The dictionary defines “merry” as “full of fun and laughter; lively and cheerful.” Merry Christmas! How many times have you heard that recently? It is believed this seasonal salutation dates back to at least 1565, when it appeared in the Hereford Municipal Manuscript. Interestingly enough the writer believed (as do I) that merry has something to do with God.
The Hereford writer said, “And thus I comytt you to God, Who send you a merry Christmas.” Are you feeling merry right now? Some people are. But others get tired of hearing “Merry Christmas” by this point in the season. Why?
Many of us want to decide for ourselves whether to have a “nice day” or a “merry Christmas.” We instinctively know it can’t just be conferred upon us by a passing stranger or someone who has been trained well for their seasonal job.
For many, having someone wish them a merry Christmas only emphasizes the fact they do not feel so merry. When you’ve just lost someone you love, you’re sick, your job is in peril or you’re just mad about life in general, being told to be merry rubs us the wrong way.
In fact, merry does not come to us from the outside. It starts inside of us … rising up like a small giggle, that turns into a tentative “hee … hee”, that somehow crescendos into a full bellied “Ha … ha …ha” and finally has us having a full bodied experience of slapping knees, clapping hands, holding our sides, and sometimes laughing until we cry. Now that is merry!
Many of us have turned Christmas into much too much of a serious business. It is only when we allow ourselves to be silly or enjoy the mood of the moment that we find our merry dial. Some years ago, my husband and I became a part of the Friendship Sunday School class. One of their endearing traditions is the annual gift exchange in which they exchange “gag gifts” … the sillier, the better.
We started as prim and proper participants, ready to laugh a little, if necessary. But before we went very far into the process, we lost all sense of decorum. There was an elderly man receiving a tiny little sexy red nightie … someone else receiving discarded false teeth, a fish that sang and moved its head. And the dual delight was that many of the gifts had been circulated in previous years and were just now surfacing one more time. That group had no idea they were doing mission work … but they were … they were teaching us the joy of being merry!
Would someone as important as Jesus sanction laughter? Jesus told those who didn’t feel merry, “Blessed are you who weep, for you will laugh!” (Luke 6:21)
Solomon, who was described as a wise man says, “A merry heart does good, like medicine.” (Proverbs 17:22) He also said, “he who is of a merry heart has a continual feast!” (Proverbs 15:15)
Research has now confirmed that indeed being merry has been better than medicine for some people. Cancer patients who were shown video clips that made them laugh showed improvements in their health. Merry is not just an expression to the outside world … it is a statement to our inside world!
So where can we get a supply of real “merry” this Christmas? It comes from the storehouse of the heart … the overflow of the box marked “JOY.” The Bible tells us that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. When there is true joy in the heart, it bubbles over from the inside to the outside, showing itself as bursts of merriment!
Where do you get this Joy? Stay tuned! Tomorrow we will look at the Joy Jesus has just for you!
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh!
He who is of a merry heart has a continual feast!
Out of the overflow of his heart, his mouth speaks!