This is the season we hear the friendly words “Merry Christmas” all around us. It is a gracious greeting. It is a sentimental statement. Yet, while the phrase itself is very endearing to so many of us, the truth is that many people have no idea what it truly means to be merry.
A modern dictionary defines the word merry as being “full of cheerfulness; joyous in disposition or spirit; laughingly happy.” We often think of being merry as simply being happy. But, the Bible shows us that it means so much more.
Understand, being merry is truly a condition of the heart. One can put on a show of being merry outwardly, but true merriness is a matter of the heart. The merriness of our heart is the direct result of our relationship with Jesus.
Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.—Psalm 32:11
The righteous shall be glad in the LORD, and shall trust in him; and all the upright in heart shall glory.—Psalm 64:10
How can we have a merry Christmas? Let me share three biblical descriptions of what it means to be merry. In doing so, we will discover just how God wants to enable us to have a truly “Merry Christmas.”
1. A Merry Heart Is Contagiously Conspicuous
A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.—Proverbs 15:13
When you are merry, it will unequivocally result in your being cheerful—and it will be obvious to all those around you! The word merry literally means “joyful or showing joy.” When a person experiences true merriness, it will show forth on their face.
There are several people in my life that I can remember as being truly merry—and the reason I think of them in that way is because of their countenance. My Grandma Burkett was such a person. The name given to her by her parents was Gladys, but we always knew her as Grandma Tiny. (To many people in her community, she was also known as “Hog” because she would continually snort when she laughed!) Though she lived with continual pain from arthritis, you never could have convinced me as a child that she had any pain at all. She was a continually joyful person!
When a person is truly merry in their heart, it shows on their face! Thus, because a merry heart is so conspicuous, that is what makes it so contagious. (Have you ever realized how contagious a simple smile can be?)
Yet, diametrically opposed to one who has a merry heart is one who has a sorrowful heart. Such a person is hurting. Such a person seems to have the “gift” of being able to suck the joy out of any situation.
A disgruntled preacher was to hold a graveside burial service at a cemetery for an indigent man with no family or friends. Not knowing where the cemetery was, he made several wrong turns and got lost. When he eventually arrived an hour late, the hearse was nowhere in sight, a backhoe was next to the open hole, and the workmen were sitting under a tree eating lunch.
The pastor went to the open grave and found the vault lid already in place. Feeling guilty because of his tardiness, he preached an impassioned and lengthy service, sending the deceased to the great beyond in style.
As he returned to his car, he overheard one workman say to the other, “I’ve been putting in septic tanks for twenty years and I ain’t never seen anything like that.”
Perhaps you have known someone like this before!
Has your face gotten word from your heart that you have a reason to be merry?
Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. Selah.—Psalm 84:4
2. A Merry Heart Is Continually Content
All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.—Proverbs 15:15
When you have a merry heart, it will result in your being content. The word merry used here literally means “good, pleasant, or agreeable.” This merriness is not a result of getting all the things you want. Rather, it is a result of understanding how much you have already been given.
One Sunday afternoon, Emily and I had a sweet young couple over to our house after our morning service. As we talked with them, they related to us how blessed their lives truly were. They had both grown up in Christian homes. Because of that, they had not made some of the foolish choices that so many young couples make. They had been blessed with two children…and the list went on and on.
As they told me all of these things, I began to understand that I was talking to two people who were genuinely merry. They were content with the blessings God had given them.
The Bible tells us that a truly merry person will be “continually feasting” on the blessings God has given them in their lives. They will always have in remembrance the reasons they have to be joyful because of what God has done in their lives. In another place, God tells us that this is exactly how we are supposed to live our lives!
Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.—Philippians 4:4
During this season, it is so easy for us to get distracted by materialism. To get depressed about the things we “don’t have” or “cannot give” to the people we love. Yet, a truly merry person finds contentment in his relationship with God and in the blessings he has received from God.
But godliness with contentment is great gain.—1 Timothy 6:6
3. A Merry Heart Is Correctively Curative
A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.—Proverbs 17:22
A merry heart, the Bible says, “doeth good like a medicine.” That literally implies that it is pleasing like a medicine. When you have a merry heart, it will result in being a cure to the issues surrounding your life. A merry heart can be the cure to the issues others are facing around you and it can be the cure to the issues that you yourself are facing.
How many times have you and I, while going through a difficult time, had someone help us to find our smile or to find our laugh again? When this has happened in my life, I usually have found myself saying something like, “I needed that. I can’t remember the last time I laughed like that!” A merry heart can do more to heal the sorrows and burdens of our lives than anything else this world has to offer to us!
A merry heart will do you some good, if you will allow the Lord to give it to you. A merry heart will do your sorrowful heart some good! A merry heart will do your bitter spirit some good! A merry heart will do your troubled soul some good!
On the flip side, if you continue with your broken (literally, wounded) spirit, it will suck the very life out of you. The Bible reminds us that “a broken spirit drieth the bones.”
In conclusion, let me say that having a merry heart is a choice. It is a choice to be cheerful. It is a choice to be content. And it is a choice to be the cure to sorrow, rather than the proponent of it.
You can choose to sit and sour this season, or you can choose to take advantage of the encouraging power of joy found in Jesus!