Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” was featured in the 1944 movie Meet Me in St. Louis. Judy Garland was the original performer. I will provide the song’s setting without spoiling the film since it is pertinent to our topic.
Circumstances cause the family patriarch depicted within the film to declare that the family is moving to New York. He is alone in wanting to make such a move. Everyone else is content to stay in their current hometown, especially with the upcoming World’s Fair that St. Louis will be hosting in 1904.
The youngest daughter, Tootie, took the news especially hard. Judy Garland’s character, Esther, tries to console Tootie by singing, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” The original lyrics, which you’ve likely not heard unless you’ve watched the movie or listened to an older cover of the song, were “Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow.” Garland also sang, “Next year, all our troubles will be out of sight.”1
We can credit Frank Sinatra for changing a melancholy Christmas song into a happier one. He told the song’s writer, Hugh Martin, in 1957 that his album was called “A Jolly Christmas.” So, he asked the songwriter if he could “jolly up” that line for him. The songwriter obliged, changing the lyric to “Hang a shining star atop the highest bough.” “Next year…” likewise became “From now on all our troubles will be out of sight.”2
We cannot say that every Christmas season is as great as those experienced in our youth. As we get older, economics impact our celebrations. We take note of those missing. Perhaps, we no longer have good health. Or an every-hundred-year-pandemic might decide to come along and interfere with our plans. For those Christmases, we must “muddle through somehow.”
At least one time in David’s life found him “unmerry” from life’s circumstances. And David likewise had to muddle through until things could get better. This occasion was when David was fleeing for his life because of his son Absalom’s political coup. David and his retainers found themselves in a position where they were “hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness.” (2 Samuel 17.29 NASB1995) What David did during this muddling remains an example for those finding it difficult to be joyous today.
First, David did not isolate himself, having the company of his retinue (2 Samuel 17.22). People tend to isolate themselves when depressed. But it is not the isolation causing difficulties. It is the resulting loneliness often found in isolation. People may think they are all alone in the world or that the world is against them. God said it is not good to be thus isolated (Genesis 2.18; Ecclesiastes 4.9-12). So, reach out to others, if necessary, since the assistance others give enables them to fulfill Christ’s law (Galatians 6.2).
Second, David accepted the kindness of others (2 Samuel 17.27-29). I do not think it an exaggeration to say David could not have defeated Absalom without the aid of such people. Christians must be kind and tender-hearted to one another (Ephesians 4.32; Colossians 3.12-15; 1 Peter 3.8). And since we must extend such love and kindness to others, we must learn to receive these same overtures in return. That seems to be tricky for some people to realize. Muddling through is easier with brethren!
Third, David wisely used his time of muddling (2 Samuel 18.1ff). David counts the number of able-bodied men with him who could fight. Then, he divides them into companies and appoints men over thousands and hundreds. The result, of course, was an army capable of battling Absalom. Despite resulting in the death of Absalom, the battle ensured that David could return to Jerusalem. His muddling days were over. In like manner, perhaps now is not an excellent time for us; we are muddling through life. But do what you can, with what you have, where you are. During these difficult times, the plans you make may result in a later victory.
So, as others seem to be having “…the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” you may find yourself unable to experience that coveted merry time. Emulate David’s example. If you see a family member or friend muddling through, ensure they are not lonely, providing them whatever aid is needed. In so doing, may we all note, Lord willing, that “Next year, all our troubles will be out of sight.”
1 “Judy Garland- Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas Lyrics.” AZLyrics, AZLyrics.com,www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/judygarland/haveyourselfamerrylittlechristmas.html.
2 Willman, Chris. “How ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ Became One of the Season’s Most Beloved Songs.” EW.com, Meredith Corporation, 22 Dec. 2006, ew.com/article/2007/01/08/history-popular-holiday-song/. Updated December 23, 2020