How to Beat the Wintertime Blues
January 6, 2008
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
1Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
2For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you.
3Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
4Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses' arms.
5Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
6A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the LORD.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning!
Our topic and our title today is “How to Beat the Wintertime Blues.” Oh my goodness, friends, I admit, it could be that each and every person here today is doing just great and entering the new year with a sense of great vigor, vitality, and optimism. But there is the slight chance that some people are feeling the post-holiday blues; there may be some folks who are struggling at this time of year; there may be some folks among us who are experiencing this thing called seasonal affective disorder, that depression kind of feeling that comes from lack of light in the wintertime. I want to talk with you a bit, because there may be a chance that you or somebody you know might need a good word at this time of year. A way to beat those mid-winter blues – let’s talk about it together, shall we?
Those down feelings can come from many sources. It is, after all, the twelfth day of Christmas today, and the Christmas official season is quickly coming to a conclusion. That’s enough to bring me down. And at the beginning of the new year, there can be so many expectations we put on ourselves, resolutions to do things better and make things better, we can feel a lot of pressure.
Some people can feel a lot of sadness and depression for other reasons. And it can drive them almost to the point of wanting to draw the curtains and pull the covers over their heads and just withdraw.
But I’m here to tell you that if you’re feeling any of the post-holiday blues, any of the mid-winter blues, there is good news for you. You’ve come to the right place, because the Holy Word of God has a gem to share with you. There is a portion of scripture that’s very easy to remember, and I’m going to invite you to remember it and take it home with you today, to lift you up and to carry you through these days and the days to come. This is a phrase that I’d like you to look at and think about and review in your mind whenever the blues seem to come your way. It is this very first statement from the prophet Isaiah: “Arise, shine, for your light has come.”
Arise, shine, for your light has come. It has, my friends. And this Holy Word of God is our key. It is our way out of the mid-winter blues. Let’s take a little further look at what this scripture says and see how much God wants to encourage you through it.
“For the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” Now, whenever you see ‘glory’ written in the scripture, there is a very simple word that you can translate it as. The word is ‘light’. Whenever you see the word ‘glory’ in the scripture, you might think the words ‘heavenly light,’ dazzling, beautiful, colorful, radiant, rainbow-like light. That’s what the scripture means when it talks about glory, the glory of the Lord.
So what is the scripture saying? It’s saying that God’s beautiful light is shining on you, even though you might feel depressed at the moment. Even though you might feel down, there is so much in store for you, because God’s light is shining on you. Let’s read on.
“For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples.” There it is – wintertime blues, depression, sadness. There is the mention of that which gets us down. God recognizes that even the best of us, even we when we are at our best, can experience darkness, thick darkness. But, says the scripture, “the Lord will arise upon you, and His glory will appear over you.” His light will outshine any darkness that comes to you.
Now, it says, “3Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” What does that mean? It means that people are attracted to positive people, that people need your light. All kinds of folks need your light, even folks you might think are high and lifted up and in a different place than you – they need you, too! Let your light shine. People are attracted to positive people.
And then it says, “Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you.” You have a special kind of light that people need. Let’s skip ahead, to verse 5: “Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you.” Oh, my dear friend, my dear friend who is tempted to hide your light under a bushel, oh my dear friend who was so burdened by depression or sadness or seeming defeats that your light seemed to grow dim, oh no! “Arise, shine, for your light has come.” We can defeat these mid-winter blues.
Let’s talk about it in depth in this Bible study of ours. Arise – that’s the first word. The prophet is urging us to get moving, to move our feet, to take the first step. You know, sometimes the bravest thing anybody can do is to just get up and move around. Sometimes the bravest thing anybody can do is to take it just five minutes at a time, because the pressures of life have been so great. So the first thing we’re invited to do is arise, to come out from under those covers and to lift up the venetian blinds and let the light shine in – and let your feelings follow your actions. If you don’t feel like smiling, smile anyway, and let the joy be pulled along in the wake, in the momentum of your smile. If you don’t feel happy, sing a happy song, and let the joy be pulled forward through the beauty of the music. Arise. Take a step. Be bold. Rise up, and God will help you.
