Two thousand years ago on a Judean hillside an angel appeared to a group of shepherds keeping watch over their sheep by night. He announced good news that would bring great joy to all people. A savior – Christ the Lord was born. Then suddenly the sky was ablaze while an angelic choir proclaimed peace on earth and good-will toward men. The shepherds were given instructions on how to find this new baby in the village of Bethlehem. They went there and worshipped the baby Jesus.
What a wonderful story. It tells us the real meaning of Christmas. There are a lot of stories we tell our kids as they grow up, some are true and some are just entertaining fantasies. What about this story, which is it – reality or fantasy? Some would question, “Where is this peace on earth and good-will toward men?
Return to the fantasy
Yet, we still dream every Christmas of returning to the simpler happy times of childhood. Behind the decorations, feel-good television specials, gift giving and celebrations is the dream of recreating the fantasy. But is fantasy the best we can hope for? Is that what makes a perfect Christmas?
The holidays are for most about an atmosphere that we wish could be sustained all year long. A time of people living by the Golden Rule, do to others what you would want them to do to you. This one rule would bring peace on the earth and stop all crime. It would eliminate divorce and child abuse. There would be tolerance and justice in the land. Among the many people groups of the world it would stop prejudice, suspicion and acts of aggression. In other words living by God’s royal law of love would result in a perfect world.
This is a fantasy, the cynic would say. Yet it is the world we all want. If this is true why can’t we make it happen? We sing and make commercials about it – the world being one. Why can’t we harness all our resources to eliminate disease, poverty, world hunger and corrupt governments. Is it all just a fantasy?
Live in reality
The answer is both yes and no. To expect this all to happen in the current world in anyone’s lifetime is a fantasy. It has never been nor will ever be in this present age. The reason is simple, the fallen nature of man. In our current sinful state we are not capable of consistently acting toward God or others in the love this would require. We humans at the core are selfish and self-willed. To not recognize this reality is to live in fantasy. This is why we need police and armies to protect life and property from the evil, greedy, corrupt actions of people and nations. However, we are made in the image of God and a residue of that image remains in us. Depending on the values we are raised with and the cultural mores of a nation we can be capable of acts of kindness and generosity. We can create beautiful and beneficial things and institutions to help mankind.
However, that selfish corrupt nature dwells deep within all of us and we never know how or when it will manifest itself. So no matter how hard we try to make the Christmas fantasy last, it never does. We can call a Christmas cease fire, but the war will resume. So what do we do? Just give up on the dream? The answer is no. God sent us a clear message on that first Christmas. His good news is to be believed. The fantasy will become a reality. There will one day be peace on earth and goodwill toward men. God alone has the true answer to our problem. He knew to change our behavior our heart had to be changed. He has always had a plan to overcome our sinful condition and return us to the image of God. The solution was in God’s mind since before creation. He then works out the steps of redemption in his time in the context of human history. God never does things out of panic, fear, frustration or desperation. God is never stressed or blindsided. He is never overwhelmed or out of control. He is the sovereign ruler of the universe. As such, nothing gets in the way of or stops his purposes. No matter how it may look at times the bad guys don’t win. This cosmic conflict between good and evil will eventually come to an end and God triumphs.
Fantasy will become reality
Peace on earth will come along with a new heaven and earth. Eden will return sooner than we think. It will all happen in the fullness of God’s time. Before this peace spreads across our world it comes now into one human heart at a time. The peace with God and the peace of God comes to those like the shepherds who come to Jesus and worship him. So this year don’t put the fantasy back in the box with the decorations. Don’t kick it to the curb with the dried up tree. Keep living the fantasy. Allow others to see the peace in you and when they ask you the reason for your hope – introduce them to the babe of Bethlehem.
Dr. John Hawkins, Sr. runs Gateway Counseling Center in Boynton Beach along with his son John Jr. He can be reached by visiting gatewaycounseling.com.