As we begin the final preparations to your home and family this Christmas, some feel a sense of excitement and others, a heavy weight of duty to create the perfect Christmas environment. The perfect gift, the perfect food, the perfect music or ambiance. Many of us feel the burden to try and create the “peace on earth” that we read and sing about. While there’s nothing wrong with setting a great atmosphere in which to worship our savior and His birth, if our motivation is emotion and feeling, our efforts will be temporary and tiresome. Let’s face it- if your Christmas was “magical” as a child, it’s because someone you lived with did a ton of work to make it feel that way! What we are all looking for this season is a day, an evening, or simply a moment of peace and it’s usually only created if we work incredibly hard to achieve it. The contradiction at Christmas is that the true peace found only in the Christ-Child is a peace that we can’t work for. It’s a gift given that we don’t manufacture. Peace with God is something that is categorically impossible for us to achieve on our own because our sin and disobedience with God separated us from Him and destroyed the peace we once had with Him. The Prophet Isaiah pens these words in Chapter 59:
“but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear”
This is why Jesus is the greatest gift of all. He comes to settle our debts and restore peace with God. This is everlasting, mighty, and wonderful peace: peace that dwells and isn’t situational or temporary. Jesus invites us to have eternal security and a peace that will cut through all of our unrest in this world. Advent, after all, is a time of mystery and contradiction. The peace that God brings amidst this restless world is, as the Apostle Paul says in chapter 4 of his letter to the Philippians, something we can scarcely understand:
“and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”
What if this peace was the starting point for us this Christmas? Amidst the movement and chaos of this season, what if we began by dwelling in our forgiveness from sin and our eternal security and peace with God? What if we lived out of this reality and were driven by God’s life and presence? Christmas may not be much slower or less chaotic, but just as we are called to remember the Sabbath Day, we must also seek “Shalom,” or “spiritual harmony brought about by an individual’s restoration with God.” In this seeking, may we all find even a moment of God’s true peace. In this living out of a true relationship with God made available through Jesus, may we bring the light of His peace into this season. In allowing in this unearned gift because of Jesus, may we find that our vulnerable hearts and minds are at peace and settled.
Lectionary Readings for the Fourth Sunday of Advent