3 Words That Are Most Misused During Christmas

I wrote this post two years back, but I wanted to share it (with some edits) again with you this holiday season. It really bothers me that, as the commercialization and materialism of Christmas continues to get worse every year, meaningful words that have great depth are used carelessly and disingenuously as marketing ploys.

I hope you enjoy my thoughts and think about these words and what they mean to you.


One thing I’ve noticed more than ever before this holiday season is the use of words. Not just any words, but Christmas words. You know what I’m talking about:

Joy. Peace. Believe. Faith. Hope. Love. Etc., etc., etc.

I know that these words are often used during Christmas time. However, what’s been weird to me is the amount of advertisements that have been using these words. From Nordstrom’s to Chase bank to Macy’s, these words are everywhere!

But what do they really mean?

Where, in all the flippant usages of these words, do we find a true meaning?

Let’s look at three of the most misused words and truly think about their meaning…


According to many advertisements we see this time of year, joy means merchandise. It means spending money and buying things. I’ve seen the word Joy tossed about a lot this holiday season on numerous marketing campaigns. Joy is pasted on the same pages as clothes and toys and smiling models.

To the modern mind, joy means little more than happiness. So to be joyful, you must be happy. And of course, being happy means getting stuff. Oh yeah, and giving stuff (they add that on for Christmas).

This is a sad representation of joy. To be joyful in the biblical sense means something entirely different—an inner radiance that is completely independent from our outer circumstances and the latest fashion trends and toys. Although I admit Christians throw around this word joy a lot, too, still, it is something profound. I think one can only begin to realize what joy is when they have been walking through a dark time and seen God walk alongside them.

Think of this verse: My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever ( Psalm 73:26).

In God, no matter if our heart is failing or our strength is weakening, He is our strength. With true joy, although I might be faced with difficult circumstances (and feel sad, too), I can still have an inner joy that goes deeper than any surface experience. It isn’t the same of happiness. It’s deeper and richer than any shallow happiness. It makes one’s eyes shine with the knowledge of a better way than seeking happiness or selfish ambition.

With true joy, then, comes a deep peace.


If you’re out shopping this holiday season, you can see lots of signs about “peace.” “Peace” is plastered again on many store windows and in advertisements.Although joy is definitely misused, I think peace has been misused even more substantially.

I think we can look at the state of many Americans and wonder if they even know what “peace” means in their lives. Rampant suicide, divorce, depression. Chaos as the economy staggers and the dept crisis continues. Where and what is peace? Do material possessions bring peace? Does a stable financial state bring peace? No. Again, I think peace is linked with happiness or being comfortable oftentimes.

Humans don’t know what peace is. That is clearly stated in Isaiah 59:8—“They do not know the way of peace…they have made their paths crooked, whoever treads on them does not know peace.”

In reality, the Bible tells us that Christ alone brings peace. In fact, in Luke 1:79, Zacharias states that Christ comes to “guide our feet into the way of peace.” Although we have no idea what peace means, Christ knows.

“Peace, I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be trouble, not let it be fearful.” [John 14:27]

Christ promises that if we are following Him, we can have a deep, inner peace that transcends circumstances that come our way. We don’t have to be worried, afraid, or troubled. We can be content in any circumstance.

But we have to fix our eyes on Him. In order to have this deep joy, this deep peace in the true senses of these words…our hope must be place in Christ.

We must truly believe in Him.


Out of all of the words thrown around during the holiday season, this word gets trashed the most. “Believe, Believe, Believe!” It’s everywhere! On ads about Santa, in every sappy Christmas movie you can rent. Every way this word used is, it’s about Santa and believing in him, even though we all know he’s fake.  

It’s ironic to me that children can “believe” in an unseen Santa during Christmas and it’s fine. But any other time of the year, belief in something unseen is looked down upon. What a weird, twisted way to use believe.

To truly use believe in it’s proper context is to trust in something with your entire mind and heart. To truly believe in something changes your entire outlook on life.

I believe that Christ came to this earth and died for me. Therefore I am righteous and can enter God’s throne room without shame. If I didn’t really believe this was true, I wouldn’t pray because I wouldn’t really think God cares about me. I also would live a life full of legalistic rules because I’d want to please God and not mess up.

Yet I also believe that He is in control of this world, that He works everything out for good. Therefore, when I do mess up, or when sorrow some into my life, I can believe that God is still there and is watching over me. I’ve believed these things through trials that have tested me on every level. When I face pain, then my beliefs become true or false.

I guess that’s where true joy and true peace then come. Through true belief in the Christ who was born in a stable thousands of years ago and changed the entire world. Through belief in that same Christ who rose and is living and active today in our lives no matter the pains and trials we experience. Christ lives in me. He is alive. His birth we celebrate during Christmas gives me joy and peace.


What are other words you find that are misused for marketing schemes (for Christmas or any other time of the year)?

  • Tim

    As I read your take on “Joy” misused in advertising I kept thinking of those commercials that tell me joy is finding a Lexus in your driveway, complete with a big red bow stuck on top. I’ve driven some fancy-schmancy cars over the years. In some I felt pampered and others gave me a thrill, but I never experienced joy in them.

    Thanks for the reminder of the important words that go with the coming of our Lord, Teryn.


    • Yes, I think it’s really dangerous to associate joy with material possessions. I myself have been through so many hard places the last few years that I know the depth of what joy is even in midst of dark circumstances. No car (or anything else) is going to give you that profound sense of joy, peace, or belief.

      This is probably why Americans truly do struggle with so much depression and unhappiness. We are taught to associate material possessions with the deepest parts of the human heart and soul. We are told (by the media/marketing) that if we just have the latest product, then somehow, our hearts will be full. Nope. No iPhone is going to fill the voids in my heart.

      Anyway…rambling now!

      • Tim

        If that’s rambling, it’s awfully eloquent.

      • Lauralea

        Tim’s absolutely right, I’m quoting your “rambling” right now on my facebook page! This is the perfect way to gently reach out to those who most need the Christmas message.

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  • Thank you for sending up a flare on behalf of the true meaning of the Feast of the Incarnation of Christ. I needed a reminder, and I found it here. God bless you.

  • Sharon

    I am also appalled as how people tent to use an “X” in place of Christ in Christmas. Greed has taken over so much of the true meaning of Christmas. MERRY CHRISTMAS ans thanks for a wonderful article.

    • Tim

      I like the X. It’s a connection from us all the way back to the early church, which used the letter X (Greek Chi) as the symbol for Christ. Using Xmas doesn’t x-out Christ. It represents Christ the way the first Christians did.

      Blessed Advent and Merry Xmas to all!


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