Preparing for Worship – Darren DeMent, associate pastor.
A couple of weeks back, December 8 to be exact, we marked the 40th anniversary of the death of John Lennon at the hands of a disgruntled and deranged fan. I was only six years old at the time, so I was not aware enough of who Lennon was to be very affected by it, but it was an event that truly shocked the world. The list of people who have had a comparable impact on music and culture as John Lennon is very short.
Among the many musical gifts he gave to the world is his 1971 holiday offering, “Happy Xmas (War is Over).” Now I admit I have some pretty rigid opinions about Christmas music, including when it should start being played — not until after Thanksgiving, thank you very much — and what is acceptable to listen to. When it comes to Christmas music, I take a closed canon approach. If it wasn’t recorded by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Andy Williams or others of that ilk and era, I don’t have much tolerance for it. But I make an exception when it comes to this song.
Originally the song was written as a protest song against the war in Vietnam, but over the years it has sort of been blended into the typical soundtrack of the season and gotten lost in playlists piped through speakers in malls and department stores.
The song is unique in that it finds itself falling in-between traditional holiday cheer songs (“Winter Wonderland,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” etc.) and more traditional carols that proclaim the birth of Jesus (“Silent Night,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” etc.). It is a song that demands we take account of our actions and consider what changes are needed to make the world a better place for all God’s children. It is a song that embodies the Advent themes of hope, peace, joy and love as well as any, even though it never mentions angels or shepherds or a baby and his mother.
And while I’m not advocating that we make room for it in our hymnal — although I wouldn’t mind, either — the final refrain, “war is over if you want it,” should be a sentiment easily endorsed by any of us claiming to celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace.
Friends, the Advent of our Lord is upon us. The time of preparation is nearing an end. May we make ourselves ready to welcome the Christ anew into our lives to comfort and challenge us as we seek to live as one of his disciples.