Luke’s Gospel has the fullest account of Jesus’ birth. In Luke 2:11 an angel of the Lord says, “To you is born this day a Savior … who is the Messiah, the Lord.” It’s easy to miss the operative words “to you.”
Jesus’ birth isn’t abstract in any way. It has deeply personal implications. Just like us, Jesus is born into the world as a baby: a vulnerable infant, who needs love, care, and protection. Jesus truly dwells with us, and experiences the fullness of human life. He learns to walk and talk, make friends, do his lessons, and experience all the emotions we do, including the sorrows of our broken world. As every parent knows, babies have a way of stealing our hearts, pushing our selfish desires to one side, and keeping us focused on meeting their needs. What a perfect reminder as we celebrate Christ’s birth anew in our own hearts. There’s no room in our hearts to glorify our own needs and desires. Jesus is the greatest gift we’ll ever receive.
Dwelling within and among us, Jesus brings new life and hope. He has come for you. Just as we nurture our children, we must nurture our faith, which is the life and light of Christ within us, and strengthen the bond we have in relationship with Him. It’s a lifetime commitment, and a lifetime journey of love and growth. Jesus’ coming changes everything. It changes how we see the world, what we do to make the world a better place, and how we offer ourselves in His name to love and serve others.
In Luke 2:14, as the shepherds stand in awe, the angel is joined by a multitude of the heavenly hosts praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace.” Life happens, and many of us may feel that we’ve missed the boat on that promised peace.
Let’s take a closer look at the variety of ways to know peace on earth. There’s the worldwide implication of peace as the opposite of war or strife. As well as the kind of peace that marks acceptance and tolerance between the peoples of the world. That’s a peace that knows no violence or hatred. There’s also a more intimate kind of peace. It’s a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and we call it God’s shalom. We experience it as a selfless desire for the very best for others. It’s also how we embrace and live out God’s desire for justice and equality, and God’s desire for harmony, respecting the dignity of all people. It’s the reality of God’s kingdom peace on earth. It’s more than tolerance or acceptance; it’s the truth of God’s love, mercy and compassion in action.
As an adult, Jesus shares the parable of the sower. Take a moment to read the story in Matthew 13:3-23. In the parable, the sower sows the word extravagantly and generously, and inevitably some of the seed falls amongst thorns. Sometimes we lose our peace because we find ourselves in the briar patch, or allow ourselves to become thorny. We “hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing” (Matthew 13:22). There are numerous things in this world that can strangle and cut off the Word dwelling in us and amongst. Being aware of our human failings and the world’s pressures helps us to take the time to set aside the cares of the world. Whatever the world may have to say, the season of Christmas is 12 days of celebration, not one! Whatever plans might already be crowding our calendars, it’s time to welcome Christ anew in our hearts and lives. It’s time to worship the Lord, to feel His presence, to eat and drink of the peace that passes all understanding, and to lean on His strength, so that we can deal with our thorny lives, as well as our own thorny side.
Only God’s love made flesh in Jesus can bless us with true peace, as we reach out to Him in faith. Jesus is born again! The Lord is here! Our best Christmas gift is to know and feel His love, peace, and healing filling us. Our best gift to others is to share the good news of great joy generously with gratitude in our hearts for all that Christ’s coming means to us and the world. Merry Christmas everyone!
• The Rev. Susan E. Wilmot is Priest-in-Charge at St. James the Apostle Episcopal Church & Preschool, 975 E. Warner Road, Tempe. Susan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 480-345-2686. Check out our website at www.stjamestempe.org.