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—Come, Thou Fount

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy grace; 
streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise. 
Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above. 
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it, mount of Thy redeeming love. 

Here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by Thy help I’m come; 
and I hope, by Thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home. 
Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God; 
He, to rescue me from danger, interposed His precious blood. 

O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be! 
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee. 
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above. —Robert Robinson

Poetry Saturday—Come, Ye That Love The Lord

Come, ye that love the Lord,
  And let your joys be known;
Join in a song with sweet accord
  While we surround the throne.
The sorrow of the mind
  Be banish’d from the place; 
Religion never was design’d
  To make our pleasures less.
Let those refuse to sing
  Who never knew our God;
But servants of the heavenly King
  May speak their joys abroad.
The God that rules on high,
  That all the earth surveys,
That rides upon the stormy sky,
  And calms the roaring seas:
This awful God of ours,
  Our Father and our Love;
He will send down His heavenly powers
  To carry us above. 
There shall we see His face,
  And never, never sin;
There from the rivers of His grace
  Drink endless pleasures in.
Yes! and before we rise
  To that immortal state,
The thoughts of such amazing bliss
  Should constant joys create.
The men of grace have found
  Glory begun below;
Celestial fruits on earthly ground
  From faith and hope may grow.
The hill of Zion yields
  A thousand sacred sweets,
Before we reach the heavenly fields,
  Or walk the golden streets.
Then let our songs abound,
  And every tear be dry;
We’re marching through Immanuel’s ground
  To fairer worlds on high. —Isaac Watts

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Our Secure Future Hope

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Our Secure Future Hope

     First, Christ is all. Next Christ is in all His people, but the consummation, the top-stone of all, is that God may be all in all [1 Corinthians 15:22-28]. … 

     The fact is, our Lord Jesus Christ has performed and is still performing a work that will end in putting everything into its proper order. …

     Christ is come into the world that all of the evil that is in the world should be subdued. And He will drive it out of the world. There will remain no power that will dare revolt against the Majesty of Heaven! Over the whole surface of this globe, beneath the new heavens and on the new earth, there will yet be the kingdom established all of which Jesus Christ will be the Supreme Head and over which He will reign forever, King of kings and Lord of lords! The Lord hasten it in His own time! … 

     I don’t know whether you catch my thought yet, but it is just this: all evil subdued, all the saints having Christ dwelling in them, Christ the head of all these saints, and then God, still as God, all the more surely and securely supreme over all things, or the head of Christ is God and God is all in all. … 

     I want to you, beloved friends, so to live as to be persuaded that it will be so one day, that God will be all in all—that there will come a time when we will stand before the throne of God, God in us all, and everything in us of God, when all His elect, all His redeemed, all to whom Christ is all, and all in whom Christ is, will only know God as their All-in-All!

From All And All In All

What a glorious future hope is secured for God’s saints! 

If we know what is coming, why would we fear today? If our hope is secure, that means our today is secure as well. That’s why David could confidently say: I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken (Psalm 16:8).

Poetry Saturday—Hark! The Sound Of Jubilee

Hark! the song of jubilee,
Loud as mighty thunders roar,
Or the fullness of the sea,
When it breaks upon the shore:
“Hallelujah! for the Lord
God Omnipotent shall reign;
Hallelujah!” let the word
Echo round the earth and main.

Hallelujah! hark! the sound,
From the depths unto the skies.
Wakes above, beneath, around
All creation’s harmonies;
See Jehovah’s banner furled,
Sheathed His sword; He speaks; ‘tis done;
And the kingdoms of this world
Are the kingdoms of His Son.

He shall reign from pole to pole
With illimitable sway;
He shall reign when, like a scroll,
Yonder heavens have passed away.
Then the end; beneath His rod
Man’s last enemy shall fall:
Hallelujah! Christ in God,
God in Christ is All in All. —James Montgomery

Gone From My Sight

   I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

   Then someone at my side says, “There, she is gone!”

   “Gone where?”

   Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side, and she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.

   Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says, “There, she is gone,” there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, “Here she comes!” —Henry Van Dyke

Poetry Saturday—I’ll Praise My Maker While I’ve Breath

I’ll praise my Maker while I’ve breath;
and when my voice is lost in death,
praise shall employ my nobler powers.
My days of praise shall ne’er be past
while life and thought and being last,
or immortality endures.

How happy they whose hopes rely
on Israel’s God, who made the sky
and earth and seas with all their train;
whose truth forever stands secure,
who saves the oppressed and feeds the poor,
and none shall find God’s promise vain.

The Lord pours eyesight on the blind;
the Lord supports the fainting mind
and sends the laboring conscience peace.
God helps the stranger in distress,
the widowed and the parentless,
and grants the prisoner sweet release. —Isaac Watts

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