Pastor Mark Anderson, Lutheran Church of the Master, Corona del Mar, California
The late Beatle, John Lennon, showed up on a Christmas playlist recently. In his song, “Imagine”, Lennon called upon us to “Imagine there’s no heaven.” Great.
I suppose one could chalk Lennon’s lyric up to the naive, adolescent dreaming, which it is, but it is also not that simple. The fact that Lennon’s song, ‘Imagine’ has become the virtual one-world anthem for many points to something deeper at work here.
Lennon’s text, forget the music, is an unbridled summons to a spiritually vacant existence. “No heaven, no countries, no possessions.” This is the reality Lennon called for. Essentially, a godless utopia where everyone dances gleefully around the equity maypole, “living for today”, in a flattened one-dimensional existence. A secular garden of Eden, minus God.
The fact that millions swoon with teary-eyed romanticism when they hear this ode to nihilism reveals how adrift in meaningless so many are. And it also reminds us of how a dangerous lyric can be hidden within a saccharine melody.
What Lennon’s offering has to do with Christmas is locked somewhere in the bizarre, convoluted thinking of whoever added this tune to a Christmas playlist. But the insertion of this song into the Christmas canon is not so benign or ignorant a move. In microcosm it is nothing more or less than an example of humanity’s incessant need to do away with God, to have life on our terms. It is, in fact, a move of cynical nihilism, a soiling of the beautiful, innocent and hopeful story of Bethlehem’s child.
One can only lament such a world, lost in its pretensions and willfulness. At the same time those for whom the Christmas is the story of God’s love incarnate, may with confidence, and with some joy, too, counter these nihilistic voices with the proclamation of authentic hope; a hope not rooted in the naive ramblings of adolescent dreamers but in the sure and certain promises of God, revealed in the One
“whom shepherds guard and angels sing…the babe, the Son of Mary.”