The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness — on them light has shined. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Because of a child that was born there is joy for the people. Why does this particular child bring so much joy? Because this child will focus on endless peace. He will see us all equally and treat us all with integrity. He will remove the needless burdens others make us carry. And the memories that cause us pain and nightmares will be healed.
The kind of joy that is described is like that of people dividing plunder. Probably because of our Christmas season this makes me think of kids at the Christmas tree gleefully unwrapping presents that they were surprised to find there. There is an excitement to joy as well as a deep sense of security. To me that is what makes it different from being happy. Happiness can be fleeting. Joy is grounded in a truth that will see you through tough times. Having joy, even if it is just a glimmer, can be the reason you get through tough times.
This is important because although Jesus was born and he is who we call Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace; even though he does see us all equally and treat us all with integrity, the lived experiences of people on this great planet of ours does not often reflect that ideal.
We also might reflect on the fact that the world is not experiencing peace. There are still wars of many kinds going on as well as domestic violence and oppression. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s words still ring true in his poem “Christmas Bells” which he wrote Dec 25, 1863. His son was fighting in the civil war as a Union Soldier. He was badly injured and close to death. In the depth of his despair he wrote this poem which includes specific mention of the civil war. In one stanza he speaks of the canons from the south drowning out the carols of peace on earth and good will. The poem continues this way …
It was as if an earthquake rent The hearth-stones of a continent, And made forlorn The households born Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
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!”
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!”
In that last stanza what I hear is a man who is trusting God. What are these bells which are ringing out more loud and deep? Might they be bells of joy? A joy which is a foundation and security. One which allows room for change, transformation, hope, and a future peace?
Jesus wasn’t born because everything was okay and he just wanted to party with us. He was born, divinity wrapped in humanity, to be the bells that pealed more loud and deep. And then he passed on his mission to us.
Joy and beauty and amazement and wonder are contagious. So is evil, hate, violence and that lot. Equally contagious is ambivalence which tends to lead to atrophy, which degrades into evil, hate, and violence. The Christ-Centered mission that Jesus passed on to us is one of offering healing, hope, wholeness, beauty, and determined love to everyone. equally and treat us all with integrity. We are to remove the needless burdens others are made to carry. We can also help them remove the memories that cause them pain so that their nightmares will be healed.
If every day you can meditate on the joy in your life of having been transformed through love by our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace – divinity wrapped in humanity … if every day you can do this … then you will be a bell that peals more loud and deep for others to hear, to have hope, and to experience a joy that will move them.
But first you have to trust the joy that God has given you. Dust if off if you have to. Recite the truth of it in your soul. Get out the spiritual WD-40 and work its hinges so that they become free.
Remember with me and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that God is not dead nor doth God sleep. God lives … and right now we celebrate his new born life with his mother Mary and his father Joseph.