The well known Christmas hymn Silent Night says much of what we are hoping for this time of year when it reads, “sleep in heavenly peace.” There is a notion that Christmastime ought to be peaceful if we are doing it right, or at least, we should try to create some semblance of it with our hearths decked out, our tree lights on, and Andy Williams crooning in the background. Whether we achieve peace or not, it’s the gold standard of this time of year. If we are honest though, what is actually “peaceful” about this time of year anyway? Shopping lists, dinner guests, children’s expectations needing to be met, Christmas cookies to be baked, Christmas photos to be taken, and the list goes on and on. For most of us, the burden and responsibility of creating a peaceful atmosphere seems to put a damper on our so-called Christmas joy, even if our families and children might be feeling the “Christmas spirit.” We lack peace because we search for it in the wrong places.
When Jesus was born in the year 1 AD, the people of God were scattered, oppressed, and in conflict with a tyrannical government, and were living in silence from any messages from God. Rome was pressing down on freedoms and livelihoods and no one was speaking God’s words. There was an abundance of fear and anxiety and as we can imagine, a lack of peaceful feelings.
Today’s story of Gideon mirrors well the world Jesus was brought into. Israel was oppressed, pillaged, and in hiding. Similarly, in our own stories, we find a world in unrest. Masked faces, poverty, uncertainty, volatility, slavery, and conflict. In our stories, in Gideon’s story, in the Christmas story, true peace seems to come only where we cannot create it and it will not happen apart from God arriving on the scene and declaring His peace on us. He says to Gideon, who is in hiding, “Peace be to you.” The shepherds far away in the fields hear, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Peace comes from God and Him alone. The type of false peace that we try to conjure up with lights and music only goes so far, and the reason we have a tendency to be so anxious this time of year is because we try and enter into this false kind of peace without God. God can and does change our stories, our circumstances, and our surroundings, but He is in the business of changing our hearts first and foremost.
Peace comes with relationship with God, not from a quiet fireside or the perfect family dinner. Those scenes have their place, but they are only satisfying when we are right with God. The peace of God means wholeness, but not just that. It is a wholeness that comes from working together with God, our Father. A relationship with God restores us to who we were created to be. A relationship that Jesus came to repair and restore our hearts with Heavenly peace. Jesus brings peace to where we could not or would not possibly find it on our own. When we trust Him and live unto Him as our savior and friend, we get His peace.
Jesus’ peace is available to us now, in whatever trial, anxiety, or oppression we face, and no amount of decking the halls will bring it about. Find peace in Jesus today. His peace isn’t conditional or situational, but is eternal, secure, and free for us now. Invite Him into your current situation and know that He came to to restore and repair what was broken in your heart so that you would be beacon of His light, and can join with Him in the restoration story for the world. Now, THAT is a gift worth sharing this season and THAT is where you can find peace in its most potent form.
Adult: Where do you seek peace? As you are reminded of what true peace is, ask Jesus to be your peace this season.
Youth: Sit in silence for as long as you can. Don’t depend on a show, or a book or an activity. Ask Jesus to show you how He is the best gift you could get this year.
Young Children: What is your favorite part of the Christmas season? Make a list of all the ways this favorite part of the season can point to Jesus. Be creative! Try to begin seeing Jesus in all that you do and celebrate this year.
The fourth week of Advent lectionary Scriptures
2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16 Luke 1:46b-55 Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26 Romans 16:25-27 Luke 1:26-38