Sunday, December 6, 2009

Advent, Week 2: Peace on Earth... At Least in December!

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. (Isaiah 26:3, NIV)

As we continue on in our Advent Season, the theme of the second week is peace. What’s got you most stressed this holiday season? I don’t know about you, but I sure could use more of this perfect peace around the holiday season! But how do we get it? Yeah, we can talk about it all we want and it sounds nice, but how do we really get our hands on that peace? After all, there are so many demands on us... deadlines to meet, small kids to manage, must-attend events, difficult people we have to be around, baking and shopping and card-sending and wrapping. It seems, quite frankly, an impossible dream. But it’s not impossible.

Let’s revisit today's verse: You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Who will be kept in perfect peace? Him (or her) whose mind is steadfast. What does that mean? Steadfast? Well, American Heritage Dictionary defines it as "Firmly loyal or constant; unswerving." There are ways we can keep ourselves constant and unswerving.

First, get your priorities straight. Start with prayer. Continue with prayer. End with prayer. Sometimes I have to cry out in the middle of my chaos, "Lord, give me your grace!", because I want to reach out and touch someone, and it isn’t to make a phone call!

Second, a good little acrostic to remember: H.A.L.T. Never get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. I don’t know about you, but going to bed early and eating something other than a steady diet of Christmas cookies and fudge would go a long way for me!
Third, keep things in proper perspective. What will happen if we don’t get those cookies baked or cards sent out on time? Will the world end? You know, Jesus told us when he walked the earth, "In me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) There we go with that steadfast focus again. He’s bigger than presents, bigger than cookies, bigger than any hard time someone can give you for not making it to their party.

Fourth, remember how Jesus would want you celebrating his birthday. In John 14:1 he tells us, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me." Do you think he wants you all stressed out and miserable? Author Max Lucado tells us in his book, Experiencing the Heart of Jesus, "Are you aware that the most repeated command from the lips of Jesus was ‘Fear not’? Are you aware that the command from heaven appears in every book of the Bible?" Wow! What are we doing to ourselves and to those around us? Chill!

Fifth, don’t expect perfection from yourself or others. Find someone who hasn’t made a mistake. I make them daily and I’ll bet if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll admit you do too. If we were all so perfect, that little baby wouldn’t have had to been born in a barn.

Sixth, enjoy the season with more humor. Laugh at yourself and other crazy situations. My dear husband Steve has blessed me over the years by reminding me, "Don’t take life too seriously... None of us are getting out alive!"

Lastly, practice peace. We never get good at something unless we practice and make mistakes along the way. Exercise that "No, thank you" muscle. It gets stronger each time we use it.

I’d like to give each one of you that gift, that peace. But you see this gift requires no middle man. All you have to do is reach out and take it from the one who offers it to you. The giver is the one who cared enough about you to set aside everything glorious and wonderful to humble himself and come to earth enduring birth in a barn, scorn from friends, family and community members. He even endured the torture of the cross for you, yes, you. Will you receive that peace? It’s yours for the taking! Will you continue to rush around cramming too many parties, baking, cleaning, shopping so that we can’t even see the gift held out to us? Will you live up to everyone else’s expectations this holiday season or nestle into the chest of the one who can shelter us from the storm?

Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27) Let’s leave with that peace by closing in prayer. Heavenly Jesus, God of order and peace, come into my heart this Christmas season and grant me your peace during this holiday season and forevermore. Amen.

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