Life Notes—December 22, 2011
“For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6
Every year is the same. Well before Thanksgiving I vow to begin my Christmas shopping early and to finish before the crowds swell. And every year I find myself in the hours before Christmas Eve still shopping, still addressing cards and still behind on other preparations. This year is no exception, and I do not like it. This season of joy and new birth and family and fellowship becomes a nightmare of crowded check-out lines, cranky shoppers and looming deadlines. It is a frantic mess. When I hear Jesus referred to as the “Prince of Peace,” I laugh. This celebration of his birth is anything but peaceful.
How has Christmas, the celebration, strayed so far from its origins? Didn’t the angels sing of “Peace on Earth” in Bethlehem 2000 years ago? Is that peace in our inner cities? In theMiddle East? In the stomach of a starving child? Certainly not. Perhaps we should consider where peace is not. Wherever violence and chronic need and fear and uncertainty exist, there is no peace. The least peaceful times in my life have been characterized by fear, uncertainty, anger and loss of control; times when it is difficult to maintain enough focus for even the simplest of prayers. In the disorganized havoc of such times God is certainly present, but mostly unknown to me. In fact, the manger scene to which Jesus was born could not have been the peaceful scene we now romanticize it to be. But God was there; and God is here today.
We are given the free will to turn to and acknowledge God’s presence—or not. For me, I must quiet my mind to experience God. Then I find peace, even in the midst of fear and uncertainty. Most years I find that peace, if only for a moment, after the last Christmas Eve service has concluded and my world grows blessedly quiet. When I am centered enough to experience the presence of God, there is no fear or uncertainty or need—there is only God, and that is fully sufficient. And in those quiet times of holy peace, the child is born again. And I know the challenges on earth will not have the final word. And if only within, and if only for a moment, and if only for me, there is peace on earth. It’s not a matter of whether the Prince of Peace comes, but whether we are there to receive him…
Saturday evening is Christmas Eve. The “Life” celebration will occur at 9:00 PM downtown in the Sanctuary. A traditional service will be held at 7:00 PM in the downtown sanctuary. Communion will be served at both downtown services. Two family services will be held on our west campus at 4:00 and 5:30, followed by a contemporary celebration with communion at 7:00 PM. Sunday is Christmas Day. There will be one service at each campus, 9:00 west and 10:00 downtown.
Come home to church this season. If you cannot find peace this Christmas, look within…
Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator