What’s So Merry about Christmas?
John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono wrote “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” during the Vietnam War era. They recorded it in 1971, and you can still hear it playing in December.
So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear
And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong
The tune is nice, but the lyrics … do you hear the cynicism? So it’s Christmas. Let’s hope it’s a good one. It’s Christmas, but the world is so wrong. It’s enough to make me find a blanket and hibernate until January.
I may feel like doing that, but I won’t. Do you want to know why? Yes, there’s war, and so much in the world is wrong. So much in my world is wrong. But there is something to celebrate and a reason to look up, take heart, and rejoice.
My friend and pastor, Philip Krupski, shared a story that perfectly captures why there is reason for joy. With his permission, I’ve reproduced it here:
I can still remember Christmas from seventeen years ago. I was thirty years old. I had two little children, four and two years old. It should have been a great Christmas. But it was awful. Two weeks before Christmas I came down with chicken pox. All the stories you hear about it being bad when you are an adult are understatements. I ended up missing children’s Christmas services and Advent services. One Sunday afternoon during that time while I was missing one of those services, I was lying on the couch trying to sleep and the Christmas tree fell over right on top of me. Sick as I was I had to reset the tree and clean up all the broken ornaments. Feeling incredibly weak and tired I headed into Christmas Eve services only to be greeted by both daughters getting chicken pox that night. They were miserable. I was miserable. What happened to our Christmas?
Some would insist that I could have simply made it to be a good Christmas with a positive attitude. Yet the reality of that year was that we were all suffering. The suffering wasn’t imagined. To ignore it by putting a spin on it would have been to miss the real message of Christmas. Into the midst of a world of darkness Christ the light of the world came to shine with the brightness of His grace so that He could rescue us from sin, death, and devil.
The Christmas story is not child’s play. It is all out spiritual warfare. This Son of God, born into our flesh, could really die and really rise in order to become the one to give us victory. The misery of that seventeen-year-ago Christmas highlighted the reason why Jesus needed to come. He needed to come for me because I am miserable. He needed to come for you because you are miserable. If we quit candy-coating Christmas with expectations of the perfect holiday, we can see that mission in perfect spotlight and truly understand why we gather to celebrate and rejoice.
St. Paul write in Colossians 1: “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” So now we begin the month of December and the big swoosh into Christmas. Enjoy it. Live it. Celebrate it. But just remember. At the heart and core of it all, it is more than just a cute story about baby Jesus. It is an epic rescue adventure that concludes with our stepping out of darkness and into the eternal light of God.
Yes, Merry Christmas, not Merry Xmas. John Lennon celebrated Xmas, and who wouldn’t be cynical about Xmas? You can hope for a good Xmas, but unless you’re exceptionally good at self-delusion, something about it is bound to ring hollow.
That’s why I celebrate Christmas, not Xmas. An epic rescue from the dominion of death and darkness is something to celebrate.
Even in the midst of disappointment or misery.
That’s what’s so merry about Christmas.
- Why is X Used when it Replaces Christ in Christmas? by R. C. Sproul from Ligonier Ministries. This explains another take on Xmas. “X” comes from the Greek letter Chi, which is the first letter of the Greek word Χριστός, translated as “Christ.” According to R. C. Sproul, “There’s a long and sacred history of the use of X to symbolize the name of Christ, and from its origin, it has meant no disrespect.”