December 3, 2018
For many of us, Christmas is the happiest time of the year. It is a time for friends and family, and especially a time our children look forward to. Katie and I love the Christmas season, and we look forward to the music, the time with our family, and the hope that this season gives. Each Christmas though, we are very aware that not everyone looks forward to, or enjoys the season. Some 21st Century Americans, will even suffer from Christmas “fatigue.” According to Newsweek magazine, Christmas fatigue begins immediately following Halloween. In fact, as stores place the unsold Halloween candy on the discount shelf, they immediately put up their Christmas displays and stock the Christmas candy shelves. Some people now take down their Halloween decorations in their yard and immediately get out their Christmas decorations. The Hallmark channel cooperates in the process by non-stop Christmas themed movies, and every department store immediately transforms into the “holiday” mode. While some welcome this extended “Christmas” season, for others it is a reminder of the loss of a loved one, a broken relationship, or of their financial hardships. Many people are just discouraged because in a season while they are seeking “peace on earth and goodwill toward men,” they just can’t seem to find peace at all.
On Christmas Day 1864, one of America’s best known poets, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow composed the words to a poem entitled “Christmas Bells.” This poem became the words to the Christmas carol we know today as “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” When Longfellow penned the words to his poem, America was still deeply engaged in Civil War, and his poem reflects not only the national despair of the war but his own family’s hardship and tragedies. In 1861, three years before he wrote this poem, his wife died tragically from an accident in their home. The first Christmas after her death, Longfellow wrote, “How inexpressibly sad are all holidays.” A year after the incident, he wrote, “I can make no record of these days. Better to leave them wrapped in silence in his journal, “Perhaps someday God will give me peace.” Longfellow’s journal entry for December 25, 1862 read: “A Merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.” Later that year his oldest son, a lieutenant in the Union Army, was severely wounded in a battle and was left partially paralyzed and clinging to life. When Longfellow wrote his poem on that Christmas, the words reflected his human response to the sadness and tragedy of war as well as his personal loss and suffering.
One of the verses that indicates his somber mood says, “And in despair I bowed my head, there is no peace on earth, I said. For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth good will to men.” He also expresses his hope for peace and his faith in the living God. The verse which reflects his hope says, “Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: God is not dead, nor doth He sleep. The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth good will to men.”
What about you? Do you have “Christmas fatigue?” Paul said in Philippians 4:6-7, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Jesus Himself said this in John 16:33, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
The hope of peace at Christmas is not found in the decorations, the gifts, or even in good times we experience with our families. The hope of Christmas is found only in the gift from God to us, of His Son Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” What a great Christmas message! The peace that all of the world is looking for is offered by the Creator of the universe as a free gift. Like any gift we can receive at Christmas, salvation simply has to be accepted. The Bible says in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His One and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him, shall have eternal life.”
As we pray for those who aren’t in a festive mood and can’t seem to find that hope for peace which Christmas offers, let us pray that somehow the peace that only God can bring will be present with them. Let us pray that instead of blaming God, they will reach out to Him as the only one who can bring them comfort, and the hope of seeing their loved ones again. We know that the joyous news of hope that the Christmas message brings can bring peace, even to those who are suffering so much. We also have so much to thank God for as we realize how blessed we are, even when “peace on earth” seems to be absent so often.