Happy Christmas! But What Did Jesus Mean by “Happy”?

December 21, 2015 in News by RBN Staff

| Posted by  | 

As many of us celebrate Jesus’ birth, may peace be upon us…if we are willing to struggle for it.  For no condition we can seek on planet earth requires a more heroic effort than this.  Any child can, with a little adult coaching, understand that we have war, not peace, because someone wants it.  Wars are a profitable conditions for those who start them, but do not have to fight, nor risk financial loss, nor be made homeless by war.  We Americans live in a war-based society, as Jesus did.


So at Christmas, We Hold These Truths takes a moment to reflect on what Jesus, the peacemaker, told his followers about happiness and righteousness and the narrow path to both.  Jesus spoke of peace at a time and place when it did not exist, where arrest and crucifixion could face any dissenter if he became a problem to the religious and occupying powers, who together ran the government. Christ preached on the hills of Judea, a province occupied by Roman soldiers, who controlled it with a small detachment and the help of Pharisees and other corrupted Israelite religious leaders. They had become mere Roman puppets…from King Herod to the Pharisees, Sadducees and the secular tax collectors. All profited as instruments of the conquering Romans.  Rome’s wars were always elective, fought for wealth which was divided up among the invaders…right down to the foot soldiers who got a little of it.  And, if there was no gold to divide, there was always a slave to bind and march back home.

Let us look at a few of Jesus’ words from His most direct lecture on human behavior and peace of mind. His call for peace, and His eternal promise is reported imperfectly, but unmistakably, in the book of Matthew, Chapter 5, called “the Beatitudes.”  It begins with: “Happy are those who are in spirit ‘poor’ for they would inherit the kingdom of heaven.”

Unfortunately, the most popular Bible translations, including King James version, use the word “Blessed” instead of “Happy,” which is not quite right, for the Greek word that occurs in the ancient Greek texts is “makar’ion” and translates to “happy.” The Greek equivalent of “blessed” is quite different and does not occur in the ancient texts.

The next six beatitudes are provided without the reason (or the punch line) which I hope you will look up in your Bible to confirm what Jesus meant by ‘happy’.  I am emphasizing the last three beatitudes, which are about peace and its cost.  

“Happy are those who mourn, for… “

“Happy are the meek…”

“Happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…”

“Happy are the merciful…”

“Happy are the clean in heart…”

“Happy are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”

“Happy are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” 

“Happy are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake”

Jesus closed this speech with these words of encouragement:  You are the light of the world.. A city located on a mountain can not be hid.”

Our churches are supposed to be our “city on a mountain.”  They are not. We are up against professional war makers in Washington’s, as committed to war as was Bellona, the Roman goddess of war in Jesus time.  Let us call it, The US Unelected Supra Government (“USUSG” hereafter). There are no peacemakers in it, its values are, greed,  arrogance, vengeance, brutality, selfishness.  It persecutes and reviles at will, as did the government that crucified Jesus.   

How is the Middle East different today?  USUSG has replaced the Roman rule.  Crude oil and the raw power that goes with it, not slaves, is the booty.

We are thankful that some church leaders are changing,  making commitments for peace.  Cofounder, Lynn Hybels of huge Willow Creek Church,* recently made major news for it, and her story is recommended.  And we have written gratefully of other peace movements within mainline denominations, including the PCUSA

But far too many religious leaders and pastors still either do not recognize there is a struggle, or fear loss of members if they talk about it. They could at least pray for wisdom for all to understand our wars. They are supposed to be “the city standing on a hill” that can not be hidden.  But hidden many are.

We ask, WHO WOULD JESUS BOMB?  WHO WOULD JESUS OCCUPY?  Every child knows the answer is “No one.”  We live in the most “Christian” country on the planet, according the Hartford Institute, which claims there are about 350,000 church congregations with about 56 million weekly worshipers. Most of these would claim to follow Christ.  If one-third of them would take a stand for peace, after 25 years of continuous foreign wars that America started in 1991, no political force could stand against such public outcry. The leaders of US Unelected Supra Government (USUSG) no longer can deny they are aggressors in every one of these wars, so why is it so hard to pray for an end to war? 

Yes friends, this is a bittersweet Christmas letter, but I will take a chance that Jesus, the Peacemaker will approve.  A bit of poetry, that I once had to learn, is worth a full reading. It begins:

“Abou Ben Adhem, may his tribe increase, awoke one night with a dream of peace…” May we each awake with such a dream.

– Author and Volunteer Team at whtt.org

Notes and links:

Link to on online bible:

Matthew 5: Translations using “happy” instead of “blessed”: Concordant Literal New Testament (used by author, not available on line)- Living Bible, Common English Bible, Good News Translation, International Children’s Bible

Abou Ben Adhem, by Leigh Hunt: