My children—particularly my seven-year old son—love to play Christmas music every day leading up to Christmas. After so many years of listening to Christmas music, I have many favorite songs, but I also have a handful of them that I simply do not like, such as “Happy Xmas” by John Lennon.
When I heard Lennon’s voice rasp over our Amazon Music station, I walked into the living room to give it a thumbs down in the hopes I would not have to hear it again. Before I reached the remote, however, I heard a line from the song that gave me pause: “A Merry Merry Christmas / and a Happy New Year / Let’s Hope It’s a Good One / Without Any Fears”
A year without fears.
Wouldn’t that be nice?
Most of us reach the end of each year hoping the next one will be “better” and yet I can’t think of a single year in my life that didn’t bring some crisis or concern. Each year carries with it another natural disaster, the death of loved ones, and some unwanted change. Even the dawning of each day heralds new hopes and new troubles.
As long as we live on this earth, there will be challenges, sin, and death.
I hit the thumbs down and left the room, but as I thought about that line, it struck me that this is a theme in another John Lennon song. In “Imagine,” Lennon expresses a similar longing for earthly peace and harmony:
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us, only sky
Imagine all the people living for today
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Imagine all the people living life in peace
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one.
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world
I realize there are many who think this song is the best thing since sliced bread, but any song that rejects the promise of God and heaven is a song I will not be able to enjoy, even if the melody is beautiful.
What I hear in both songs is a yearning for a perfect world—a utopia. Because sin is in the world, we will never have total peace and harmony.
You may say I’m a realist, but I’m not the only one.
If a significant portion of the population decided to lay down their arms, share their possessions, and practice compassion, a faction would inevitably rise to take advantage of this peace to overpower or enslave them. Just reading secular history is enough to remind us that peace never lasts and those without weapons become victims of those who bear them.
Every person who lives on this earth is simply a sojourner. We are either on our way to a home in heaven or on our way to eternal enslavement. As humans, we resist our itinerant state and attempt to make earth permanent home. We fight for a bit of land, we fight for possessions, we fight to be remembered and admired, and we fight tooth and nail to cling to life. We fight, and are never satisfied.
In both songs, “Happy Xmas” and “Imagine,” John Lennon is essentially longing for God without even recognizing the nature of his longing. He wanted what God offers each of us in heaven—peace, life, harmony—but did not want to become like Christ in order to receive God’s gifts.
Each of us is created with an innate desire for God. Paul pointed this out in his speech at the Areopagus:
“Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you… [God] made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for
“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
as even some of your own poets have said,
“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’”
~ Acts 17.22-28, ESV
We are made for more than this life, but too many of us want to settle for this life and reject the better life. We cannot have heaven without God. We cannot have God without the sacrifice of Jesus. We cannot have Jesus if we cling to this world.
“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”
~ C.S. Lewis