“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
(*Please read to the end, I have three challenges waiting for you!)
Sometimes the simplest things are hidden in plain sight.
I was just humming some Christmas carols this morning when I felt the words “tidings of comfort and joy” roll out my mouth. I stopped humming and observed this phrase. Scratching my head I realized that I have never fully realized the significance of this string of words before. First, I looked up “tidings” in the dictionary, because I have obviously been singing these words for years without paying attention to what they mean. “Oh yeah, I knew that,” I thought to myself as I ran my finger along the definition…
“Tidings (n): News, information, report.” I remembered, then, that the angel makes this proclamation to the shepherds in the Christmas story, “…behold, I bring you good tidings [news] of great joy,” (Luke 2:10). The word for this phrase “good tidings” in the Greek is “euaggelizō (you-ah-gal-eed-zo); this word literally translates to “gospel.”
I sang the phrase again aloud, “…oh, tidings of comfort and joy.” I really want to understand this.
I think around this time of the year, it is easy to appreciate what “news of joy” looks and sounds like. Everywhere you go you see and hear words like ‘merry’ ‘jolly’ ‘happy’ and ‘joyful.’ You can hear it on the radio, and see it in stores, and all over social media. When Jesus is teaching in John 15:11, He says, “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!”
So, Jesus came to give us greater access to joy!
But, what are “tidings of comfort?”
The need for “comfort” usually insinuates that pain, discomfort, or grief are present. Our world has seen immense suffering in war and through careless acts of terrorism and violence. For many people, the holiday season can be a painful reminder of loss. Loss leads to grieving, which can hurt deeply but is necessary for healing to happen.
Grieving is a natural and important process that happens in response to a loss. We all grieve. Grief is strange, multifaceted, holistic, sneaky, loud, and often unpredictable. Sometimes we lose things that are more abstract like opportunities. Sometimes we grieve unmet expectations and unfulfilled goals. But, most of the time we respond to the death of a person, a family member, friend, or loved one with grief.
If you are feeling sad, lonely, and angry this Christmas- you are not alone.
(Check out this article from a woman whose experienced these same feelings during the holidays, and some of her tips for working through them).
All this time I have been singing a well-known Christmas song but failing to understand the importance and significance of bringing both news of comfort AND joy.
This familiar Christmas carol is calling us all into action and begging us to take a compassionate perspective as we meet with friends, congregants, co-workers, and family this holiday season.
I thought of some of my favorite counseling scriptures:
-Ecclesiastes 3:4 “… a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;”
-2 Corinthians 1:3-4 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God”.
-Isaiah 50:4 “The Sovereign LORD has given me his words of wisdom, so that I know how to comfort the weary.”
*Here are some challenges for you in the coming week:
- ACTION: Be intentional about comforting those who are grieving during this season. For some, this may be their first Christmas without their loved one(s). I pray that God would give you courage to sit with someone in their pain and hurt and just show love to them by listening, send a card, drop off cookies and a note, invite them to an event or just over for coffee.
- ASKING: If you are grieving and in need of comfort, talk to someone about it. People may lack the awareness to see that you are in pain or that Christmas could be a hard time for you.Think about pursuing personal counseling in preparation for the coming year. I pray that God would give you courage to ask for what you need and to be vulnerable in sharing your story so that you might be comforted.
- AWARENESS: Pay close attention to what you are reading and singing this Christmas. God has hidden much revelation and power in His word… we just have to have “eyes to see and ears to hear” (Prov 20:12).