Tag Archives: Bible

Good will, then peace

many-ChristmasesAt the end of my Tuesday post, Charlie Brown reflections, I tagged on the Christmas story that Linus recites in A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Since Tuesday I have discovered how deeply Linus’s scene touches people. People have told me it’s their favourite scene. They have told me that as soon as Linus says “Lights please” a peaceful quiet descends on a room, and that all movement stops until Linus says, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

The King James version of the Bible isn’t used in my progressive Christian church very often anymore, but Christmas is the one time of the year I wish they would. Other Bible versions cannot match the lyrical rhythm of the King James Luke 2:10-14.

But I’ve been mulling this passage over in my mind since Tuesday. I’m a stickler for non-gender-specific language, so I would rather have the words “all people” at the end instead of “men,” but I am willing to live with it in this case as a nod to a time when we didn’t know better. If I had to change something, it would be the order of the last phrase of the last line: “. . . and on earth peace, good will toward men.

The writer of this passage wished for peace first and then good will toward all people. Wouldn’t it work better the other way around?

If we had good will toward all people, peace would follow.

So this Christmas, no matter whether the season is a secular one or a religious one for you, show good will toward all people. From that, we make peace. 

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Luke 2:10-14 (Arlene version)

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and with good will toward all people, on earth peace.

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The first Christmas gifts were not reciprocal

many-ChristmasesYou know the scenario: Someone you know and love, but don’t usually exchange gifts with, suddenly appears before you holding out a brightly wrapped Christmas gift. She beams with joy, because she has found the perfect thing for you. She saw it in a store, thought of you and just had to get it.

Do you receive the gift with unqualified gratitude? Or do you think, “Oh, no! I don’t have anything for her”?

My friend, Ellie, reminded me a few weeks ago that the gifts in the Christmas story were not reciprocal. In one of the Christmas parables, wise travellers brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus. The Bible doesn’t go into detail about what Mary and Joseph might have said upon receiving such valuable gifts, but I don’t think it went like this:

Joseph: Mary, the wise men are on their way, and they’re all carrying something.

Mary: Carrying something? What could that be?

Joseph: I’m not sure, but one of them has something shiny. It looks like gold.

Mary: Gold! Oh, no. And I didn’t get anything for them. Do we have something in our baggage that we could wrap up quickly?

From what we can glean from the Matthew version of the Christmas parable (there are no wise men in the Luke version), Mary and Joseph received the first Christmas gift with grace and gratitude. To do otherwise would have made the whole situation awkward, and would have deprived the wise visitors of the joy of giving.

This Christmas, when someone beams with joy as he gives you that perfect something that he brought to you out of love, receive it with unqualified gratitude. Don’t deprive him of the joy of giving.

Gratitude makes you happy

This past summer, A.J. Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible, spoke to a gathering of law librarians in Philadelphia. His speech included anecdotes about how the research for his writings has affected his life.

When Jacobs chose to explore the Bible, he did it the Jacobs way—to the extreme. He lived for a year following every law and teaching in the Bible. Or rather, he tried to live that way for a year but discovered that there are more than 700 laws in the Bible and some of them contradict one another. “Even absolutism must have exceptions,” he wrote, as he struggled to decide what to do.

But at the end of the year he had changed.

He was happier, and the secret was gratitude. Faith communities encourage the giving of thanks, and when he adopted a daily practice of giving thanks throughout the day for all those little wonderful things that often go unnoticed, it changed him. He realized that for every one or two minor things that went wrong, a hundred things went right.

Sometimes we “save up” our gratitude for Thanksgiving weekend, instead of mindfully practising the giving of thanks throughout each day, week and month. This weekend, be thankful, and let it be the beginning of spreading out your gratitude, and your happiness, throughout the year.