Is Peace Possible this Christmas?
December always ties me in knots.
With one massive holiday down, I'm slightly in denial that another looms ahead, this one even more extravagant, more labor-intensive, more crazy, more expensive, and more overwhelming than I'm typically comfortable with. Every time I go out, the frenzied pace and energy can take me from relative calm to high anxiety in minutes. Since for the sake of my family boycotting Christmas is not an option, I wonder, "Is it possible to maintain peace during the holidays?"
The other day on my walk, I asked God to give me a new perspective about how to handle the pressure and stress. I asked Him questions like:
"God, what do you think about how I should prepare for this holiday?"
"How can I avoid feeling completely exhausted by the time Christmas roles around?"
"How can I help my family celebrate without giving in to the frenetic pace around me?"
"How can I prepare in a way that honors you, so I can experience the joy and wonder of the miracle of Jesus' birth?"
I continued walking, leaves crunching under my feet. The crisp breeze floated through the trees and I listened for an answer to come. It took a few minutes but I heard Him say,
"Keep it sacred."
To get a better grasp of the meaning of the word "sacred," I did some quick research. It means:
Dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity;
Connected with God or dedicated to a religious purpose and so deserving veneration;
Religious rather than secular;
Highly valued and important, deserving of reverence and great respect.
Going further I also looked up the synonyms (hallowed, holy, inviolable (unbreakable), untouchable, unassailable) and antonyms (non-religious, profane, secular).
Next, I looked up some passages in God's Word, and I was brought to this passage, John 2:13-16, which recorded the first temple cleansing that Jesus performed just as Passover was approaching. Passover was one of the three most important religious festivals the Jews celebrated. Like Christmas, it required tons of preparations and for many a very long trip to Jerusalem, where they celebrated this holy, sacred feast.
In the John passage, Jesus came to the temple and discovered something very un-sacred. Besides the frenetic buying and selling at the temple (God's house), I think the key is the spirit or motivation behind Jesus's rebuke to everyone there. He was concerned for the lack of holiness and irreverence at God's house and it made him angry that the people were mistreating the sacredness of Passover, disrespecting God's house. In other words, sacredness means something to God, and so it should mean something to us.
Keep it sacred.
Keeping the holidays sacred honors God in the way He deserves with the added bonus of bringing about the peace you crave. This holiday season, consider how you can keep it sacred. I have a few ideas.
Start by setting some boundaries around your time so you can slow down enough to be deliberate in your plans. Commit to having a peace-filled, calm, sacred Christmas season.
Ponder the meaning of the words "sacred," "reverence," and "holy." Do your own study of these words. Study God's Word and explore passages that talk about these concepts. Let them soak in to your soul as you read them. Ask God to show you how you can make the celebration of Christmas more sacred.
Look for ways you can bless those who are frazzled and harried. How can you represent Christ to your community? How can you sacrifice for another, like giving up that perfect parking place, or allowing someone to go ahead of you in line?
Keep Christ at the forefront of your mind -- attend Christmas church services; read Luke 1-2 about the birth of Christ, listen to Christmas carols and engage in the meaning of the words; study the true, sacred meanings of the Christmas symbols.
Be generous with your time and money. How can you serve someone else other than yourself or your own family? Get involved in giving campaigns at churches or in your community, even in your own neighborhood! Giving is definitely better than receiving, since God not only blesses the receiver, but the giver as well (2 Cor. 9:7; Matt. 6:2-4; Acts 20:35).
Consider who Christmas is for. It's about celebrating God's act of grace in sending Jesus to us so that we can have the ability to have a restored relationship with our Creator, our Father. His birth was an earthly, physical demonstration of God's love for all humanity, whether or not they recognize Jesus for who He is. Invite others to experience this miracle with you and use it as an opportunity to explain why it's so significant to them.
How can you and your family set yourselves apart to keep Christmas sacred? How can you connect the holiday to who you are celebrating? Start today by connecting your plans, preparations, and attitude of the heart to worship of Him with reverence and respect. Focus on Him. As you do, the peace of Christ will be with you (John 14:27; Matt. 6:33-34; Phil. 4:6-8).
Can you do it? How will you keep Christmas sacred? Tell me how by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let me know how God is working in and through your life!
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