Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

Youth Page

Written by Peter Langbroek
A ten-year-old girl and her six-year-old brother are walking in the busy mall with their mother. The sparkling lights and greens and reds of many displays along the storefronts dazzle their eyes. They enter a store for a pair of shoes. A young man with a red hat lined with white fur helps the boy fit a pair of shoes on his feet. Looking up at him from his knees, the man asks, "Are you looking forward to a Merry Christmas?" The boy shyly nods his head.

The shoes don't fit, so the man and the boy's mother look for another pair. Meanwhile, the boy and girl sit down and listen to a song they've heard many times over, "I Wish You a Merry Christmas, I Wish You a Merry Christmas..." Finally, the family buys the shoes. The cashier gives the mom change and cheerfully says, "Now, have a Merry Christmas, you hear!"

Merry Christmas, what does that mean? The word merry is not a word we hear or use except around Christmas. In fact, many of us don't say "Merry Christmas" to each other. You probably hear adults at church say, "Blessed Christmas."

Yet, merry is one of those words that have changed meaning over the years. Years ago, when the Bible we use (The King James Version) was written, the word merry could mean "happiness that is good." For an example, let's look at a parable of Jesus, "The Lost Sons" (Luke 15: 11-32) to show you a man who refused to be merry. The oldest brother was bitter when he heard the music and dancing to celebrate the return of his wayward brother. He heard the peals of laughter. But he refused to join the party. Instead, he sulked

Then his father came to him. He begged his son to come and join the merrymaking. He asked him why he refused. His son answered, "Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid that I might make merry with my friends: but as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf" (Luke 15: 29-30). His father replied, "Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet [fitting] that we should make merry" (Luke 15: 32a).

Do you understand what I mean? The Bible tells us that it is proper that we should make merry. Consider also three proverbs:

*A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken" (Proverbs 15:13).

*All the days of the afflicted are evil; but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast" (Proverbs 15: 15)

*A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones" (Proverbs 17: 22)

The point is that we must know what making merry is and isn't. The Bible teaches us that being merry is not what the world thinks is merry. It is more than enjoying a meal with family and friends on Christmas day, more than the thrill of getting the present you always wanted. It is more than skiing or snowboarding during the holidays. If that is all you wish for Christmas, you have not understood.

Making merry is certainly not the wicked delight in hearing a piece of good gossip, laughing at a dirty joke, or behaving in a disorderly or disrespectful manner. Of that laughter the Bible says, "It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools. For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity" (Ecclesiastes 7: 6).

Making merry, in fact, is what Jesus explains in the parable of "The Lost Sons" (Luke 15: 11-32). The father explained to the brother in the parable why we should make merry. He said, "For this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found" (Luke 15:32b).

I think it would be a worthwhile exercise during the Christmas holidays to read Luke 15 to understand what a true Merry Christmas is; in fact, how every day should be a merry day. Read it. Then read Matthew 2. Read how the wise men looked for Jesus, the king of the Jews. When they again saw the star over the house where Jesus lived in Bethlehem, "they rejoiced with exceeding great joy" (Matthew 2:10). Then, they went inside, worshipped Him, and gave their gifts to him.

A merry heart is to have been found by God and to have joy in this truth: His name is Jesus, "for he shall save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). Anything less is not being merry.

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