“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,
to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”
(Colossians 3:15 (ESV))
Okay, it’s not that I hate Christmas. I love this time of year when the whole world seems to join in on the celebration of the birth of our Lord, we pastors have ample opportunity to remind our congregations to watch and wait for our Lord’s return, and I love the music, the lights and decorations.
So I don’t hate Christmas as much as I hate what I become at Christmas. There’s something about Christmas that brings out the little kid in me. No, I don’t mean the little starry-eyed cherub all bundled up for the winter, sipping hot cocoa while signing slightly off-pitch Christmas Carols. I’m talking about that 5 year old terror on the floor in the toy aisle at the local department store, pitching an absolute hissy-fit over the toy that he absolutely has to have right now (even though Christmas is two weeks away). You know the one. That’s me.
And I am ashamed. Christmas brings out the worst in me. I get greedy, manipulative, and I pout when I don’t get what I want. I have become the Grinch.
And it disgusts me. I know this isn’t what Christmas is all about. I know that the gifts and the gadgets really don’t matter. I know that what really matters is that God, in His love for us, came to be with us, as one of us, in Jesus the Christ, who is called Emmanuel. I know that on that night, so long ago, the glory of God and the hope of the world came in the mystery of the Incarnate One; and I truly love that about Christmas.
But that old, insatiable, gluttonous, and covetous beast within me always seems to get the best of me at Christmas. This is why Christmas (that is, the commercial Christmas with presents and shopping and all of the trappings) is my least favorite holiday. I would rather celebrate Easter – there are no presents exchanged, and if we can lose all that garbage about the Easter Bunny, its pure spiritual celebration of our Risen Lord. And I love Independence Day. Again, no presents, just patriotism and fireworks.
So while it may sound simple and sappy, as though I were running for beauty queen, let me admit that all I really want, what I really need, this Christmas is peace. I don’t mean world peace. While that would be nice, knowing that we could live in peace and harmony with all mankind, knowing that my brother, and the rest of our armed forces could come home for Christmas, I know in reality that because of the brokenness of fallen mankind, that kind of peace will never happen until we finally enter the Kingdom of God.
No. When I say I want and need peace, I’m talking about that peace of mind, that assurance of salvation, that contentment in the goodness of God, that satisfaction in His glory and grace that only comes by living in true communion with Christ our Incarnate Lord. When I say I want peace, I mean peace from that maddening, driving, scrambling compulsion to have, be, and do more. When I say I want peace, I mean that peace that abides in my spirit that comes from resting in the promises of God. I’m looking for the peace that the angels proclaimed to the shepherds as they watched over their flocks at night, singing:
“Glory to God in the Highest
And on earth, peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
I know it’s a lot to ask. That kind of peace is a costly gift. It cost God the life of His Son.
I pray that this Christmas, I may truly enter into that peace that God has so richly offered in His Son. And I pray you may know it too.
Grace and peace be with you!