Sunday, December 14, 2014

Finding Peace in the Midst of the Christmas Crazy

I don't know about you, but usually, around the first week of December, I look ahead at my month and feel like I have so many empty squares on my calendar and get this wonderful sense of "it's going to be a good, peaceful Christmas season this year." And then, the second week of December hits and I'm spinning like crazy, feeling like I don't have a moment to breathe, and struggling to find any openings for intentional time with the people I love. I don't think my extroverted social-ness helps at all since I jump at any opportunity to do anything and be in involved in everything.

I know I'm not alone in the Christmas Crazy—I have heard so many friends say that they just need to “get through Christmas,” or they have a case of the “bah-humbugs.” Others talk about how they feel like there is just too much materialism to even know where to start with turning the focus back on the reason we celebrate Christmas. A lot of "I wants" fill my house these days. Jace has every toy commercial memorized and can tell me, word for word, at the dinner table what's so great about the Flipeez hats, that they carry them at Walmart, and that they’re only $19.95. Or how a certain toy works or which ones are "batteries not included" toys. We're not too crazy yet, though, because all I have to say is "put it on your Christmas list" and he'll put the "I want" aside. A Christmas list has yet to be anything concrete in his mind—it’s still something vague that we just talk about. And while I love the hustle and bustle of stores at Christmas time, I don't dare enter them with Nolan because nothing can make my husband cranky faster than a crowded Walmart or Target.

Family gatherings can often times equal more stress than fun. Suddenly Christmas comes around and there's pressure to fit this Norman Rockwell image of the perfect family. And deeper hurts can come to light and be more painful around the holidays. Christmas can mark one more year of dealing with infertility, broken relationships, singleness, loss of loved ones. Or perhaps it's the new pains of breaking relationships, medical diagnoses, unemployment, or impending crises. Pain becomes magnified.

It's so easy to feel the need to fix life in order to have the perfect holiday. And in that process, we really just make it all crazier and end up enjoying it less. Last year, on Christmas Eve, we were having a bad day. I had piled too many things on my plate leading up to Christmas, so the 24th became a bit of a make up day. Everything I had dreamed of achieving all month long had its last chance to become reality. Nolan was at work and the kids were driving me crazy. I may have started yelling at some point that it was Christmas Eve and it was supposed to be special!!!!! That’s when I realized I needed a Christmas re-set. I looked around and saw that I had decorated with so many words that were intended to keep my mind in the right place through the season-- words like, "O Come Let us Adore Him," and "Peace" and "Joy" and "Believe." But instead of allowing them to be reminders, they had become a part of the scenery in my home and were overlooked. All it took was pausing, reading some verses that went along with those words, and remembering WHY I wanted Christmas Eve to be so special to reset my focus and, in turn, reset my family.

The Perfect Christmas at Made it on Monday

Because the perfect Christmas is something WE can never achieve. Instead, the perfect Christmas has already happened—when a perfect God joined us on this earth as a perfect baby in what would be considered the most imperfect environment. It is when we take our focus off of all that we need to do for Christmas, and, instead, look to the perfect One and truly receive Him, then we are free to enjoy Christmas—free to enjoy the celebration of His birth.

As I've been concentrating on how to approach this Christmas season in a way that won't need as dramatic of a reset as last year, I keep coming back to Jesus as the Prince of Peace. Life can be exhausting and chaotic and hard sometimes. Whether it be within your own little world, or the world around you at large, it just gets ugly. Sometimes I want to burry my head and ignore current events, or at least half of Facebook's take on them. Or I just want to yell at people and speak some truth into them (or at least Jill's version of truth). And when I let these things roll around me and start to weigh heavy on me, I start feeling a deep need for His Peace. Which means I feel a deep need for Jesus.

This past year I feel like I've fallen in love with Jesus so much more than ever before. I've come to know Him differently than I used to view Him. Much more personally. I've seen more of His sense of humor and sarcasm. And I've felt His love and presence powerfully. At my church we just finished up a series that looked at the trinity, and I loved how just one week of looking at Jesus and His role in the trinity blew my mind. Jesus is God. Jesus was not created, He was. So when Jesus entered this world as a baby, it was God making that choice to put Himself here with the end goal of dying for our sins. And in His time of walking in human form among us, He knew pain and He knew grief. He knew demands and burdens and relational conflict. He knew betrayal and celebration. He walked through it all. And then, He made the ultimate sacrifice by enduring torture and death in order to save us from our sins.

Focusing on the real meaning of Christmas isn't just thinking about a baby in a manger. It's about that baby's purpose, that baby's life, that baby's death and then that baby's resurection. And the fact that the entire story exists because we have a God who loves us so dearly that He humbled Himself to take the form of humanness, suffered and died, rose again, all so that we can have a relationship with Him. Let that settle over you. That truth brings peace. In this season where the world is getting Christmas-crazy, we can have peace.

In John 16:33 Jesus, who was hours away from his arrest, told His disciples, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." Jesus knew the troubles His disciples would face and He knows the troubles you face—big or small. He knows the season you're in and He gives peace.

A little earlier that same evening, in John 14:25-27, Jesus also had spoken of the peace He gives. "All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 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." I love how the commentary in my Bible explains the peace in this passage: "The term [peace] speaks, in effect, of the salvation that Christ's redemptive work will achieve for His disciples--total well-being and inner rest of the spirit, in fellowship with God. All true peace is His gift, which the repetition emphasizes. 'I do not give... as the world gives' In its greetings of peace the world can only express a longing or a wish. But Jesus's peace is real and present."

And Isaiah 26:3 says, "You will keep him in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You." Another translation says "him whose mind is stayed on you." I have that verse written on a chalkboard in my kitchen because I want that reminder. Focus on Him and He will keep me in perfect peace. Trust in Him and He will keep me in perfect peace.

Jesus' peace is real and present and perfect. I love that. It's not something that we have to long or wish for--like the world does. It's here with us. We have the Holy Spirit in us and among us, teaching us and reminding us of Who He is and what He taught. We don't have to jump through hoops to receive it. We just need to look to Him. When your in-laws are driving you crazy, Jesus' peace is real and present. When your kids are fighting and bickering and you don't think you can hear the phrase "I want" one more time, Jesus' peace is real and and present. When the recipe you found on Pinterest that was supposed to be amazing turns out disgusting, Jesus' peace is real and present. Or when your Christmas tree falls down during the night because your cats climbed it, and you find yourself picking up shattered ornaments, Jesus' peace is real and present.

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The crazy doesn't have to rule Christmas. Jesus rules Christmas. And He wants to be your Prince of Peace this season. He wants you to celebrate and rejoice in His birth because He came for you. And His peace isn't something that is rationed out or given in small portions. 2 Peter 1:2 tells us, "Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord." Do you know God? Do you know Jesus? If you do, then this peace we've been talking about, this Peace that settles in and quiets our hearts, this Peace that is something the world can never give us, this Peace that has victory over all the bad and ugly, this Peace is yours, and it's yours in abundance.