The Editor’s Desk by Shawn McMullen
For several years Ree and I have hosted our McMullen family Christmas gathering. On the day after Christmas about 50 members of our extended family (four generations of McMullens) gather in our home to celebrate Christ’s birth, share a meal together, and exchange presents.
Maintaining a tradition that began with my father reading the Christmas story aloud to the grandchildren, we appoint one member of the family to read from the Gospel of Luke and another to pray before we open our presents. During one recent family Christmas gathering we listened to the Gospel account of Jesus’ birth and bowed our heads as my nephew Greg led us in prayer. A moment of reverent silence followed. Convinced that something needed to be added—and quickly—to her daddy’s “Amen,” my then 2-year-old niece Beatrice (Greg’s daughter) broke the silence by joyfully shouting, “And everybody’s happy!”
We shared a laugh at Beatrice’s cheerful outburst, and I’ve told the story many times since. But I’ve also thought about what she said, and about how wonderful it would be if everybody truly were happy.
It won’t happen in this life, however. Our world is steeped in sin and sin leads to sorrow. Sadly, many people choose this path.
But the fact that many are unhappy doesn’t mean all are. The psalmist wrote, “May the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful” (Psalm 68:3). Righteous people are happy people. That’s not to say they’re exempt from disappointment, sadness, and grief. But it does mean we who have been made righteous by the atoning work of Christ (see Romans 5:19) have an inner happiness life can’t steal away—a happiness that comes from accepting God’s grace and anticipating Heaven.
God expects us to contribute to our own happiness too. The writer of Ecclesiastes noted, “Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart” (Ecclesiastes 5:19, 20). The writer describes this condition as “a gift of God,” but like his grace, it’s not universal. We have the ability to be happy, but we can also refuse to be. Degrees of happiness vary even among the righteous. I’m sure we’ve all seen examples.
But thankfully even this isn’t permanent. One day everything will be made right. Reflecting on his vision of the heavenly city, the apostle John wrote,
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:3, 4).
I may never get to say it in this life, but one day I’ll find myself surrounded by the splendor of Heaven, looking out on a multitude of redeemed people, able at last to shout, “And everybody’s happy!”