Humbug?!

In Longfellow’s classic I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day every stanza ends with the phrase “peace on earth, goodwill to men.” Unless you’ve been living someplace that doesn’t get the daily news, you might be saying, “Peace on earth? Really? I just don’t see it….” Or as Ebenezer Scrooge might say, “Peace on earth? Bah! Humbug!” 

A humbug is an imposter, or something empty of meaning. 

The third stanza of I Heard The Bells seems almost to slide into that Christmas humbug note: “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, goodwill to men.’” 

Indeed, even for those who call themselves a Christian, Christmas could become a humbug if…

  • … it’s all about busyness or just trying to “survive the holidays” 
  • … we get more excited about Santa Claus coming down the chimney to fill stockings than we do about Jesus coming down to Earth to be born in a manger 
  • … our main focus is on gifts—both what you’re giving and what you’re getting—and then we regret putting ourselves into debt 

Between Malachi (the last book of the Old Testament) and Matthew (the first book of the New Testament) is a time span of about 400 years that is called “the dark period.” God had promised through Jeremiah that He would restore the Israelites and rebuild Jerusalem. There were promises of the Messiah coming to set things right, but after 400 years of darkness, the mindset of most Israelites was probably, “Messiah? Peace? Bah! Humbug!!” 

What God really promised through Jeremiah was a peace that came about as a result of two things: (1) forgiveness of sins and (2) restoration of a perfect relationship with God. The Hebrew word for “peace” is shalom, which means one’s personal sense of wholeness and well-being, free from anxiety and fear, knowing that all is well between my soul and God. 

This is what God promises—I will cleanse them from ALL the sin they have committed against Me and will forgive ALL their sins of rebellion against Me (Jeremiah 33:8). 

This shalom is what comes through the First Advent of Jesus! As Longfellow observed, “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, goodwill to men.” 

And this is what Jesus brought—

  • She will give birth to a Son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21 NIV). 
  • Now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to Him through the blood of Christ. For Christ Himself has brought peace to us… (Ephesians 2:13-14 NLT) 
  • Therefore, since we are justified (acquitted, declared righteous, and given a right standing with God) through faith, let us grasp the fact that we have…peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) (Romans 5:1 AMP). 

The bells and carols and remembrances of Christ’s First Advent should send our hearts soaring in anticipation of Christ’s Second Advent—when Christ shall return to take all of His own to be with Him forever, where He will wipe away every tear and where we live forever with Him in the New Jerusalem (see Jeremiah 33:9; John 14:3; Revelation 21:1-4). 

Let us guard against Christmas ever becoming a humbug—an imposter, something empty of meaning—but let’s make sure the rich meaning of Christ’s peace dwells richly in us! 

Join us this Sunday as we continue our look at the carols of Christmas! 

Poetry Saturday—Thanksgiving

We walk on story fields of white
And do not see the daisies, 
For blessings common in our sight 
We rarely offer praises. 
We sigh for some supreme delight 
To crown our lives with splendor, 
And quite ignore our daily store 
Of pleasures sweet and tender.

Our cares are bold and push their way 
Upon our thought and feeling; 
They hang about us all the day, 
Our time from pleasure stealing. 
So unobtrusive many a joy 
We pass by and forget it, 
But worry strives to own our lives, 
And conquers if we let it.

There’s not a day in all the year 
But holds some hidden pleasure, 
And, looking back, joys oft appear 
To brim the past’s wide measure. 
But blessings are like friends, I hold, 
Who love and labor near us. 
We ought to raise our notes of praise 
While living hearts can hear us.

Full many a blessing wears the guise 
Of worry or of trouble; 
Far-seeing is the soul, and wise, 
Who knows the mask is double. 
But he who has the faith and strength 
To thank his God for sorrow 
Has found a joy without alloy 
To gladden every morrow.

We ought to make the moments notes
Of happy, glad thanksgiving; 
The hours and days a silent phrase 
Of music we are living. 
And so the theme should swell and grow 
As weeks and months pass o’er us, 
And rise sublime at this good time, 
A grand thanksgiving chorus. —Ella Wheeler Wilcox

8 Thankful Quotes

“…May we also unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him—To pardon our national and other transgressions, To enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, To render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, To protect and guide all nations and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord, To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science, And generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.” —George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1789 

“Let your soul lose itself in wonder, for wonder is in this way a very practical emotion. Holy wonder will lead you to grateful worship and heartfelt thanksgiving. It will cause within you godly watchfulness; you will be afraid to sin against such a love as this.” —C.H. Spurgeon 

“As flowers carry dewdrops trembling on the edge of the petals, and ready to fall at the first waft of wind or brush of bird, so the heart should carry its beaded works of thanksgiving, and, at the first breath of heavenly flavor, let down the shower perfumed with the heart’s gratitude.” —Henry Ward Beecher 

