Synopsis: It has been a tough year – so tough that if we could have any Christmas gift we wanted, many would probably say, “I just want peace.” God has already offered us the gift of peace through the coming of Jesus, but not many have received the gift. To receive the gift requires us to be willing to change how we relate to life.
Scripture: Luke 2: 1-20
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This Christmas is extra special. In celebrating the birth of Jesus tomorrow, we also celebrate new birth. And we are so ready for something new. More than ever before, we are eager for the new – so eager that for several months, many have expressed how they can’t wait for the coming of the new year.
Yes, it has been a very stressful year. Nationally, we’ve faced the tension of political strife and social unrest – add to that the strain of a global pandemic. At this point, if we could have any Christmas gift we wanted, anything at all, I bet most of us would say we want peace.
But you know … we have already been offered the gift of peace through the coming of Jesus Christ into this world and his redemptive work. His peace is a priceless gift that lasts forever. Unfortunately, not many have received the gift. The main problem is that we don’t feel worthy.
I bet the shepherds felt the same way. After all, they were just lowly shepherds, watching over their flocks by night – working the graveyard shift. The next thing they knew, light was shining all around them, an angel was speaking to them, and the entire heavenly host was singing. God was sending them a message, and it was marked “important.” Don’t we wish we could mark our email messages “important” like that instead of with that little red exclamation point that everyone ignores?
When God sends an important message, it’s impossible to ignore. He sure got the shepherds’ attention! They were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Don’t’ be afraid! I have good news for you!” Then, the angel announced the best gift ever: “I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”
Then the angel tells them something that I’m sure really shocked them. He tells them that they will find the Messiah wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger. Maybe they expected to hear that they will find him wrapped in the finest silk, lying in a crib of gold, inside a king’s palace. But this was not a worldly prince; this was a heavenly prince: The Prince of Peace.
The gift of peace is for ALL the people. That means you are worthy to receive it no matter who you are or what you have done.
The shepherds received it. How do we know? The shepherds said, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” They went to check Jesus out. They wanted to see their gift because they had received it.
Receiving the gift of peace requires a shift in how we relate to life. The shift starts with acknowledging who we really are. We are not really these persons; we are the Christ – one with God, with one another, and with all of creation. In fact, we are part of Life itself, so we lack nothing – including worth.
Once we can accept that we are part of Life, then we can stop relating to life as if it were the enemy. Yes, life can be hard, but it is ultimately good. God designed it for our spiritual growth – so that we, like Jesus, might each become the perfect expression of Who God Is.
We humans are like a caterpillar – driven to constantly seek and consume. Inevitably, life as a caterpillar becomes too painful, so it begins to shed its skin and build its cocoon. This past year, the pain of a pandemic has caused many of us to shed the false ideas we had about ourselves, particularly the idea that we are separate beings – that our choices do not affect others. So, we entered our cocoons.
The caterpillar doesn’t know when it will transform into the butterfly, but God knows. God decides when the time is right. But the caterpillar will definitely transform, and so will we. Until then, we must accept life as it is, including the pain, trusting that all is proceeding according to God’s Plan.
The Christ cannot be found in the “inn” of our minds. There is no room in the inn or “intellect.” That’s where all our false ideas are lodged – including the idea that life is not good enough and neither are we.
The Christ can only be found in the stable of our hearts – in that peaceful, still space between thoughts – and we nurture the Christ child within us by paying more attention to that space rather than to the complaints that fill the mind.
This is the journey of becoming that we have been on our entire lives. That child represents our potential as human beings. Like all children, that child is destined to grow up and become an adult.
Once we have grown up, we are no longer becoming. We are being. We are being the gift of peace, and that will transform the world into the kingdom of heaven. Let it be so. AMEN.