Usually at this time of year people are reaching their limit...of shopping, Christmas parties, family gatherings and a pace of life that is truly unsustainable in the long-run. But this year? Maybe, not so much. Lights went up earlier, WAY earlier. Christmas trees disappeared from lots in record time. And we're being told not to gather with people beyond our own household for Christmas. The pace and expectations may be way down, but does that mean that we're feeling more "at peace?"
What I'm hearing from many is the exact opposite. We're grieving, some are frustrated and all of us are bewildered that we're living through a time when even Christmas can be so very different.
Changing the pace and the expectations doesn't necessarily make our lives more peaceful because peace is a quality that relies on a depth of well-being. I remember hearing the story of a town in Quebec, Saint Jean Vianney, that experienced a catastrophic landslide in 1971. The town had been established in 1935 and prospered for years without anyone knowing that the town was built on top of a very unstable type of soil. In the few weeks before the landslide, people noticed that some house foundations had sunken and unexplained noises were heard coming from the ground. Things were not well in subterranean Saint Jean Vianney. Only when the landslide occurred did scientists come to understand how unstable the town's location had been.
Everything can look wonderful on the surface, but if things are unstable below, then all is not well. In our own lives we can spend a lot of time trying to make everything look good: in our families, with our appearance, on our Facebook or Instagram accounts - but does all that actually make life good? We all know that everyone else can think that I'm doing fine, but there's a different story inside my head and heart.
Peace is God's word for making the foundation of your life and our world well (click here to learn more about the word "peace" in the Bible). It's not an appearance but a reality. That's why God came to this earth, to the people he made and loves, so that he could offer us a different kind of peace, a real peace, that makes the foundation of our lives solid. It's possible because God came, in the form of Jesus Christ, to make peace with us: to offer us an olive branch and to invite us into his presence forever. This week we have set up displays outside our church building as reminders that Jesus came into our world to bring peace (click here to read more about our outdoor Advent celebrations).
Once, when Jesus saw the city of Jerusalem he started to weep and said "How I wish you knew today what would bring peace! But you can’t see." He was talking about the fact that people didn't recognize who he was nor what he could do for them. They were about to kill him instead of accepting his love and forgiveness! But even that didn't stop him from doing what he needed to: dying on the cross: his fullest expression of the lengths he would go to to bring us his love and his peace.
Jesus still offers to make peace with you and me. He wants the foundation of our lives to be built on the solid rock of his acceptance, his forgiveness, his love and his constant presence; a solid foundation that nothing and no one can undercut or wash away. And having Jesus in your life opens the door to see the world around us, whether it's hectic and predictable or quiet and strange, from the perspective of the God who is still alive and very much interested in our well-being - for the long-haul!
If you need peace, I want to invite you to go deep and allow God to love you, forgive you and shape your perspective on life, by trusting Jesus, who came to give you peace.