Joy, Peace, and Hope
By Daniel L. Gardner
Christmas wishes offer joy, peace, and hope. Yet, for many, Christmas is a depressing time of year. Psychologists attribute the rise of depression to many phenomena. Could there be a link, or is this pure coincidence?
Of all the Christmas stories, the original is my favorite. What other story could top God giving His ultimate gift to all of mankind?
"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."
I love the way the story is told in the old King James version. The old words sound more regal and humble at the same time.
Luke wrote those words probably more than 50 years after Jesus was born. Yet, in those days the birth, life, works, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ were still current events. They did not have 24/7 news cycles. Their news cycles revolved more along the lines of generations than hours.
Christmas is still making news today in many venues: economy, politics, religion, and family. Even sports and weather news have Christmas themes and connections. What other time of year is so saturated with one unique theme around the globe? That's why the original story of Christmas is still viable and relevant today.
The past few years news has become highly politicized. The past few decades Christmas has become a political litmus test to see who says "Merry Christmas" as opposed to "Happy Holidays." I'm with Ben Stein on this one. I don't really care who says what as long as nobody restricts my right to offer greetings I choose.
Greetings should be neither offensive nor political when given or received. Otherwise we miss the beautiful mural God painted for us 2,000 years ago. His message was neither offensive nor political, but pointedly full of great joy and peace.
As we end 2009 and enter a new decade, the world needs this message of great joy and peace more than ever. For thousands of years men have said they wanted peace, but to what avail? What nation on earth knows peace?
World peace: everybody talks about it.
Perhaps the value of peace shouldn't be considered in world or even national terms. Perhaps peace should be valued by individuals, one at a time. Perhaps such peace could be the artesian fountain from which great joy might flow.
That brings us to hope, that entity that lingers as prelude to great joy and peace for which mankind has always pined.
As I sat in the doctor's waiting room, I observed others much worse off than me according to some measurements. Some mentally handicapped. Others were dealing with physical infirmities. And, I thought not only about them, but also about billions around the globe who suffer daily tragedies unwarranted and unexplainable. Why? I don't know.
During Christmas we think of those more needy than us, and reach out to help any way we can. It's the spirit of the season: to give as has been given unto us.
And, what an indescribably great gift God has given to all of mankind, to whomever will receive His gift. That's still the story, still the message delivered across millennia and around the globe.
Don't let the bitter cynics and political police ruin the eternal message this year. They'll try to ruin it, building their straw Christmas men and dissembling them in the name of 'political rights.'
Christmas transcends all rights. Moreover Christmas offers great joy and peace to all. Merry Christmas.
(Daniel L. Gardner is a syndicated columnist who lives in Starkville, MS.)
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