During the Advent season in preparation for the Christmas holiday, hopefully we take time to intentionally focus more on Jesus’ birth. It is not about us or our own desires for material goods. Rather, Christmas is a celebration of God’s birthday with Jesus Christ.
One thing we often “miss” about the truth of Christmas is that the holiday is much more about generosity rather than hoarding or receiving. God was generous in giving us Christ, so we ought to be generous to other in how we dedicate our life to service. This is obviously quite countercultural in our world–just yesterday morning, one of those “news notifications” popped up on my phone warning me there are less than 48 hours of shopping left until Christmas morning! We are bombarded with the temptation to be closed off from other people, only caring about our own personal needs.
One of my favorite theologians and authors, Lee Camp, once wrote about a tragically compelling Christmas-season experience he had years ago in his book Mere Discipleship. As a reporter in the 1970s, Camp’s father-in-law would listen to the Nashville-area police scanner to find out what was going on for news stories. On Christmas Eve one night there was a report of some kind of shocking accident at a public housing unit. Initially, the police thought that an elderly man had been the victim of a homicide. But upon further investigation, it turns out the man could not afford his bills and so the electric company turned off the heating to his unit in the middle of winter. Tragically, the man froze to death that cold night. The man had no one or where to turn to for help during this financially burdensome time.
Upon leaving the apartment complex, Camp’s relative noticed a brilliant light display across the block at a fancy, well-to-do downtown high-rise building, reading “Peace on Earth.” It was such a stark contrast between the poverty of a man who didn’t have enough money for heat, compared to a heartwarming (albeit detached from the “real world”) religious message.
When we proclaim God’s peace on earth, we truly have to mean it. We need to share God’s blessings with other people. We need to reach out to neighbors in need. We need to remember that there are people who hurt during the holiday season.
In other words, we need to actually live out the angel’s message of “peace on earth” in our own lives. We must never keep this reality to ourselves.
Our bishop in the Arkanas Conference, Gary Mueller, put it this way recently for his daily Facebook devotional:
Of course you want to give that special someone the perfect Christmas gift. But why is it usually so hard to find? Maybe it’s because that person doesn’t need a thing you can buy, but love you share through just the right word of affirmation, a much needed apology, a smile of encouragement, a listening ear or a prayer of hope. Think about it. You don’t have to spend hours shopping, spend a cent or even wrap up the perfect Christmas gift. You just have to share the love God has put in your heart.
May you celebrate the peace on earth given to us by Jesus Christ… and never forget to spread that peace to other people!