When the Party's Over

By Rod Hemphill

Getting together with good friends at Christmas time, New Year's Eve, the 4th of July or any time is fun. It's an event that's anticipated and fulfilling. And it contrasts with the parties of the party circuit that amount to little more than glitz, false smiles and the attempt to have fun. And after that kind of party, then what?

The world around us tends to ignore the essential foundation of a party, which is the people who attend and their interaction and fellowship. And in missing it, the world focuses on the glitz and the fun of the moment. It becomes pretty much a repetitious experiment in self-absorption because the whole point is for "me" to have fun rather than enjoying other people. So when the party's over . . . it's over.

And after a while, these shallow parties cease being fun as each one becomes more of the same old Same Old.

For many people the most meaningful thing about Christmas is "the bottle" which is used to deaden the sense of meaninglessness in their lives. Even the blessing of giving gifts is perverted . . . not being the giving of gifts to those who do not expect them or gifts born out of love to one's loved ones, but now it is a "gift exchange" and the exchange is expected to be a "gift" of equal value, and commensurate with the value of everybody else's gift.

Little wonder that the days following Christmas can be "downers" as the reality sinks in that despite all the hype and well-wishes of the season, nothing has really changed. So pervasive is this that I heard a person on TV this past week express the point of view that to expect peace and good will to extend past Christmas Day was either naiveté or hypocrisy, and that such people need to "get real."

To such people, all the "ho-ho-ho" and good will of the season is just part of the party game people play in which they take license from what they are to pretend for a time to be what they are not, knowing that within a few hours they'll have to put away childish revelry and face the real world once again.

In a sense, this actually is realism, because they are right in observing that while people seek after peace and security, there is no peace in this world . . . either among nations, or between people in the competition that permeates all of our social interactions, or even within ourselves with one's uncertainties, insecurities, or recriminations . . . or with an insatiable quest for even greater success, heightened thrill and enjoyment, or the need dominate or to feel important . . . respected.

There are many who know not one person whom they feel truly loves them. Infatuation maybe, or perhaps a self-serving interest in them . . . but not one who truly cares about them.

―So much for the "peace and good will" of Christmas!

So all which lends itself to the celebration of Christmas lasts but a day or two . . . a week at the most. Then down with the tree, the lights, and the good will. It's time to return to the depressed survivalist life that is our reality.

But maybe the absence of peace and good will in the reality of life reveals the whole point of the Christmas story. According to that story,* the angelic promise of "peace on earth, good will toward men" was not the announcement of a new era in human relationships, nor even an encouragement for mankind to pursue a new and loftier ideal.

It was not that a new age of peace and good will was about to be ushered in. Rather, the story indicates that this peace would be experienced by those with whom God is pleased!

But the announcement was made to the Jews, God's own people, who included both the pious of the nation and the religiously scrupulous –Pharisees who were determined to search out and follow God's every command. Surely God would be pleased with them . . . and if not, what chance did anybody else have?

But that this peace was announced to them as a promise, and would be regarded by them as good news, should indicate that this peace and good will was in fact not being experienced by them.

What is overlooked in the populist understanding of the Christmas story is that the promise of a "great joy which will come to all the people" is not the promise of peace and good will among men, but "great joy" in the birth of a Savior,** and this realization enables us to understand the angelic announcement.

People both then and now were longing for peace and were suffering from the lack of good will in spite of their sincere religiosity, because peace and good will are contrary to our nature. Our demonstrated innate character reveals an absence of peace and good will as anything more than an inconsistent or momentary thing. If an actual characteristic of peace and good will were to be found among men, it could only be because God has provided a Savior ―One who is able to save us from ourselves . . . One who can enable us to become pleasing to God, in spite of ourselves.

It is only as we place our lives in the hands of our Savior that we can become pleasing to God, and begin to experience lives actually characterized by peace and good will at last.

What this means is not that God changes the world around us, but rather he changes us within the world. Those who turn their lives over to the Savior God has provided find their lives becoming pleasing to Him, and characteristic of this new life is peace and good will that is not attainable apart from the Savior, nor is it dependent upon circumstances. The things of the world cannot give it, and the world cannot take it away!

No wonder the world is frustrated at the short life of peace and good will at Christmas time. No wonder people despair of having within themselves peace and good will throughout the year. They are acknowledging the impossibility . . . unless God intervenes.

Want a genuine, verifiable miracle? Stop trying to shape your life the way you think it ought to be. It isn't about you. It's all about God. It isn't what you can do for God. It's what God can do for you. It isn't what you think God should do for you. It's what God wants to do for you.

God created you for his purposes (not whatever you decide), and you'll never find the peace and good will nor any real and lasting satisfaction in life until you start living from within the purpose for which he created you.

And you start by accepting the One whose birth we celebrate at Christmas into your life as your Lord and Savior. God has provided a way for you to become all you were meant to be, and there is no other. Nor does there need be any other.

It is at this point that for you the Christmas angel's message becomes intensely personal . . .

And the angel said to them, "Be no longer afraid, for I bring you good news of a great joy that is given to every person . . . for a Savior has been born to you, who is Christ, the Lord! . . . Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

This is God's gift to you. It's a gift born out of his love for you. It's not a gift exchange. It's not because you deserve it. It's because he created you, and he loves you. In spite of yourself. Pure and simple.

He is saying to you,

"Be all that you can be, all that I created you to be. You can if you stop running your own life and give yourself to Jesus, the One who can save you to the new life I will give to you."

Will you?
Now is the time.

Peace and blessings await you.


* as found in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2
** Luke 2.10-14


For Discussion:

• How do you feel after Christmas is over? Disappointed? Back to life as usual? Glad the Christmas stress is over? Something else? Why do you feel that way?

• Remember the parties you have been to? Why were some better than others? What seems to have really "made" the best ones?

• What were the most memorable Christmas (or Hanukah) celebrations you remember? What made them different from the others?

• As opposed to accomplishments and material possessions, why are human relationships really the essence of life?

• Why doesn't peace and good will last much beyond Christmas Day? If we like peace and good will, why hasn't it ever become the norm?

• How might we define "peace"? How can we have peace and be people of good will when we live in a society that has little of either?

• How can we show those around us that the Christmas promise is indeed good news?

For Personal Consideration:

• Are you experiencing God's peace and good will day after day?

• What interferes with this? How do you find it again?

• How can you bring peace and good will into your part of the world?

• If you are the only one radiating peace and good will wherever you go, is it still important that you do so? Why?

• How will you do it?

• Might there be a cost for being different? Like what, maybe? Will it be worth it?

• If you don't live from within this God-provided peace and good will, would you like to?

• Accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior and the Lord of all you are and do is not being religious. It is embracing what works in life. You've been trying everything else . . . with what results? It's time to accept the gift of God's love . . . the Savior he has sent into our world for you.

• Will you give yourself to him now? Don't worry about the formalities –there aren't any. Just do it!

Related Articles:
Halloween: Spoof, Spooked or Spiritual Service?
The Golden Compass: A Warning for Parents
Seasons of Life
Being An American Means More Than Just Living Here
On Celibacy and Marriage
Fundamental Questions of Life