My wife and I went for a nice long brisk early November walk today, and at one point we went into a Christmas store. As I was looking around at all the cheerful items for sale, I saw a plate that said “Joy to the World” and another that said “Peace on Earth”. I was immediately hit by a sense of remorse over the fact that we tend to talk about those things only during the Christmas season.
I remember sharing with some people in the past about how wonderful the world would be if we could somehow keep the Spirit of Christmas, and all the goodwill associated with it, alive all year long. Unfortunately, that often does not seem plausible. But, happily, the Christmas season returns to us each year. So, even if we try, but fail, to keep the Spirit of Christmas going all year long, each Christmas season we have another opportunity to promote “Joy to the World” and “Peace on Earth”.
And wouldn’t it be awesome this year if everyone who celebrates or observes Christmas, *or* anyone who wants the world to have joy and be at peace, would somehow use this upcoming Christmas season to really promote those values – regardless of personal faith and/or convictions? This holiday season, let “Peace on Earth” and “Joy to the World” become more than just rote phrases on decorations and cards that put a warm smile in our hearts but which generally fail to motivate us towards actually striving to bring joy and peace to the world.
Words have meaning. Look behind the words to see the true meaning and purpose of those words. They were not originally written or uttered for the purpose of becoming part of the trappings of the Christmas season, but to push us forward, to be goals, to remind us that we can be a better global family.
The words “Joy to the World” do not mean “Joy for just me and those I care about”. They mean joy for the entire human race – and to have joy, people need to be treated fairly, with dignity, and respect, and with the same opportunities and freedoms as everyone else, with all people viewing everyone else as brotherly neighbors, recognizing the worth of all persons.
Likewise, the words “Peace on Earth” do not mean “Peace just for my own” – whatever our own might be. Nor does “Peace on Earth” mean “Peace through victory”. It means peace for all nations, all societies, all types of people, all over the world through letting go of blame, and of our wounds, our pride, and our fears. But peace does not just happen in a vacuum. We need to actively work towards peace. And that means, among other things, that we must be willing to listen – truly, honestly, sincerely listen to one another – and actually hear what is being said, with an understanding that even in diversity, we can have both harmony and unity.
We live in an era that is full of uncertainty and confusion and misdirection. There is accountability on all sides. People from all spectrums have hidden behind Christian values to promote views, positions, and actions that are contrary to the teachings of the One whose birth Christmas celebrates.
So this year, as we enter into the Christmas season, and we see our political and religious leaders, and others, talk about how special a time of year Christmas is, and as they sing “Joy to the World” or “Peace On Earth Good Will to Men”, really make them mean it. Don’t let it just be warm but empty words concealing hypocrisy. Hold them accountable. Point out the hypocrisy. Ask them to explain what they think “Joy to the World” and “Peace on Earth” truly means. What does it look like? Ask them who those words were meant for. Make them acknowledge the things that they are doing that undermines Joy to the World, and Peace on Earth. And then ask them, on their Christian faith, what they are going to do, to truly live, and personify those words.
And as they passionately enjoy and celebrate Christmas, ask them whose birth Christmas celebrates, and what did He have to say about the various issues that seem to be dividing us. Because, if we are not really following Him, just why are we celebrating His birth?