Christmas is without a doubt one of the busiest, most over-scheduled seasons of the year. Get out the decorations, keep Madeline from ingesting the decorations, Christmas party with the youth group, with our Sunday school class, cookie swap, go shopping, mail the cards, wrap the gifts, shop some more (my stepdad is impossible to buy for), celebrate with my family (Oh no I forgot to bring a dessert!), celebrate with Dan’s family, candlelight service, children’s program, cantata, etc. etc. etc. Not to mention the craziness in our personal lives, like the fact that we had been moving at an average rate of once every six months. On our Christmas cards a few years ago we had written Isaiah 9:6, one of the most hopeful, beautiful prophecies about the coming of Jesus. It says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
One afternoon in early December, I was sitting up to my eyeballs in various festive things heaped around the living room of our very small home. I was licking a hundred envelopes and smacking on stamps with all the pent up frustration of papercuts on my fingers and not being able to find Uncle Jack’s address. In that moment I caught a glimpse of our card: “And he will be called …Prince of Peace.” Peace! Peace is the last thing I am feeling right now! I laughed out loud (at myself), then I leaned back against the couch and cried, tears of exhaustion, mostly.
I’ve been told my whole life that Christmas is a time to celebrate Jesus and not to be distracted or seduced by the commercial trappings of the season. I suspect that many of you have been told the same thing. But knowing that Christmas is about Jesus, and practicing that Christmas is about Jesus are entirely different. Knowing it is easy, practicing it requires such attention and focus and selflessness! In that moment, crying over my Christmas cards, I felt like I had missed the mark - and my soul was suffering for it. I was feeling stress when I could have been feeling peace; I was feeling anxiety when I could have been feeling joy.
The chorus to one of my favorite songs by Tim Hughes says,
“Take from our souls the strain and stress And let our ordered lives confess The beauty of Your peace The beauty of Your peace.”
I love this song because when I hear it, I imagine my too-ordered-schedule raising the white flag. I imagine my soul exhaling. I imagine lifting my arms, letting some tears, and confessing that the peace that comes from God is far better than all the good things I try to cram into my days.
Today, how might you practice the true meaning of Christmas: that God became man for the purpose of redeeming the world? What distractions can you eliminate? What attitude, what perspective needs shifting back to a healthy place? Will you make this chorus your prayer today: “Take from our souls the strain and stress, and let our ordered lives confess, the beauty of Your peace.”