“Peace on Earth” by Pastor Scott Carson

The other day I surprised a friend with my response in a conversation we were having. I’m a member of our local Rotary Club. Every December our Club goes to Camp MacClean for a Christmas dinner and a visit from Santa Claus. Years ago, when my children were younger, I went once but it’s just hard for me to go. So, I skip it every year and this surprised my friend.
Please understand, I’m not anti-Santa Claus, though I think parents should be careful to not confuse their children with make-believe and the historical Christmas narrative. Christmas is also not about us giving or receiving. It’s about a holy God giving His Son, Jesus, for us to die in our place and save us from our sins. But that’s not why I don’t go or  particularly enjoy it.
Though I’ve come along ways and am not trapped in the past, yet for me, Christmas has lots of bad memories. When I was growing up, Christmas was one of the two worst days of the year (the other one was the day that our family left on our annual family vacation). I don’t know why but Christmas seemed to bring out the very worst in my Dad. Though we were given gifts and toys coming out of our ears, though my Mom fixed a meal fit for a king – Christmas just seemed to bring out an extra intensity of anger and cruelty in him. The one redeeming ingredient was that we’d typically visit my cousins or grandparents sometime during the day. Visiting with someone other than our immediate family quelled his rage. Yet, at Christmas our family had anything but “peace on earth.” It was so bad that I was thankful when I got older to be away at school and to not have to go home for Christmas. In fact, I’d work on Christmas Day if I could…it was just easier. Yet, that had become my normal.
I remember feeling shocked the first Christmas I spent with Dad and Mom Cummins. It was odd to celebrate Christmas and not feel you needed a flak jacket. No one yelled or screamed. There was no tension in the air. On Christmas morning, Dad Cummins gathered the family and read the Christmas story from Luke 2. Then, we’d open presents. Essentially, Jane’s family had the same tradition and we’ve made that our tradition.
Something strange though happened to me at Christmas shortly after Jane and I were married. Though everything was great, for some reason I found that I felt grumpy and irritable, and there was no reason for it. Finally, I figured it out. Though I’d left my Dad’s home and that horrible environment years before, I was still carrying it in my own soul. That experience taught me a valuable lesson. “Peace on earth” begins with peace in me and it only comes from God. The same is true for all of us. It doesn’t matter about your history or present circumstances. Peace, true peace, God’s peace is a gift from God and a fruit of the Spirit. No one can truly have peace until they first know the Prince of Peace. Yet, it’s not enough to just know the Prince of Peace, we also have to surrender to Him and let Him reign on the throne of our hearts.
One of the ironies of Christmas is though it’s to be a time of “peace on earth,” nearly everyone is “so stressed.” What’s sad is that even Christians, we who know the Prince of Peace, can be the very worst offenders when it comes to stressing out at Christmas. I can’t help but wonder if Jesus looks down from heaven, shakes His head at us, and thinks, “Don’t they get it? I came to give them peace, not for My birth to be a time of stress.”
But the stress isn’t really from Christmas. That just happens to be the field of the conflict. The stress is from us. Much of it is self-generated.
First, as Christians, we’re not letting Jesus rule on the throne of our lives but are instead living under the circumstances. There are some things that happen at Christmas (and the rest of the time, too), we absolutely can’t control. Yet, each of us can control who we’re going to be in the midst of the circumstances. We can choose to see life from God’s perspective, that there are no accidents and trust Him. Or, we can see life from a non-God perspective, that others, fate, Karma or something else messed things up.
Then, we become stressed because of expectations and over-commitment. Whenever I officiate at a wedding, I warn the couple that in spite of the best planning, something is probably going to go wrong – it’s the stuff memories are made of. The same is true at Christmas. Something is going to go wrong, so just roll with it. Those perfect Christmas movies on TV are all fantasy. Perfection does not exist in a sin-contaminated world. Also, too many of us overcommit during the holidays. You can’t be at every event, you aren’t going to get just the right gift for everyone, and the family Christmas is not going to look like a Norman Rockwell painting.
Most of us simply need to be much more wise and creative. If we’ll stop and use the wisdom God gave us rather than attempting to move faster than the speed of light, we’d be amazed at how many solutions we come up with and how much less stressed we are.
Often parents complain that during the holidays, their children bicker the whole time. I wonder if perhaps our children have picked up on our own unsettledness or irritable spirit…and are just reflecting us. The problem might not be them, it might be us. The good news is that we can choose to fix us by God’s grace.
Jesus came to give us “Peace on earth.” That begins in that piece of earth in my own heart with a right relationship with Him. Then, I can be contagious and seek to spread that peace to those around me. Isn’t that part of what Jesus meant when He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers”?
So this Christmas enjoy God’s peace and please share it. If you do, you might just be amazed how much “peace on earth” that you have in your little corner of the world.