These few words strung together out of context would fit most holiday greeting cards and would dress up and adorn any wreath or ornament hung around the house this December. However, their association in Scripture is not a happy one.
My heart stopped when I read this passage in preparation for our Sunday evening Bible study on Revelation 11. I read them again. Yes. This verse (Revelation 11:10) says exactly what I think it says… “and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents” Without too much detail for this post it suffices to say what the people of the earth are rejoicing over is the gruesome death of martyrs who were witnesses for Jesus Christ who had delivered the very message Christmas brings. That is, that Jesus is God in the flesh who came, lived a perfect life, died a substitutionary death, and rose from the dead, in order that we might have peace with God through faith. This they proclaimed, for this they died, and the people of the earth rejoiced, made merry, and exchanged presents.
In meditating on this my mind and heart flooded with all the times I have participated in these activities with little or no thought to Jesus. It then extended beyond myself to the overt commercialization (which Charlie Brown has been complaining about since the sixties) secularization and democratization of “Christmas” particularly in the United States. We should be stunned as we are left with an unavoidable conclusion: It is entirely possible to celebrate Christmas the way the world celebrates Christmas without Jesus. In fact, it is entirely possible to be “merry, rejoice, and exchange presents” entirely opposed to Jesus. This should at least give us pause in what we are doing. Even better, it should motivate us to share good news of great joy for all of these people that the many will be made children of God as they receive the gift of His Son. Let us be so bold as to not let our relatives drink the egg nog or crumple the paper on the floor without sharing Jesus. When the song comes on over the sound system of the department store don’t miss the opportunity to ask the cashier or customer if they know what “veiled in flesh the Godhead see” or “Joy to the world, the Lord is come” means.