"The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, and those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a Light dawned." (Matthew 4: 16)

Back in 1966, Jerry Herman's Broadway Musical, Mame, premiered at the Winter Garden Theater in New York City. It was an instant success and brought gladness to thousands even though it reminded us of a time in our history when the spirit of the nation was at an all-time low. The scene of the musical was set in 1929. The stock market had just crashed. Lives, families and businesses had been destroyed. Added to that, was the gloom of international politics with the threat of impending conflict. All of these factors contributed to an overall darkness and sadness that permeated the life of this nation. We're told that Mr. Herman himself was born in the midst of the Great Depression of the 1930's and, therefore, was acquainted personally with circumstances that might bring an air of sadness into the very heart of a family struggling to get by. And so, it was against that backdrop that Herman imposed upon the consciousness of the nation a little song about Christmas: "We Need a Little Christmas, Right This Very Minute".

Looking at the lyrics, I was struck by the admission: "for I've grown a little leaner, grown a little colder, grown a little sadder, grown a little older". It seems to me to be an admission commonly felt by many of us - of how life tends to beat us down and rob us of joy. Difficult circumstances have a way of hardening us and making us cold - towards others and towards God. Easily we can become bitter and cynical. And so, through this song we admit: "we need a little music, need a little laughter, need a little singing, ringing through the rafter". Yes, it would seem that our need of these things now is as great as it was in 1966 or even the 1930's. We need a little Christmas now!

I can't help but think of this as I read these words in Matthew, which is itself a quote from the Old Testament book of Isaiah. What we have before us here, of course, is part of the prophesy of the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, and His mission to shed His Light upon a people who were languishing in darkness. Notice that we are told it was a "Great Light". The surpassing power of God is stressed - an illuminating power that dispels the darkness that surrounds us and permeates our core. Part of its greatness is seen in Christ's ability to bring us life and hope - great news for a people living under the shadow of death. Another aspect of its greatness is to be found in the gifts of joy and laughter and singing which God imparts to a people who had nearly forgotten what it was like to be filled with cheer - a people bowed down with the unsustainable cares of a burdensome life. God, in the Christ, shared a melody with us and lifted our spirits once again. Do we not require this again? Do we not need a little Christmas even now?

Stop for a moment and consider the state of your own heart. Do you detect even a smidge of coldness or sadness or hopelessness? I get calls here in my office all the time from individuals who are hurting, families who can't pay their bills, parents that fear they can no longer provide adequately for their own children. We're surrounded by people who are hurting, fearful, and need help. But what about you? Is there not also within you a measure of darkness, discouragement, estrangement and loneliness that longs for the Light of God in Christ?

How quickly we are prone to take down the decorations and toss out the tree when Christmas is over. But wouldn't you agree that even now (and perhaps especially now) we need a little Christmas? -- that wonderful Light to carry with us into the darkness of the coming year?

I've always found it somewhat inexplicable how the spirits of so many people seem to take a nose dive in the days following Christmas. Perhaps it has to do with unfulfilled expectations or the sudden departure of family and friends who, by their holiday presence, helped to ward off lurking fears and worries. But now, as life returns to a more normal state, those fears and worries come crashing in. Wouldn't this be a wonderful time for the Light of Christ to invade our darkness and bring us hope?

The truly great news for us is that Christmas is always with us! That Light Christ brought continues to shine for us. No matter how cold we have become - no matter the depth of sadness to which our spirits have plunged - God, in Christ, is able to lift us up and restore joy and laughter to our souls. And that's especially good news for us because there really is never a time when we aren't in desperate need of that assistance. Oh, we imagine that we are able to get by on our own most of the time and have need to run to God only on the rarest of occasions. But the truth is that such thoughts are a delusion. We need Christ every day - all year long - all life long! Without Him we walk in darkness and our lives take on a morbid, sad existence without song or melody. Christ came to change that and to fill our lives with meaning and purpose. Do you need a little Christmas - right this very minute? I know that I do - and am thankful that He who came so long ago to walk among us as one of us - lives for us even now and stands ready to fill our lives with His Light!