“Glory in the heights above to God, and upon earth peace among men of goodwill.”—Luke 2:14.
Millions of people are familiar with these words of God’s angels announcing the birth of Jesus to shepherds who were watching over their flocks by night. At about the date that the churches claim that Jesus was born, many nominal Christians make a special effort to improve their behavior. The seasonal attention to joy, peace, and goodwill—qualities mentioned in the angelic proclamation—is often referred to as the Christmas spirit.
Such positive sentiments even attract people who attribute no religious significance to Christmas. They too appreciate the warm feelings that the celebration seems to foster. Where Christmas means time off from school or work, the holiday offers people an opportunity to relax, to spend time with their families and friends, or simply to enjoy themselves. Of course, many sincere people view Christmas principally as a time to honor Jesus Christ.
Whatever significance they attach to Christmas, most are willing to admit that any positive feelings engendered by the holiday are often short-lived. People quickly revert to their normal pattern of behavior. An essay entitled “The Spirit of Christmas,” published by the Royal Bank of Canada, stated: “All too many ‘Christians’ only qualify for that description conceptually for a few weeks every year, oozing good will towards their fellow men until after the New Year, when they can go back to their dog-eat-dog existence and their indifference to the plight of other human beings.” What is “essentially wrong” with the Christmas spirit, continued the same letter, is that people do not have it “all year round.”
Whether you agree with that analysis or not, it does raise important questions. Will people ever be capable of manifesting generosity and understanding toward one another on a permanent basis? Is there any realistic hope that the angelic proclamation on the night of Jesus’ birth will be fulfilled? Or is the hope of true peace nothing more than a dream?
Watchtower December 15th, 2006