As we minister in our classrooms this Christmas season, it is important that we recognize that not all children may be merry. Some have experienced terrible loss that will be felt by the whole family—maybe the recent death of a beloved grandparent. Others will feel the turmoil and stress of a broken home or fighting parents. Maybe daddy has lost his job and money is tight. A few might be fearful and lonely because daddy is a soldier, fighting a war far, far away—he won’t be home for Christmas. Whatever the source of their sadness, here is a good reminder from Dr. Albert Mohler:
Is Christmas also for those who grieve? Such a question would perplex those who experienced the events that night in humble Bethlehem and those who followed Christ throughout his earthly ministry. Christmas is especially for those who grieve.
…The baby Jesus was born into a world of grief, suffering, and loss. The meaning of his incarnation was recognized by the aged Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, who prophesied that God had acted to save his people, “because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).
…The great truth of Christmas is that the Father so loves the world that he sent his own Son to assume human flesh and to dwell among us, to die for our sins and to suffer for our iniquity, and to declare that the kingdom of God is at hand. This same Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day, conquering death and sin. There is salvation, full pardon from sin, and life everlasting to those who believe and trust in him.
…Christians bear a particular responsibility to surround fellow believers with this confidence, and to minister Christmas joy and love to those bearing griefs. We stand together in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, declaring with the Apostle Paul that nothing, not even death, can separate us from the love of God. We bind one another’s hearts, respect one another’s tears, and remind one another of the blessed hope. For, it was Christ himself who promised that our “sorrow will turn into joy” (John 16:20).
This does not mean that we must strike a somber note in the classroom by removing or minimizing celebratory elements or activities. But it should cause us to think about how we might acknowledge the realities of suffering, sorrow, fear, loneliness, etc. even while many other people are merry and happy. (No doubt, Mary and Joseph weren’t all “jolly” on the road to Bethlehem, nor their flight to Egypt!) But in that acknowledgment, we must also gently point children to the life-giving, hope-filled, joy-producing message of the Gospel. Furthermore, consider practical ways to reach out to a child who is experiencing grief: Talk to the parents and ask them, “How could we encourage your child this Christmas?”; send a special note or give the child a phone call; give a gift to the family (e.g., provide the child with a special opportunity to participate in a lesson, etc.). Whatever you choose to do, make sure to acknowledge the grief, extend compassion, and point to our only hope, Jesus, in whom there is everlasting joy!
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
(Image courtesy of Artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)