All I Want For Christmas Is Peace
Updated: Dec 29, 2020
✠ What do you want for Christmas?
In 1994 a song by Mariah Carey became popular when she sang “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” I was flattered, but told Mariah that I really wasn’t available, but maybe another time.
Fifty years earlier, a silly little Christmas song called “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth” was quite popular. I know this song well, because when our girls were very small, a friend gave us an old record player and some old children’s records. It was summertime. One of our daughters became enthralled with this new gizmo. She particularly loved a children’s record that had the song “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.” And every night through that hot summer, she insisted on going to sleep with that song. We heard it again and again and again.
Apparently the Chipmunks made a recording of that song, as did the popular country singer George Strait. Maybe you have those downloaded on your iphone.
But what do you want for Christmas? Or maybe the question should be what do you need for Christmas?
But what do you need? What do we as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, need as we live in these times? Because these are particular challenging times.
That’s what this sermon series for Advent is about. Each Sunday we will take one thing that is important for Christians to have in these unsettling times. And this morning we begin with peace.
These are anxious times. We are anxious about what is happening in the world, in the economy, with our government, with our safety. We can be anxious just going to the store hoping we won’t be exposed to COVID.
We are anxious about not measuring up. I mean, everyone else on Facebook and Instagram are doing great. Why isn’t my life like that?
Anxiety is going around. So is fatigue.
We’re tired. Tired of the stress. Tired of the noise. Tired of the worry. Tired of so many things coming at us at such a rapid pace. Tired of masks. Tired of being tired.
So peace might be something we want at Christmas.
✠ Isaiah said that God keeps in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast or stayed on the Lord. And the way to keep our minds stayed on the Lord is to trust him.
To stay on something is to lean on it, be dependent on it, let it support us. This peace has a sense of being safely guarded. Though storms may be blowing around us, when we feel safe, we are at peace that we are being kept.
It says the Lord keeps us in his perfect peace. The Hebrew word for “keeps” that Isaiah used was a term that referred to how a potter shapes and forms clay. As we put our minds on the Lord, and lean on him, he shapes peace in us.
Isaiah 26:3 could read like this: You shape perfect peace in the person whose mind leans on you for support because he/she trusts in you.
Is there something in your life that is causing you deep anxiety right now? Is your mind leaning on God, his promises, his word, his faithfulness? Trust in the Lord.
✠ Jesus said he gives us peace, but he said it is peace as the world cannot give. The world says peace comes from being able to escape stress and make ourselves as comfortable as possible through the absence of hardship. Well, I don’t like to have to struggle anymore than you do. But sometimes we don’t have a choice in the matter.
The peace of God that Jesus promises to give us is a peace that we know in the stresses and trials of life.
Jesus said these words to his disciples hours before he would go to the cross. The peace of Jesus is a peace that was tested. It went through suffering and struggle. The peace of Jesus was tested in Gethsemane. It went through mockery, humiliation, and ultimately the cross. The peace of Christ has been through the fire and back. No, it is not as the world gives. This is a peace we have even amidst extreme stress.
The peace of God is a peace that is in spite of the world and all its threats and strife. The world is not going to conform to us. Wars, violence and grudges are going to continue. We may not be able to stop the wars of nations. We may not be able to get our family to get along. Our wills are being pulled in so many different directions, and our attention gets distracted by so many things. What results is a lot of conflict inside of us and it drains us. Our hearts and minds can be battlefields. Our inner lives can be war torn. I wonder sometimes how much the turmoil we experience is self-inflicted?
We may not be able to stop the ways of the world. But we can stop the wars within ourselves.
We can stop the war within us to be perfect.
We can stop the war within us of having to have everything.
We can stop the war of being the center of everyone’s concern and attention.
We can stop the war of having to do everything.
We can stop the war of always being in control.
We can stop the war of being viewed as successful, together, and having all the answers.
We can stop the war within us of trying to impress God.
Sister Joan Chittister, a Catholic nun and writer on the spiritual life said, “Peace comes from not needing to control everything and not needing to have everything and not needing to surpass everyone and not needing to know everything and not needing to have everyone else be like me.”
Is this the war raging in you? Where are you with Jesus? In our worries and preoccupations, if we turn to the Lord and stay our minds on him, we can know his peace.
Just like in Isaiah where perfect peace comes from trusting the Lord, so Jesus asks us to trust him, and his ability to give us peace. And when you trust someone, you know they will come through. And if you have that kind of confidence, you know that in the end you will be OK.
