Peace on earth. No trouble with being overwhelmed with that this year. Wars, rumors of wars, fear of economic collapse. It seems that nearly everyone has something to lose this year, or fears losing something. Indeed, just the normal rush to buy presents, decorate the house, visit relatives, and look like you’re having fun, can be trying by itself.Heaven on Earth
We need it now
I'm sick of all of this
Sick of sorrow
Sick of pain
Sick of hearing again and again
That there's gonna be
Peace on Earth (1)
So Christmas with its message of peace and joy rings hollow to many. Why should we expect this time of year to be more peaceful and joyful than any other day of the year? All the giving, getting, and going just doesn’t seem to get us there.
I think it is because we have lost sight of the real meaning of Christmas. Before you roll your eyes at my use of this hackneyed phrase, let me clarify. I don’t mean to say that the real meaning of Christmas is in peace and joy and brotherhood – all good things of course. The real meaning of Christmas is how this peace and joy is to be brought about.
The words of old Christmas carol, “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” explain it succinctly:
God rest ye merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay,The Christian message about Christmas is not that we can somehow bring about peace and joy at a dark, cold time of year. Instead, it is that we live in a dark, cold world, where we are damned with a sense of purpose but frustrated by the futility and randomness of death and disease. That we are burdened by a sense of dread that we are not good but have no will to change. That human nature was corrupted and that a dark angelic force holds sway over the world. The good news was that the birth of Jesus, the coming of God in human form, was going to change all that. That was, and is, the source of peace and joy.
Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day;
To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray. (2)
Light had come into a dark world.
We may not like this message. It’s not very politically correct or pluralistic. But when we reflect about the lack of peace and joy we feel at this time of year, we need to remember that the message removed from its context makes little sense. Remember that songs about love, peace and brotherhood, are nice, but without a means to bring these noble aims about, these songs are ultimately vacuous. We haven’t proven very good at bringing about peace and joy so far. In a thousand years will the hopes of Bing Crosby and David Bowie “when men of good will live in peace again” (3) be any less aspirational? I don’t think anything points in that direction.
You might think the Christmas message to be false, but if so, then are hopes for peace on earth.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (4)
(1) "Peace on Earth" U2.
(2) "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen." Traditional.
(3) “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy”. Larry Grossman, Ian Fraser, Buz Kohan/ Katherine K. Davis, Henry Onorati, Harry Simeone
(4) Luke 2:8-14 (NIV)