Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Peace and Joy

(Author's Note: I will be on an extended holiday beginning today. WftW will return next year on January 16th.  Until then, may you have a blessed Christmas season and a wonderful beginning to the New Year! Jim)

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’” (Luke 2:8-14 NIV)

I was walking out of Wal-Mart yesterday and a car was waiting for me to cross. Suddenly, a woman swerved around the car and turned right in front of me and sped to the next aisle where she saw an open parking space. If I had not been paying attention, she would have hit me.

Often, the holiday season brings out the worst in people. I talked with a friend the other day and he noted that few people seemed very happy in the store where he was shopping. They feel the stress of so many things needing to be accomplished—getting that perfect gift, having the right decorations and putting them up, planning parties and dinners, and the list of things to do goes on and on. Students are soon to be heading home for the holidays and many of them are stressed because of the situations they will encounter when they arrive. 

At a time when we are supposed to commemorate the arrival of good news—the birth of the Prince of Peace—and be filled with great joy, most of the time, despite portrayals of cheesy Christmas movies and commercials this time of year, there often seems to be little of either peace or joy.

Perhaps we have allowed our culture to shape and skew our view of what the Christmas celebration is supposed to be. Instead of the sentimentality in which it has increasingly been wrapped—of being with a loving family, the excitement of opening presents on Christmas morning, a wonderful meal, and snow falling throughout—suppose we were to focus instead on why the Church has celebrated the birth of Jesus for centuries? Would it make a difference to focus on the fact that we each are sinners in need of a Savior and we could have no hope without His coming? Would we experience Christmas differently if we recognized that, while the Magi brought gifts, it was in the context of worshiping the King of Kings? The focus was solely on Him. Would it make a difference if we understood “peace” and “joy” not as feelings we have when everything goes right, but as the feelings we can have even at times when life is very difficult and far from what we would prefer it to be?

The coming of peace and joy, which the heavenly host announced, was not about our life circumstances suddenly improving, but in giving us hope in the midst of unfavorable, and sometimes dire, circumstances. The 1st Century was not a time of wonderful situations and happy times. Nor has any century since been such. Life in a fallen world has always been hard and will continue to be until the newborn King returns to make it right again.

Today, and throughout this Christmas season, remember the joy and peace promised on that first Christmas was not based on the shepherds’ circumstances changing for the better. Rather, it meant they now could have peace and joy in the midst of their hard and challenging lives.  That has not changed in more than 2000 years. So this Christmas season, let the knowledge of the Lord’s deep love for you, His mercy, and saving grace be your focus. Then all the stresses that seem to come with this time of year can be put into their proper perspective and, in turn, lessen their effects.  

May we all experience peace and joy this Christmas season as we celebrate the truly Good News of Jesus’ birth and focus on what it means for us. Peace and joy to you.

© Jim Musser 2017

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