The second word is ‘shine’. Oh, my friend, you have a light that is unlike any other. Your light is unique. The light that your particular spirit brings to the world is unlike anyone else’s. The world needs you in a unique and remarkable way. Only you have the light that you bring to the world. I invite you to think about the lights in your world. I invite you to think about the people that are shining lights to you.
I have a dear friend whom I’ve known for many years. In many ways, he and I are like brothers. We have been there for each other through the toughest times of life. We have been there through the absolute most bone-crushing sorrows for each other, supporting each other and caring for each other. He is a very busy guy, and so am I. We don’t really talk very often. Months can go by between our conversations. Yet when we pick up the phone, it’s like no time has gone by. Do you have friends like that? Isn’t that wonderful? These are the shining lights in your life. And for me, when I’m going through a tough time, just the thought that he’s out there, that he exists, is a comfort and a light to me. How about for you?
Do you know that you are somebody’s light? Do you know that your light brightens somebody’s world? You are needed. You are important. Let your light shine, as this scripture says. That’s reason enough to get out of bed in the morning. That’s reason enough to lift up out of your depression. Let your light shine. Somebody needs you – maybe more somebodies than you could ever imagine. Did you know that just by coming to church this morning your light is shining for the rest of your church family and for me? God bless you for that. Let your light shine. Arise, and shine.
Why? Because your light has come, because Jesus is born. The scripture says that when the three wise men saw His star, they “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” And so it is for you and for me. We can arise. We can shine, because His star shines. We have everything, because we have Jesus. And if there is anyone here today or reading this sermon for whom this thought is foreign and who doesn’t feel connected with it, I would suggest that this day, this moment, this reading is a wonderful time to invite Jesus into your heart. Have a private prayer and say, “Lord Jesus, I repent of my sin. I invite you into my heart. Be my Lord and Savior forever. Amen.” And Jesus always says yes.
Your light can shine, because His light shines. Lee Strobel was an atheist. He was a reporter, a legal reporter. He prided himself on the precision of his reasoning powers. He was given an assignment that changed his life. He was sent to interview a family named the Delgados – a grandmother who was stricken with arthritis and her two granddaughters. He went to their apartment and found that they were very, very poor. They had hardly any furniture. Each girl had one cotton dress, and they shared a sweater. When they walked to school, one of the girls wore the sweater half way, and the other girl wore the sweater the rest of the way.
But when Lee Strobel got to their apartment, he found something remarkable – they were happy. He couldn’t understand it. Here was a guy who was at the top of his career. He had a lot of money. He had what the world could offer, but he felt empty inside. And here were the Delgados, who didn’t seem to have anything, but they had joy. He couldn’t quite understand. But, they explained to him, they had Jesus. It was Christmastime, and there was a crèche with the image of Jesus. They were planning to go to church.
Lee just didn’t get it, and the memory of those folks continued to trouble him, in a positive way. Of course, the troubling was Jesus, knocking at his door. It was the first step on the road to faith for Lee Strobel. The story comes from his book, The Case for Christmas. If you’d like to read more about it, we have copies of it here at church. They’re yours; they’re free; and if you’d like to take one for a friend, you may.
We can shine; we can have joy, because we have Jesus. Because His light shines, your light can shine. And so, my dear friend, if you struggle with depression this holiday time, if you struggle with the blues, won’t you remember that your strength comes from within? Your light comes from the light of God shining in the star of Jesus Christ. You can rise and let your light shine, because the world needs you. God needs you. People need you.
One last word in closing… for those who struggle with the long nights of winter, for those for whom winter is not as happy a season as you’d like it to be, may I remind of you of this? Since the season wherein our Savior’s birth’s is celebrated, the days are getter longer, and the nights are getting shorter. The light is on the increase. This is not just winter; it is the season of the increase of light. Increase of light – may it be there for you, both in the outside world and in the world of your soul, because God loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.
© 2008 Anthony J. Godlefski