For the next month, our senses will be bombarded with all things Christmas. Among this barrage, carols will ring in our ears and from our voices – words we have heard and sung for decades of Christmases and immediately associate with the best of the season. Many of these were written centuries ago in other times and cultures, but I’m amazed how we are drawn together with these people over the distance of years and miles. It’s also interesting how old carol texts can still reflect our world today, along with the emotions that come with them.

H.  W. Longfellow  (1807-1882)

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
(1807-1882)

While Christmas is a celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace, there is a dearth of global peace. Identifying with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s reflection on the violence of his day during the American Civil War, we can easily join him by saying: “And in despair I bowed my head;/ ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said:/ ‘For hate is strong,/ And mocks the song/ Of peace on earth, good-will to men!’ Why, if the message of Christmas (more accurately, the message of Jesus) is peace, do we have an entire world system that has so dramatically missed it?

Aren’t there carols that refer to Jesus as The Desire of Nations? The phrase is found in Haggai 2:6, 7 and found an iconic expression in Handel’s Messiah (where you can literally heard the earth shake). Why hasn’t that happened? Why can’t the nations see the virtue of peace and the superiority of kindness, respect, and love found in the Person of Christ? One carol that describes Jesus this way is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”: “O come, Desire of Nations, bind/ All peoples in one heart and mind./ Bid envy, strife, and quarrels cease;/ Fill the whole with heaven’s peace.

If we look to the fulfillment of this carol stanza in our present time, we will get needlessly frustrated. The stories coming out of every continent on our planet scream the reality that the coming of Jesus to earth, the very thing we love and celebrate so joyfully each Christmas, has not resulted in the cessation of envy, strife, and quarrels. The whole earth isn’t filled with heaven’s peace. All people surely aren’t bound in one heart and mind. This is where we have to accept that in our hate-filled, violence-filled, terrorism-filled world, Jesus will not be the Desire of Nations until sometime in the future.  The reason is clear and found in John’s words:

We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. 1 John 5:19

The message of peace that believers see in the coming of Christ as a baby is only fulfilled partially today. The time of all nations desiring God will be in the future. Some people (and nations) are finding peace with others in this world now and we’re grateful for that. But more importantly, many are finding peace with God in this age.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1

“Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” also refers to Christ with Haggai’s title: Israel’s strength and consolation,/ Hope of all the earth Thou art./ Dear Desire of every nation/ Joy of every longing heart.” The hope in this prayer is possible to experience now, is available to all, but can only be received by those who repent and follow Christ. The timing of the fulfillment of that hope is up to God Himself and is only known to Him. But we should not stop praying for more people in this world to seek and find the Desire of Nations.