“Thanksgiving will draw our hearts toward God and keep us in fellowship with Him; it will take our attention from ourselves and give the Spirit room in our hearts.” —Andrew Murray 

“If we pray without ceasing, we shall not want matter for thanksgiving in everything. We shall see cause to give thanks for sparing and preventing, for common and uncommon, past and present, temporal and spiritual mercies. Not only for prosperous and pleasing, but also for afflicting providences, for chastisements and corrections; for God designs all for our good, though we at present see not how they tend to it.” —Matthew Henry 

“Blessed is that home which has in it an altar of sacrifice and of prayer, where daily thanksgivings ascend to heaven and where morning and night praying is done.” —E.M. Bounds 

“Not to lose myself and reader in this digression, the sum is, the unspeakable blessings which the priesthood of Christ hath obtained for us are a strong obligation for the duty of praise and thanksgiving; of which that in some measure we may discharge ourselves, He hath furnished us with sacrifices of that kind to be offered unto God.” —John Owen

“Gratitude is from the same root word as ‘grace,’ which signifies the free and boundless mercy of God. Thanksgiving is from the same root word as ‘think,’ so that to think is to thank.” —Willis P. King 

The Carols Of Christmas

Carols Of ChristmasI heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men. (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

 

How many “old familiar carols” have you heard Christmas after Christmas until the words have almost lost their meaning? If we’re not careful, any song repeated too often can lose the richness of its original intent.

There are some amazing messages in many of our old familiar Christmas carols because many of those messages are saturated with the old familiar story of Redemption that the Bible tells over and over again.

Please join me this Sunday as we take a new look at the old familiar messages in our Christmas carols. These messages will bring a new appreciation of God’s love that was sung at Christ’s Advent, and reawaken the sweetness of meaning for this Christmas Day.

Linger In Gratitude

I just finished a series of messages at Calvary Assembly of God called Fading Gratitude. It was intended to give some practical thoughts that would stimulate our continual gratitude—not just thankfulness on a day called Thanksgiving.

Sarah Young does a masterful job speaking the words of Scripture as though it were Jesus speaking first-person to us. This word is so appropriate on the heels of this series and on the eve of our Thanksgiving celebration.

“I want you to linger in gratitude. This is a most delightful place—where the joy of My presence shines warmly upon you. 

“You often and pray fervently for something until you receive the answer you desire. When I grant your request, you respond joyfully and thankfully. But your tendency is to move on rather quickly to the next matter. I want you to remain for a while in an attitude of grateful joy. Instead of experiencing only a short-lived burst of gratitude, let this pleasure flow freely into the future by training yourself to recall what I have done. One way is to tell others about it. This blesses both them and you, and it pleases Me. Another way is to write down the prayer-answer someplace where you will see it again and again.

“Keep bringing your gratitude to Me. This thankfulness will bless you doubly—with happy memories of answered prayer and with the delight of sharing enjoy it with Me.” —Jesus (in Sarah Young’s Jesus Always, emphasis mine)

A Radical Change In Perspective

My friend Josh Schram shared a great message yesterday, wrapping up our series called Fading Gratitude. 

Josh was transparent about some of the struggles he overcame during his younger years, explaining how his decision to be grateful even for those roadblocks completely changed his perspective.

When we’re not intentional, our gratitude naturally begins to fade. It’s not that we’re intentionally ungrateful, but we just merely forget to be thankful. 

Our fading gratitude creates a domino effect. When gratitude fades we live with… 

Anxiety can keep us from even trying to pursue what God has planned for our lives. 

When a large group of people needed to be fed, a couple of Jesus’ disciples forgot about the miracles Jesus had already done in the past, and as a result, they became anxious about what to do next. 

Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!” Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?” (John 6:7-9)

Yet Jesus multiplied more than enough for everyone to eat AND there were more leftovers than there was food that they originally started with! “So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves” (John 6:13).

That’s why Jesus tells us, So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:34). When we’re grateful for what God provided yesterday, and we’re thankful for what He’s providing today, it will cut short any feelings of anxiety about what God will do again tomorrow!

“No amount of regret changes the past, no amount of anxiety changed the future, but any amount of gratitude changes the present.” —Ann Voskamp 

Gratitude can radically change our perspective! 

If I’m not choosing gratitude, then gratitude is fading. I can be grateful for things I originally thought were holding me back. I can give those things to Jesus—He is not only more than enough but He also gives back to me more than I gave to Him. 

 

Poetry Saturday—I Do It Unto Thee

Lord of all pots and pans and things,
since I’ve no time to be a great saint
by doing lovely things…
make me a saint by getting meals,
and washing up the plates.
Warm all the kitchen with Thy love,
and light it with Thy peace;
forgive me all my worrying,
and make my grumbling cease.
Thou Who didst love to give men food,
in room, or by the sea,
accept the service that I do,
I do it unto Thee.
Amen. —Brother Lawrence

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