Recently, an article online caught my attention. It had a headline arguing that scientific studies have confirmed that putting up Christmas decorations early could help you be happier. It talked about how given all the anxiety and turmoil in the world around us, putting up our lights and trees and nativity scenes help evoke childhood excitement.
It has been interesting to watch as the social debate over when it’s acceptable to put up Christmas decorations has been getting louder over the last few years, and I’ve noticed that more neighbors are putting out their holiday festive décor earlier. When I was driving the other day, I was belting out Andy Williams’ “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” way ahead of schedule.
What’s going on? Why are we so drawn to the wonder and awe of the Christmas season that we are willing to put up decorations earlier just to get a taste of the holiday magic? It’s simple. The 2020s have been a rough few years so far, and whether we realize it or not, what we really are looking for this time of year isn’t something you will find in an Amazon Prime deal or on a Black Friday sale at Kohl’s. It’s something intangible that only comes from being introduced to someone. One of those intangibles that we are all desperately longing for this Christmas season, I believe, is peace.
We live in a world filled with turmoil and conflict. Whether it comes in the form of the images and scenes from the recent carnage committed in Israel and the images of destruction we are seeing in the region or with the ongoing war in Ukraine, or if it comes in the form of culture and ideological battles or in our polarizing politics that seem to be headed for a rough election year ahead, it seems and feels like there is an underlying anxiety and anger in the world today. We see and read about so many examples of lawlessness where arguments can get out of control with civility and the ability to agree to disagree increasingly becoming scarce in our social conscience or when we are constantly bombarded with negativity and dread with every news story we read.
Maybe you’ve been lacking peace in your marriage, or in your job, or in your mind or in your family or with your neighbors, and ultimately within yourself. We typically look for an “escape room” of sorts from our pain, our anxiety, our depression, our loneliness, our dread. The Bible says, “But (those without the lord) are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt” (Isaiah 57:20). And yet, all the while, there is a calm for the restless soul and a peace that can be had, if only we look to a child who was born in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago to find that peace.
Ironically, the world at the time of the first Christmas was also a place of turmoil and hopelessness and dread for the future. It was a time of great anxiety for the people of Israel who had long been waiting for God to make good on his promise for thousands of years to one day send a deliverer for Israel and all mankind. Under the cover of darkness with shepherds watching their flocks, an angelic host appeared to bring a much-needed greeting and announcement that bears as much relevance today as it did then: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a savior, who is Christ the lord … Peace on earth and good will to men” (Luke 2:10-11,14).
Christmas brings peace, because God, in becoming a man in the person of Jesus Christ, came to bring peace. Peace, first and foremost, between you and God, by trusting in and believing, that the greatest gift offered to us came not with special wrapping but rather came to us wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. He offers us peace with our creator and peace with our fellow man.
The question for all of us is whether we will find what we are all searching for every Christmas. Not just a chance to relive our childhood, or to have momentary but short-lived excitement and thrill at the wonder and awe of this time of year but rather a chance to have and experience true peace, absolute joy, and real hope — all of which is available to us if we would accept the gift that God offers each one of us this Christmas: the gift of his son. Will you make room in your heart for the prince of peace?
“Peace is not the absence of conflict; it is the presence of Christ.”- Anonymous
Stephen Mitchell is the senior pastor of Trinity Bible Church in Maryland. He also is the host of a regular podcast, “Real Christian Talk with Pastor Steve,” available on all podcast platforms.
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