Matthew Keranen | The Voice of Zion December 2018 --
Peace is a central part of Christmas and its message. We may feel moments of peace when we gather at Christmas services or visit loved ones in a festively decorated home. Perhaps peace settles over us when we listen to Christmas music and read the Christmas in Zion. Or at a Christmas Program, when a child’s voice begins reading, “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus…” These special, holy moments help us pause during the darkest days of the year to remember.
We remember the fearful shepherds in the field, terrified and marveling at the heavens opening above them. God’s angel told the trembling ones, “Fear not!” A skyful of angels then sang out a Christmas greeting that reverberates across the ages and reaches our ears and hearts yet today: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” This message is still current, even though the first Christmas was over two thousand years ago.
Is there peace on earth? We live in a time when religious values lose their meaning and their place in people’s lives. God’s teachings have become strange to many, who may observe Christmas without considering the true meaning of Christmas. Merchants and advertisers market Christmas as a celebration of joy and peace. Their idea of Christmas peace, however, may be devoid of Christian meaning. There are many who have not been able to feel the true peace of Christmas.
Christmas can be a restless, clamorous season. Music, noise, hubbub, Christmas markets, shopping, gifts, sleigh bells, decorating, baking, twinkling lights and partying may drive us farther away from observing the birthday of our King and Savior. There is a time for everything, including merrymaking and holiday preparations, but do we remember to reserve time for calm and reflection amidst the tinsel-hanging and goose-stuffing? Is there peace in our hearts? As we tidy our homes and hang fir boughs and lights, let us also prepare our hearts to greet the Christchild.
The angel message bade good will to all humankind. Do we embody good will towards our loved ones and neighbors, friends and acquaintances? It seems that in recent times, people’s attitudes toward others have hardened. This is evident in malicious, critical speech. There is merit in voicing problems and grievances and addressing them in a constructive way. But offending others deepens conflicts and makes discussion more difficult.
Let us recall how God’s grace teaches us to live in peace with all people, regardless of their opinions and outlook on life. God’s will is that we would treat one another mercifully, with a forgiving mind. He wishes this on us every day, not just at Christmas time. Every one of us, through our own speech and behavior, can bring the gift of good will into our personal relationships.
Christmas peace may be external or internal. A person bustling and shopping and baking may feel the restful, unhurried peace of Christmas in her heart. Or one whose job requires its doer to report for duty, holiday or not, may find their heart imbued with Christmas peace even on the job. Meanwhile, another who sits in quiet solitude, listening to Christmas carols and sipping cinnamon tea while surveying his beautifully decorated home, may long for genuine Christmas peace in his heart.
There may be those who don’t even seek Christmas peace. Quiet calm may reveal their sore, restless consciences to them, whereas frenzied activity drowns the pangs. For some, alcohol or drugs drive a wedge of sorrow and wrong priorities into the peace they might otherwise feel. Some people may be saddled with work burdens and worries even over the holidays. We remember with compassion those to whom, for one reason or another, Christmas peace is out of reach.
If you are lacking peace, where can you find it? There is a clue in the Bible’s Christmas Gospel. Recall how the angels that night long ago promised the shepherds that they would find something wonderful in a stable nearby. This invitation to look into the manger and see a miracle is still valid today! The warmly wrapped, innocent Jesus-child is a helpless baby who became a child and then a man, a man who obeyed His Father and bore our sins for us. He died so we could live. In His name and in His blood—the gospel of the forgiveness of sins—we find Christmas peace. Those who hear the gospel and believe receive true peace that lasts through all the days of the year.
Faith of the heart gives each of us genuine Christmas peace. Faith opens before our eyes the deep meaning of the events of that first Christmas night. A good conscience brings calm into our lives. As one year ends and another begins, we can trust in God’s safe guidance. We pray that God, in His goodness, will once gather us all in His gentle arms and bear us home for Christmas that never ends.
On behalf of the LLC Publication Staff, I wish you a healthy measure of Christmas cheer, and boundless Christmas peace.