Christmas is rapidly approaching. There are gifts to buy and cookies to bake and gifts to buy and presents to wrap and gifts to buy and cards to send. Just thinking about it makes one dizzy. All I want for Christmas is peace. How about you?
The Challenge of Christmas
I was giving the invocation at Judson University’s graduations Saturday. The speaker, Dr. Gillian Stewart-Wells, reminded us of the litany of pressure we place on ourselves to have the perfect Hallmark channel Christmas. In our relentless pursuit of the perfect gift, we can miss the simple truth that the best gifts cannot be found in a store or Cyber Monday deal. If we aren’t careful, the materialism of Christmas can rob us of peace and joy.
Don’t you love watching children at Christmas? What a picture of joy! My kids were probably like your kids, grand kids, nephews or nieces. They had more fun at Christmas playing with the paper and boxes than the item inside.
Somehow young children understand the best gifts are being around family who love them. They gladly share the joy of discovering Christmas tinsel or a bow. Only as we grow older do we start to want particular items. We grow disappointed if our expectation is not met. Our joy can be lost because of the lack of a material thing, instead of being found in the peace and presence of friends and family.
The Pursuit of Peace
Dr. Stewart-Wells told Judson graduates about another child who understood peace. His name was Mattie Stepanek. Mattie suffered a rare disease which ended his life at age 13. In those short years, he had a profound impact on others around the world. Mattie was a gifted poet. His poem, For our World, written when he was 11 will astound you. He typed from a wheelchair with blood coming from his fingernails as he typed.
While being interviewed in a hospital at age 11 for possibly being on the Oprah show, he was asked:
“Well, why is peace so important to you?’ And he said, ‘We’re fighting over our differences, and our differences are our true beauty. We’re a mosaic of gifts and I can’t understand why we can’t get along like me and my mommy do.’ “
The Prince of Peace
Mattie is a wonderful reflection of the child we celebrate at Christmas. That child was called the Prince of Peace. Isa. 9:6. Jesus means savior. He perfectly embodied love. He gave his very life that we might live. Jesus came that we might experience peace and joy through him. He said,
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Jn. 14:27
The Promise of Peace
How about you? Do you want the gift of peace for your aging parent, struggling child, spouse, sibling or friend? Do you join the song – “Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me”? Jesus left us peace so we would share His peace with others. Many church traditions share the peace of Christ with one another every Sunday. Far from routine, this is a profound reminder of our calling to share peace.
This Christmas may I encourage you to be ambassadors of peace? For many this is a difficult time of year. The days are darker and they feel the same. They feel like they should be living in a Hallmark movie with caroling and perfectly decorated homes. But relationships are strained, money is tight, and joy is absent. They abandon the hope of ever experiencing peace and joy.
The Practice of Peace
I’ll call her Donna. She felt hopeless. A few weeks ago, she walked into a justice center full of despair. She said she had nothing to live for. The intake specialist feared she may be suicidal. Legal challenges create heavy burdens. When added to other life stressors, despair easily takes root. Donna was scammed into entering a contract she did not understand and now was stuck paying money she could not afford. She felt stupid, embarrassed and worthless. Now she was robbing her children of Christmas.
Donna met with an attorney who assured her she was not worthless. She was priceless. She made a mistake. We all do. The attorney intervened to stop the unfair agreement. Relieved Donna met with a client advocate. She heard the hope being restored as a legal burden was lifted. She also heard the lingering despair and feelings of worthlessness. Far from worthless, Donna is a daughter of the King of Creation, the Prince of Peace. Donna cried. She prayed to accept Jesus as her Savior.
The next week the advocate saw Donna at the local library. Donna was a new creation. She was filled with joy and excited to see her new friend. Her weeping has turned to joy. Her despair to peace.
The Privilege of Peace
Thank you for sharing the gift of peace with thousands of neighbors carrying heavy legal burdens. As we close our year, will you consider making a year-end gift to provide peace to your neighbors in need? We are praying to finish the year strong so we can free more people from legal burdens so they can flourish as Christ intends. Jesus said it is more blessed to give than to receive. Will you join in the blessing of giving?
Thank you. And may your Christmas season be filled with peace.