The Christmas season often seems to have more turmoil than peace. There’s worry over gifts and shopping. Our schedules are roiled by programs, parties, and gatherings. And, of course, there’s the annual American tradition of someone being offended about a TV ad or a coffee cup or a display or the holiday itself. All in all, celebrating Christmas seems to bring little peace and scant joy to many. Perhaps it is because we are unwrapping the wrong gift.
Despite our experiences, peace and joy is central to the story and theme of Christ’s birth. The angels declared peace when they announced Christ’s birth to the shepherds. “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” (Luke 2:14, NASB95) While not recorded, it doesn’t take much imagination to see the joy on Mary’s face when she first held the newborn baby.
It is perhaps harder to see peace and joy in the torturous events of Golgotha. Executions are rarely, if ever peaceful or joy-filled. Yet, those who embrace the cross of Christ discover peace and joy that is difficult to explain. It’s not a peace born of still waters and a perfect life, quite the opposite in fact. It’s as if those who follow Christ have found an anchor that will withstand the fiercest of storms.
John records two promises of Jesus as he prepared his disciples for the coming turmoil of his arrest, trials, and death. “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” (John 14:27, NASB95) And a bit later, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”” (John 16:33, NASB95)
Christ’s promises do not mean that our lives will be calm and peaceful. We will experience turmoil, our boats will be rocked by the storms. We may even experience fear, uncertainty, and sorrow. But God’s gift through Christ is a settled-ness during the storm. A peace we can’t understand but know comes from God. A joy that seems to be unreasonable but is there nonetheless.
There is peace in the tumultuous storms. But perhaps the challenge of this Christmas gift of peace and joy is to find them during the little waves that come our way. The car that pulls out in front of us. The rudeness of a co-worker. The burnt dinner that is barely edible. The friction that occurs when our spouse is having a bad day. Or when we’re having a bad day. We need to hold on to the anchor of Christ’s peace and joy in those instances with the same intensity of when the big storms of life come our way. Paul encourages, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15, NASB95) We unwrap this gift of Christmas by letting the peace of Christ umpire (rule) our hearts in the little waves and the fearsome storms.