Christmas tough for some

Published 9:23 pm Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Last week I poked a little fun at the pace of life during this “most wonderful time of the year.”

There seems to be more parties, programs and parades than we can possibly attend and the fixing and fussing can sometimes overwhelm the joy of the season. All of that was said with tongue in cheek and I still enjoy this time of the year as no other.

There are others, though, that really have a tough time at Christmas, and we should be sensitive to the fact that, if loneliness and depression is a problem for some all during the year, this upbeat and cheerful time of the year is an even greater challenge.

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There are a couple of Christmas songs that bring that thought to my mind.

Most of the time when we think of Christmas songs, at the top of the list would be “Jingle Bells,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Here Comes Santa Claus” and other merry songs. There are a few Christmas songs, however, that bring another emotion into our minds.

I realized this when I had been a pastor for a very short time and on the Sunday before Christmas, I decided to simply take my guitar and sing some of the songs of the season. Naturally, the Christmas hymns, like “Joy to the World,” “Away in a Manger,” “Silent Night” and others would get the majority of the time.

At the beginning of the service, however, I would do a few of the upbeat and merry songs of the season that I mentioned a few sentences ago. One of the secular songs I chose was “Blue Christmas.”

I’ve always loved Elvis Presley’s version of “Blue Christmas” with the back-up singers and I might not have had the back-up singers, but I tried my best to sing with as much feeling as Elvis. I thought I did pretty good and after the service, Mrs. Margaret, an elderly and frail lady came up to me.

I was all ready for her thankfulness to come forth and tell me how much she had enjoyed my singing.

“You’d better never sing ‘Blue Christmas’ again,” Mrs. Margaret said and, if she could have a mean look, she had it. I pause to say that Mrs. Margaret was all of 95 pounds and, up until this time, she had been what I would call a very sweet lady and she had no mean look.

I didn’t know what to think. Had I sounded that bad?

“Well I know I am no Elvis, but I thought you all might like the song,” I said a little defensively.

“It reminds me of my Ernie,” she said. “He and I always liked that song and whenever I hear it, I think of him and I just hate that song,” she said.

Thankfully, I had not sung so pitifully. But I had struck a raw emotion with Mrs. Margaret, and it made me realize that this wonderful season that is so full of joy when we are accompanied by our loved ones can be very lonely when those loved ones are no longer with us.

I don’t sing “Blue Christmas” as much as I used to and I also never sing it without thinking of Mrs. Margaret and others who might not have loved ones to surround them with cheerfulness. It would be a good thing for us to keep our eyes and ears open for those who might need a little more comfort during this season.

There is another Christmas song that has been a favorite of mine, yet is not of the cheerful and bright genre. It is a Merle Haggard song that spent four weeks at No. 1 when it was released in December 1973. The song may be going on 35 years old, but it could have been written yesterday.

The title is “If We Make It Through December” and chronicles the hard times of a man who “got laid off down at the factory. And their timing’s not the greatest in the world.”

We’ve experienced some lay-offs here in our neck of the woods and, as the song says, the timing’s not the greatest in the world. Is there ever any good time for a lay-off? I don’t think so, but many Americans are experiencing hard times like they’ve never had.

In this great song, Haggard writes “Heaven knows I’ve been working hard, wanted Christmas to be right for Daddy’s girl.” He goes on to say that he knows that December is supposed to be the happy time of year, but his little girl won’t understand why Daddy can’t afford “no” Christmas here.

In spite of the hard times this man is going through, however, there is hope that if only they can make it through December everything’s gonna be all right. There is no voice that compares with the voice of Merle Haggard for pulling the most out of a song and it’s easy to believe that this man who has been dealt a hard blow will somehow get back on top if he can only get through December.

Today, let’s just remember that this most wonderful time of the year is that, for sure. But it’s also a time of challenge for many. Tis the season for those who have the most to help those who have the least.

It’s a great time for us to remember the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.

“Lord, were there is despair, let me be an instrument of hope.

“Lord, where there is sadness, let me be an instrument of joy.

“O Lord grant that I may not so much seek to be loved, as to love.”

And finally one more from me.

“Lord, where there is loneliness, let me be an instrument of fellowship.”