When life grinches your peace!
An editorial cartoon several years ago pictured the frantic pace of the season. An elderly gentleman was shopping at the cosmetics counter of a department store. The background was festive holiday decor and the busy-ness of crowds. He was evidently in the market for perfume for his wife. The gorgeous sales clerk had scattered fragrance bottles all along the counter. They were perfume brands of the day---Obsession, Passion, Temptation, Lust, Seduction, Voluptuous, and other sensuous labels. The caption was his single question: "Do you have any Tranquil or Sedate, or Peaceful?". Evidently he was looking for something a little less provocative.
One psychologist suggested that the population during this season is about equally cataloged into two significant groups: those who think Christmas will never get here, and those who think it will never end. The peace on earth good will to men has become somewhat of a pipe dream for so many people thrust into the fast-paced metrics of the Christmas season. Suddenly life happens in a seasonal bi-polar velocity, warp-speeds of urgency alternating with long cues of frantic shoppers and congested traffic. A culture of anxious people hyperventilates in the heat of stretched dollars, compressed time, and headlines of a world on the edge.
Peace often seems so far away for so many. We've experienced the most vicious election in modern history. The national debt clock escalates at the rate of $27.7 thousand per second and is zooming toward a record of $20.5 trillion. Lawlessness and resistance to authority leave many of us sheltered in the safety of our homes nightly. Racial tension threatens an already divided population. Confusion about gender identity, marriage, equality, and religious preferences multiply the uncertainty of a world overlaid with numerous question marks. The luggage of a troubled world adds emotional weight to to what is hoped will be a season of peace. Talk about being grinched!
The manger may not have been the peaceful environs pictured in our dreamy most cherished images of his birth. It was a frantic time with people thronging the towns and villages of their family heritage. That there was no room in the inn amplifies the minds eye of people in a first century fast-lane. Then, there are the realities of animals in the stable cave, the rush of visitors as the Magi and shepherds came to behold the one who was born there. And, the constant rapping of that little drummer boy in the creche added another layer of noise. Pa rum pa pum pum.
One of the lessons of history is that peace on earth good will to men happens first in a personal, individual way. The idea of that night in Bethlehem is that this Jesus would bring peace to those who trust in him for salvation. These redeemed souls would then influence their world with that inner peace. Jesus would produce this peace in them and they would become peacemakers and introduce this peace to the people in their immediate life circle.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to
you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
John 14:27, ESV
The Apostle Paul gave further definition to this peace. He wrote---
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts
and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7, ESV
This peace was to be realized beyond the inner tranquility of hearts and minds at peace. It was to be a defining character of our relationship with others. To the church at Rome Paul wrote---
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Romans 12:18, ESV
The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews wrote---
Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see
Hebrews 12:14, ESV
Peace is an element of the salt and light that each of us interjects into the small sphere of the world entrusted to us. It is the character of this baby born in a manger that the world so desperately needs right now.
How do we discover this kind of peace? Well, the world has devised many schemes to imitate this kind of peace. We can create safe places, soothe the culture with diversity training, teach tolerance and equality, draw more people into the welfare state, or attend attitude adjustment seminars. Government has sought in so many ways to level the playing fiend in the hope of creating a more peaceful society. We're learning, however, that treaties, pay and play strategies, boundaries, and other mandated legalities cannot erase the base nature of this human species. So, where do we find this peace we so long for in the season of Christ.
Peace is a fruit of the Spirit. It is the character of Christ God produces in those who submit to him as Lord. Paul wrote this too---
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23, ESV
Peace is an outgrowth of our faith. To the Colossians Paul added a further note about peace. He wrote that the peace of Christ should rule in our hearts.
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in
one body. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15, ESV
That's it for me. In what has become a distraught, agitated world, he sends me to be his agent of peace. When I can't talk about jolly, when the world around me is trying to grinch the spirit of the season, he wants me to ruled by peace.