In many churches, there is an element of worship called “passing the peace.” Those sitting nearby may shake your hand, speak a word of peace, share the peace sign, or (if you’re especially close) offer a kiss. The expression, “passing the peace,” conjures up images in my head of sprinkling a little peace on our friends, like we would shake salt or pepper onto our food. If only it were that easy! People would be lined up in grocery stores, scarfing up boxes of peace from the shelves, just in time for the holidays.
Christmas is about celebrating the birth of the One who came to bring us peace. “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.” (Isaiah 9:6 NIV) Isn’t it ironic that in preparing to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, we manage to make our lives the most chaotic of any time of the year?
We shop till we drop, decorate every nook and cranny of the house, go to way too many functions, try to take in every Christmas cultural event in the entire city, and stay up till the wee hours of the morning writing personal notes in handmade cards so we can stay in touch with people we haven’t seen in eons. We set impossible standards for ourselves. We attempt to accomplish too much in too little time. And we stretch an already-tight budget in order to purchase too many gifts. It’s no wonder we’re stressed. It’s no wonder so many people become depressed at this time of the year!
Pass the peace, please!
So how can we de-stress this holiday? If we’re celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace, perhaps we should think about what He might say about all this fuss. Jesus drew apart from everyone around Him, and spent time alone in prayer with His Father God. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35) Jesus told His friends, Mary and Martha of Bethany, that Mary had made a better choice, by spending time just sitting and talking with Him. (Luke 10:38-42) And He told His disciples that He is a vine and they are the branches. (John 15:5) The only way they could have life and strength was to stay attached to Jesus. The same is true for us today.
When I consider that God sent His Son, the Lord of the universe, to be born in a smelly stable surrounded by animals and visited by lowly shepherds, I realize that all the fuss of the season is not what counts. I think Jesus would prefer that we celebrate His birth by spending time with Him. I’m trying to focus on putting the peace of Jesus back into my life by spending more time in the presence of the Prince of Peace. Want to join me?
Pass the peace, please!