For most folks in America, the joys of Christmas are remarkably short-lived and hollow. That's because we listen far too much to all the commercial hype and TV speeches about what we are supposed to get out of Christmas. When we think that Christmas is all about giving and receiving nice stuff, or about "world peace" and relieving human suffering, we are barking up a tree of lies. Jesus said, "The poor you will always have with you" (it's part of the human condition caused by – oh, don't mention that word – sin). He also said, "Do you think that I came to send peace on earth? I tell you, no, but a sword." And, in the Bible, the wise men brought gifts to Christ, not to each other.
Well, where did we go wrong? Again, listen to the carols. Take just one carol, Hark the Herald Angels Sing. If you can understand and sing from your heart the words of this carol, your Christmas will last all year, and your peace will be forever. What is Christmas about? "Glory to the newborn King." It's about praising Christ, the eternal Son of God who loved us enough to come as a human being who would die for our sins. The wise men came hundreds of miles to worship Jesus. Will you make it to church this Christmas? Will your church even have a worship service on Christmas?
Well, what about "peace on earth?" Don't the angels sing that? Yes, they do, but again, listen to the carol. "Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinner reconciled." Jesus came not to bring "world peace" as we think of it, He came to bring the much more important peace with God, the forgiveness of our sins – something that is the bottom-line need of every human being from king to slave, from old grandfathers to little girls. And this forgiveness comes by "mercy mild," the pure, free and unearned grace of God. This is why the prophet Simeon said when he held the baby Jesus in his arms, "Now I can die in peace, for I have seen the Lord's Christ." Whether you are a little girl or an old man, you too can live and die in peace when you have seen the Lord's Christ.
So, get the story straight. Really listen to the carols. Just a few examples from this one carol: "Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail the incarnate Deity." "Mild He lays His glory by, born that man may no more die. Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth. Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn King!" So, forget the hype, forget "world peace" – one ruler will just be replaced by another – and think about the poor accurately. They need the true Christ just as much as you and I do. Give them a meal, and they will live another day. Give them Christ, and they will live forever. Listen to the carols; they tell the real meaning of Christmas.