✠ But here’s another thing about God’s peace. It is not merely a private possession. That is another way it differs from the peace the world gives. It is for you and me, but the person next to us, and everyone else as well.
The peace of God first is peace with God, himself. Until we have peace with him, peace won’t be shaped in us. We have been brought near to God through the blood of Christ. The cross has killed the hostility between God and people. The price has been paid for our messes. The debt has been met.
But we say, “Here God, let me do this and this and this, and hopefully you will take notice of me then. Maybe you will accept me when I do this, this, and this.”
That strategy is no good! It was annihilated at the cross.
The cross shows me three things. It shows me who I am: a sinner, alienated from God, in need of his grace.
The cross shows me who the other person is: someone who needs God as well, and who God loves, too.
The cross shows me who God is: the God who desires all to come near to him.
The ground is level at the cross. No one stands higher than anyone else. It’s not “you need help,” but “we all need help.”
Maybe they did wrong you. But we have all wronged God. And though we have broken God’s laws, offended God, done things our own way, he has given the life of his Son for us. Jesus Christ, himself, is our peace. Through him we have peace with God.
In Ephesians, the emphasis on peace is particularly on peace between people. Specifically, between Jew and Gentile. Those two groups were deeply alienated in Jesus’ and Paul’s day. What was so powerful about the rise of the church is that it brought these previously hostile factions together. People who didn’t want to live in one another’s neighborhoods, who were deeply suspicious of the other, found themselves in the same room, praying together, listening to Scripture together, and being a church body together.
Biblical peace is not just an inner feeling, but something that affects relationships. The peace of Christ not only refers to our relationship with God, but also with others. It is vertical and horizontal.
The world we are living in says, “You don’t agree with me, therefore I resent you.” I know this, resentment is not peace, and there is lots of resentment being broadcast these days. Doesn’t mean we have to like everyone. Doesn’t mean they are going to like us. But resentment is not the peace of God.
Daryl Davis is an African-American man, an accomplished blues musician and performer, who also makes it his business to befriend and convert Ku Klux Klan members. His story is fascinating.
Daryl Davis seeks out men who are part of the KKK. He listens to them, talks with them, and has been tremendously effective at changing minds. Most white supremacists have never actually talked to or known a black person. Davis makes sure they get to know one another. And when that happens, the men Daryl Davis talk with discover their perceptions and assumptions about black people were wrong.
It takes boldness and patience. Davis has over 200 KKK hoods and robes hanging in his closet which he asked from those who changed their ways to give to him. They are personal trophies of making peace with those who had once been so hateful. And by the way, he has been criticized by whites and blacks alike for what he does.
Jesus Christ has preached peace to those who are far away and those who are near. He desires peace with everyone. The person you might resent is created by God. That person is loved by God. That person was died for by the Lord.
Whether they are conservative or liberal, whether they see things as you do or see everything contrary to how you do,
…whether narrow-minded or open-minded, fashionable or really behind the times, loyal or flaky, tempermental or easy-going, our call is to peace.
And let’s not talk about peace in the world or in Washington or our nation when we can’t get along with the person across the street.
Maybe the peace we should want for Christmas is not peace for ourselves, but peace with that other person. It might be peace with God for that other person. They don’t have peace with their Heavenly Father and Creator. Perhaps we can help them find that.
God’s peace doesn’t just sit once it gets its own. It also gives a rip about others.
The peace of Christ challenges my anxieties about the other person. It challenges my prejudices about those who aren’t like me. It challenges my biases. It brings down walls.
✠ Don’t you think that it is significant that the first thing Jesus said to his disciples after he rose from the dead was “peace.” He gave his disciples his peace. “Peace be with you,” he said. Jesus says that to you this day. He speaks that to us in our anxiety and trouble. Peace be with you. I give you my peace.
No, not everything is as it should be, nor is everything going to be as we want it. Problems and hurts will come. But God is as he should be, and he isn’t going anywhere. Christ is our peace.
I hope you want his peace. And I hope you get it for Christmas.
Prayer: Lord Christ, confirm in our hearts the peace we have with you so that we can be at peace within ourselves, and at peace with others.
As we move through these days leading up to Christmas, keep us prayerful, worshipful, and our minds stayed on you so that you can keep us in your peace.
Take our hand Lord, and lead us through this day, and this week, step by step.
Thank you, Lord. Amen.