Editor’s note: This opinion piece was originally published Dec. 20, 2013. Its message seems even more relevant today than it was back then.
Since this is likely my last blog of the year, I’d like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. If you’re like me, you really can use some merriment this year.
For most of the month, I have been listening to Christmas music pretty much all day long. For some reason, one song really captured my attention this year. It’s Amy Grant’s version of Grown Up Christmas List. One verse reads:
As children we believed, the grandest sight to see
Was something lovely wrapped beneath our tree.
Well heaven surely knows, that packages and bows
Can never heal a hurting human soul.
I think there are a lot of hurting human souls today. I’m 53 years old and I have never seen this country so angry, negative, defensive, discouraged, divided and distrustful. Our nation is a tinder box and I’d even venture to say we are in the midst of an uncivil, civil war.
No shots have been fired, but families, cities, states, institutions, companies and friends have been torn apart as America and even the rest of the world seem to have become increasingly polarized.
It seems like people must be lockstep in support of one another on a variety of issues, topics and beliefs. Crossing an invisible line makes it okay for someone to spew flamethrowing invective at another person. Because we have so many different lines that we are willing to defend, we often wind up isolated on a tiny square in the giant checkerboard of life.
It reminds me of the old Christian joke “Die Heretic,” which shows how we so easily neglect our commonality and focus on the smallest of differences. You can read that joke by clicking here.
There seems to be very little laughter anymore, only work, worry and frustration. As the author of Ecclesiastes points out repeatedly, “This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” Many folks feel lost and rudderless with life spiraling out of control around them – and very lonely around the Christmas holiday.
I received a press release this week — which I promptly trashed — from a company offering “the ideal gift for a midlife crisis.” The firm offered a discounted Rolex watch and a free divorce through LegalZoom.
Yes, I am sure every child’s Christmas wish is that his or her family be ripped apart so they can be shuttled between one parent and another because Mom or Dad had a midlife crisis and found more joy in having a watch than in having a family. If that is what passes for the “ideal” Christmas gift, our country is is worse shape than I thought.
There is a darkness that has enveloped our nation and I’m not just talking politics. At a movie with my daughter the other day, five of the six previews were very dark in nature. What passes for entertainment today is crazy. Take the Knockout Game, for example, where teens video themselves walking up to and sucker-punching an innocent person into unconsciousness.
Even today, news reports describe death threats being made against professional football players if their performance during a game messes up someone’s fantasy team results. Really?
As the idea of a cohesive family quietly dissolved over the past 40 years, it was our nation that still gave us a sense of community and purpose. Today, even that is threatened. That’s why I love the RV industry. It brings people and families together for good times and memorable community.
Many people say they long for the “good old days.” But what or when are they? I grew up in the 1960s when race riots, war protests, assassinations and experimental drug use were prominent. Anyone want to return to those good old days?
- In the 1950s, everyone feared nuclear war and polio.
- In the 1940s, the entire world was at war
- In the 1930s, we experienced dust bowls and the Great Depression
Just how far back do we have to go before we can bask again in the “good old days?”
“I have told you these things so that in me, you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world,” said Jesus, as quoted in John 16:33
This year, as we pause for Christmas, let us be sure to take some time to remember the real reason for the season. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” — Hebrews 12:2
It is Jesus, the fountain of living water, the great healer, the wonderful counselor, the Prince of Peace, and the source of true joy who created our inmost beings and knitted us together in our mothers’ wombs. For all the hurting human souls struggling to find meaning to life, and joy, peace or love this Christmas, take heart in knowing that you are not alone.
“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged.” — Deuteronomy 31:8
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” — Matthew 11:28
I don’t know about anyone else, but I could use some genuine rest, and I am looking forward to spending some time with the “reason for the season.” And, I don’t mean just going to church, singing a song or two, dropping a few bucks into a collection plate and checking off the box that says I fulfilled some religious duty or obligation.
I am talking about getting away to a quiet place, taking a deep breath and simply asking, “God, are you there?” Then just taking time to relax and listen.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future . . . You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD.” — Jeremiah 29:11-14.
For me, a little quiet time will bring great joy this Christmas.
May this Christmas be one you will remember forever for its love, laughter, peace and joy.