look on as He was mocked as He gave His life as the ransom for many?
I can only briefly glimpse the pain that must have pierced through Mary’s soul that day. I cannot read or watch news stories, shows, movies, anything in which a child dies. I have been unable to do so since the birth of my son. Doubly so now, with the birth of my daughter. To be with a family that loses a child, whether before or after death, tears at my own heart – and my grief and pain is only a minuscule of what they must feel.
When God sent His angels to the Judean hills that amazing night, did He do so with a tear in His eye?
Yet, with all that, this is the angel’s message that night, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
This is great joy not because of the agony of the cross, but because of its fruit. That when the Second Christmas happens we will be brought into the City of God. Did God the Father shed tears as He sent His Son? Maybe, Scripture is silent on that. But, this is what it says about Jesus and His attitude toward it: “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2).
Yes, it is true, we all need a little Christmas. We need it because it is the Savior come to save us. Today we celebrate the salvation brought forth by God. The true reason to celebrate. The true reason we have happiness. Here, in a manger, lies your hopes and dreams, there on a cross dies your fears and agonies, and now the grave is empty and the Lord’s joy is set before us.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen and Merry Christmas.