Editor’s Note: We are blessed to have Dr. David Turner, professor of New Testament at GRTS for many years, continuing to contribute to the life and health of our seminary. As he shifted out of his full-time teaching role, he launched a new website and blog which we’re honored to highlight here as well. We hope you’re edified and encouraged by this honest, biblical Christmas reflection.
If you’ve been listening to generic “Christmas music” lately, chances are you’ve heard “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” more than once. Originally recorded by Andy Williams in 1963, the song was listed by Billboard in 2009 as the #5 Christmas song of all time. It celebrates the “hap-happiest season of all” as a time of holiday greetings, parties, sledding, toasting marshmallows and mistletoe. And yes, there is a faint reference to Jesus if you search for it—the song refers to singing carols and to Christmases long, long ago.
Call me Scrooge if you like, but I don’t buy into this view of Christmas as the season for giddiness. I get that the song refers to some fun, wholesome things, but let’s be honest—Christmas is not the “hap-happiest, most wonderful time of the year” for many of us. This time of the year can be difficult, especially if we are experiencing health problems, or dealing with grief over the death of a loved one or the end of a relationship. Coping with the complexities of a dysfunctional or blended family is especially tough during the holiday season. Financial problems are exacerbated when we give in to the many voices telling us that we will be so much happier if we buy their products. If finding happiness were only a matter of marshmallows and mistletoe . . .
I’ve found a radically different perspective on Christmas as I’ve been studying the Gospel of John lately.
Although we usually associate Christmas with Matthew 1–2 and Luke 1–2, we would do well to reflect also on John 1:1–18, especially John 1:14. As we read further into John, the beloved disciple tells us of a surprisingly human Jesus who experienced difficult circumstances and relational problems much like ours. As he did so, Jesus showed us how to deal with what may actually be the most difficult time of the year.
If you’d like to reflect further with me along these lines, I’ve just posted on The Advent According to John at drdavidlturner.com.