By TOM MAY
— EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a multicolumn series about Christmas. Read a new entry tomorrow.
The entrance to the department store at the mall was decorated with wreaths and garland, twinkling white lights, celebrating the season in a festive manner. Draping across the doorway was a colorful banner proclaiming “Joy to the World!”
The holiday season, even in the malls, certainly has ample supplies of joy. Parents taking little children, wide-eyed and gleeful, to whisper wishes to Santa. Friends sitting across the table from each other, sharing coffee and memories. A young man searching for the perfect ring for the perfect girl.
I am not even sure why I noticed it. There is no way I should have heard it. My body was occupied, busy setting up risers for our college men’s chorus performance less than a half-hour away. My mind was surely occupied, trying to set oft forgotten words to the third stanza of “Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming” into the concrete of the mind. My ears were more than occupied, jubilant rumblings of the mall drowned out any individual’s voice or words. Canned Christmas music echoed through tinny speakers.
Beneath the prophetic banner’s message stretched an eight-foot sale table, left over ghosts of Christmas’ retails past. One sweater. Four arms. Two ladies. Opposite sides of the table. God’s name shouted. Expletives cursed. An arm swung. A face buffeted. A crowd gathered. Mall cops deployed. Charges pressed. Joy to the world.
Isn’t it ironic that the same season that can bring out the best in us can also bring out the worst in us? Perhaps you caught these news stories following this year’s Black Friday. Near Grand Rapids, Mich., for the second year in a row, intense fighting broke out at the Woodland Mall. Even with added police security, several individuals were involved in the brawl, not over bargains and sales, but because two groups of students simply didn’t like each other. In Annapolis, Md., a 14-year-old boy was accosted outside a Bed, Bath and Beyond store by five men who punched him and took the merchandise that he had just purchased.
What are we to make of this lack of joy in our world? We only need to turn to Isaac Watts, the lyricist of the much loved Christmas carol, “Joy to the World.” The third verse, often overlooked, speaks to our plight of a sinful life:
“No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found, Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as the curse is found.”
Squabbles and fussing around the table or wars and killing around the world only remind us of the lingering presence of sin in the world. The real message of joy is that through this baby God’s grace is displayed and the curse can be broken. Sin doesn’t have to rule our lives here or control our eternal destiny.
This Christmas, repeat the sounding joy, the wonders of His love. Joy to the World!
— Tom May is the Minister of Discipleship at Eastside Christian Church in Jeffersonville. He is an adjunct instructor in the Communications Department at Indiana University Southeast.