Updated: Mar 9
The other day I was filling up my car with gas when I was pleasantly surprised to read on the pump display, 'tidings of comfort and joy.'
This phrase is well known for its placement in the Christmas carol, God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman.
God rest ye merry gentlemen Let nothing you dismay Remember Christ our Savior Was born on Christmas Day To save us all from Satan's pow'r When we were gone astray Oh tidings of comfort and joy
This time of year, it wouldn't be abnormal to hear a Christmas carol like this one playing through the overhead speakers of a shopping mall or at an auto garage.
In a day of age when any mention of Jesus Christ is quickly dismissed as oppressive and intolerant, why are such phrases and songs welcomed back into the public sphere?
Now, this can't just be because of our country's roots. Canada's laws and 'politically correct' tone indicate a post-Christian country far removed from its origins.
So, what gives?
I'm convinced that Canadians want the results of Christmas without the reality that it points to.
Our world wants 'tidings of comfort and joy' at Christmastime, they want all of things that we do: restored relationships, genuine kindness, and added generosity.
Unfortunately, this desire - as earnest as it might be - falls far short of the cradle, and therefore, never truly fulfills that longing.
'Tidings of comfort and joy' cannot be packaged into a gift placed under the tree, nor can they be a product of entering into this festive season. Rather, the only lasting comfort and joy come from the source of Christmas: the Prince of Peace.
Years after he was born in a barn manger in Bethlehem, Jesus assured his disciples, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives" (John 14:27).
The gesture of a thoughtful present, the hospitality to host a warm meal, even the intention to spend quality time with a loved one do not act as a substitute for what this old Christmas carol is about.
Tidings is an old-fashioned word for recent news. The prophet Isaiah spoke so optimistically about how messengers would one day bring good news that entailed peace and salvation (Isa. 52:7). He then described the recipients bursting into songs of joy together because the Lord has comforted them with this message (Isa. 52:9).
Lasting comfort and joy will only result from acknowledging the great eternal deliverance that God has made known to all the ends of the earth (Isa 52:10).
To truly receive 'tidings of comfort and joy' this statutory holiday we cannot just interpret these as nice carols that can no longer be taken literally.
If that is to happen, it is no wonder there is no Christmas wonder. The only way to receive this good news is to be changed by it. What God has accomplished on Christ's day more than 2000 years ago (Christmas) enables us to be happy and mighty (merry).