A Cartoon depicted a husband and wife sitting in a living room that is gaily decorated for the Christmas season. The wife, however, has a deep frown on her face, and looks completely exhausted. In the caption, the husband is saying: “Of course, you’re depressed – ‘tis the season to be jolly’.” There are cartoons that are too close to the truth about life to be really funny, and this is one of them!

Right now, in the midst of all the signs that tell people they ought to be “merry,” “joyful,” and proclaim the promise of “peace” – amid all the tinsel and glitter of the season – there are many who find Christmas a thoroughly depressing time of the year. The reasons for their discomfort and depression are many and varied. Even so, it may be helpful to consider some of them in order to better understand our own feelings if our Christmases have an underlying feeling that can best be described as sadness. For many, Christmas is a time of sadness.

For example, I know a young man who can never enjoy Christmas Eve. Once Christmas Eve has passed, he’s all right; but the days of anxiety that lead to Christmas Eve usually manage to remove all the joy of the season for him. What he understands only vaguely is that, when he was a child, Christmas Eve was always spent in fear his father would come home drunk. His father didn’t really drink very often, but Christmas Eve seemed to be the time of the year when he most likely would. When his father came home drunk, his parents would always fight, and all of the child’s hidden insecurities would be aroused. Each year he hoped and prayed that this year his father wouldn’t drink. He was never able to get over the anxiety that accompanied Christmas Eve. When he grew up, when he no longer cared whether his father drank or whether his parents fought, he couldn’t escape the uneasiness and depression so long associated with Christmas.

Because of unpleasant memories from Christmases past, there are many people who find Christmas something less than the joyous season it is supposed to be.

Others' find Christmas a depressing time because of their experiences with the demands of the season, and for some it is an unhappy time because they know the future will never be like the past.

Although most of us know Christmas is not necessarily a happy or joyous time, we will greet and be greeted with the words, “Merry Christmas.” Try as I might, I have been unable to discover an adequate substitute. For all the sadness in the season, there is also something merry, something joyous, about Christmas!

The true joy of Christmas is to be discovered in its religious significance. We do well to remind ourselves the world into which Jesus was born was not the world of Charles Dickens or a world filled with fantasies of dancing sugarplums and marching wooden soldiers. It was a world very much like our own. It, too, was a world with its share of sadness; filled with suffering, injustice, and insecurity.

Yet, it was there that God was to be found! We open ourselves to the joy of Christmas when we remind ourselves He is familiar with our sadness because He is no stranger to sadness. He shares ours with us, even as He has always searched and understood the depths of our hearts.