Christian Counseling: Behold, the Baby Jesus

Henry W. Beecher, a member of the American clergy, said, "Joy is more divine than sorrow, for joy is bread and sorrow is medicine." 

Chances are he was referring to joy and sorrow being divine in the sense it is delightful. Yes, joy is delightful, but sorrow? Does that seem odd to you? Well, I'll get back to that. As I read the quote I can't help but think joy and sorrow are divine in another way; that is, created by God and sent to earth. His joy is a gift and foretaste of heaven, which nourishes our soul and helps us feel happy to be alive. We don't need convincing that joy is divine, but it might take some effort to see sorrow in the same light.

To many, sorrow is, at first thought, something to avoid, minimize, get rid of and overcome.  Physically, we take our medicine when we are sick and because it is good for us. But sorrow as medicine? Perhaps as painful medicine to take. Who would look for, welcome and take sorrow for any reason? How can it be divine in any sense? 

Most Christians are not likely to be suprised by the idea that sorrow is divine in the sense that we mature through adversity. But, few will see it as delightful. That is, perhaps until a person ponders his or her deep desire and commitment to be the best person he or she can be; to be like Jesus, who, incidentally, was known as "a man of sorrows." The good in sorrow is that it gives us pause for self-evaluation and puts us in need for resolution, thereby, opening us up to change. It draws us into relationship with others and God who can offer support, encouragement and other types of needed help. If your chief aim of life is to become like Jesus, you will find sorrow to be delightful, at least somewhat.

There are those brave souls who go to the deep well of sorrow and draw it up into consciousness. And when held next to the reality of the good that continually goes on in the world we are able to see life as God sees it and as it truly is--a glass half full AND half empty. Yet many tend to avoid negative emotions, and when people ponder the birth of Jesus they usually see only the glorious, half full side of reality. We should be accustomed to the dualities in all of life--good and evil, life and death, heaven and hell, night and day, and joys and sorrows. 

The truth is there is pleasure and sorrow in the birth of Jesus, which, when both are pondered, have the potential to increase our thankfulness, joy and connection to the Christmas spirit of happy celebration. We see joy and sorrow in the baby Jesus when we think He gave up His rightful place with the Father and the Spirit to join with and rescue humankind from their sin nature. We see sorrow in His birth because He had to come, there was no other, and God had to suffer the hardships of everyday human life, misunderstandings, rejection and a gruesome death for us, far from the adoration and worship due Him. We are joyous because Jesus' work was the prelude to the Holy Spirit crossing the barrier of our individual lives who could take up residence within those of faith. We look at the baby Jesus and feel sorrow because, despite all He will wonderfully grow up to be and give, the mass majority of people will walk away from His tenderness and generosity.  


As we imagine the baby lying in straw we can be joyous because He will become the most hospitable person who invites us into a new family. He will mature and become a brother to all people, an eternal friend and saving hero. Yet, as we grasp the innocence, purity and miracle of the baby Jesus, we grieve for what He is about to unjustly endure on our behalf. His birth is a very happy and very sad event.

Recognizing the duality of thoughts and feelings about the babe leads me to say, "Thank You Jesus, for You are our Christmas joy made possible by Your sorrows. Your sorrow becomes our sorrow and deepens our heartfelt appreciation of You as God, the Savior and Suffering Servant. You took vulnerability and humility to new, unprecedented heights in being born human in lowly conditions, all because you love me and everyone. Baby Jesus, I won't look at You the same way." 

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