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White Christmas – Peace and Hope

With 50 million copies sold, not only is Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" the best-selling Christmas song of all time, it's also the best-selling single ever, according to Guinness World Records.                                                 

Though it was written for a musical that eventually became the classic flick Holiday Inn, the song has a sad backstory too. It was written by Irving Berlin, a Russian-born immigrant who, interestingly enough, did not celebrate Christmas, as he was Jewish. Berlin's 3-week-old son had died on Christmas day in 1928, so every year on Dec. 25, he and his wife visited their baby's grave. The song may have been Berlin’s way of responding in some way to his melancholy about the death of his son.

On Dec. 7, 1941, a surprise attack by the Japanese did unfathomable damage and caused great loss of life at the American port at Pearl Harbor. Franklin Roosevelt summoned his military leaders to the White House and ordered a bombing raid on Japan. The country was at war.

Just a few days after this — Dec. 24, 1941 — Bing Crosby introduced "White Christmas" on his highly successful radio broadcast, Kraft Music Hall, and the song struck a chord for families trying to recapture the peace and hope of the Christmas season.

As I write this, the Christmas season is in full swing, and I am reminded that our world today is still looking to find or recapture peace and hope. And though the song "White Christmas" had its place, it could not then and will not now bring true peace and hope.

There is, however, a story that includes a few special individuals who were looking to recapture peace and hope. It took place during what would become the very first Christmas season. Those few special individuals are ones that quickly come to mind when I think of that first Christmas.

I think of Mary and of her response to the angel Gabriel’s words, informing her that she would be with child, conceived of the Holy Spirit. She would be "mom" to the long-expected Savior of the world. Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

According to your word! Mary had complete faith in the coming Messiah. She was looking for His coming.

"Her acquiescence in the will of God concerning her, v. 38. She owns herself, ... A believing expectant of the divine favor. She is not only content that it should be so, but humbly desires that it may be so: Be it unto me according to thy word. Such a favor as this it was not for her to slight, or be indifferent to; and for what God has promised he will be sought unto; by prayer we must put our amen, or so be it, to the promise. Remember, and perform thy word unto thy servant, upon which thou has caused me to hope. We must, as Mary here, guide our desires by the word of God, and ground our hopes upon it. Be it unto me according to thy word; just so, and no otherwise" (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible).

Mary was looking for the coming Messiah because it was according to God’s word. She was not looking for His promise with indifference but with hope, and when given her part to play in that promise – amen, so be it!

I remember the shepherds, who were watching their flocks on that blessed night when Jesus was born — the first to receive the magnificent news.

"And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, 'Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger'” (Luke 2:8–12).

Why share with these lowly and humble shepherds above all others? "In the fields where the boy David had led his flock, shepherds were still keeping watch by night. Through the silent hours they talked together of the promised Savior and prayed for the coming of the King to David's throne" (The Desire of Ages, pg. 47).

These humble shepherds, despised by many, were looking for the coming Messiah as well. In the place of their calling, amid their work, they were talking of and praying for the promised One. It didn’t stop in the fields. According to God’s word, they left the fields for a manger where they greeted baby Jesus, and leaving they made known all they had seen and heard.

Then there is Anna the prophetess. It is hard to imagine just how faithful she had been in looking for the coming Savior.

"And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was 84. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem" (Luke 2:36–38).

Not departing from the temple, fasting and praying night and day, Anna was faithfully looking for the Messiah. That day, at the appointed hour, she was giving thanks and speaking to all who were waiting, because she had seen the One she was looking for.

We could add Joseph, Simeon and the Magi, each of whom were looking for the promised Messiah. Joseph followed the command of the Lord, taking Mary to be his wife, when it seemed best to do just the opposite. Simeon, who would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ, faithfully was looking. The Magi saw a star that lingered in the sky like no other, and then searched and followed the star out of Jacob. Each were looking for and seeking the Messiah.

The story of the first Christmas is the story of Immanuel, God with us, and as we have seen it is also the story of a few special individuals who were looking for peace and hope. More importantly though, they were looking for the coming of Jesus, the only way to true peace and hope.

From that very first Christmas season, through the Christmas season of 1941 and right up to today as I am writing this, our world really hasn’t changed. We are still trying to recapture the peace and hope of the Christmas season. And much like that first Christmas, the only way there is through the promised One. Here is the beautiful part to all of this: Just as in the first Christmas season, Jesus is coming soon!

During the Christmas season of 1941, as our country came into war, Bing Crosby introduced "White Christmas" and it struck a chord for families trying to recapture the peacefulness and hope of the Christmas season. The following year the song was played over and over by Armed Forces Radio to remind the troops of home during the Christmas season. Some thought it would make the troops sad as they longed to be home with their families, but it was the longing for home, for a better place and time that made "White Christmas" the beloved Christmas song we know today.

Over and over again, year in and year out, we experience the Christmas season. Does it make you long for home, for a better place and time? Do we have true peace and hope? Do we find ourselves looking for a soon coming Savior?

I want to be like those special few that first Christmas? I want to be faithfully, anxiously looking for Jesus’ promised coming. Given my part to play in that promise, amen, so be it! In the place of my calling, amid my work, talking of and praying for the promised One. Not leaving the temple — God’s presence — faithfully looking for and proclaiming to all who will hear, the soon return of Jesus.

I want to, in some way, bring peace and hope to this Christmas season.


Jim Jenkins

Montana Conference vice president of administration