It’s going to be our 11th Christmas in Czech and like most everyone else, our family is busy getting ready and celebrating the season. The days go by so fast and so we are trying to go s l o w — to quiet our soul so that we don’t miss the babe in the manger.
We made gingerbread cookies last night – using a Czech recipe that a friend gave us. The kids agree that it’s the best gingerbread cookies we’ve ever made. The tree has been trimmed, and this weekend we are looking forward to hosting a birthday party for Jesus for some of our younger friends.
As I think of Christmas and what it means to me … I think of what the angels said to the cold and perhaps weary shepherds out in the fields one night long ago.
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:14
Their message brings hope and comfort to my soul. Jesus came to bring peace between God and man and in so doing He came to give us true peace deep in our hearts. As I scan the daily headlines, it’s easy to see that we are living in a world that is full of strife, war and unrest.
A few weeks ago, we had a friend, a former Iraqi Muslim, who gave his life to Jesus more than 27 years ago, come spend an afternoon at our house. He told us of the suffering of Christians in Iraq … of his own mother, who had her nails pulled out as part of her punishment for believing in Jesus as her Savior.
Yet even as he spoke of his own suffering, he spoke with peace and not in anger, bitterness or resentment. Jesus said,
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
Our friend had the peace of Jesus deep in his heart.
This Christmas, I want my heart to be still and hear the words of the angels and the truth of those words sink deep into my heart.
While there is no external war going on around me … busyness, an overloaded life of ministry can at times rob me of truly living in the peace that Jesus came to give us.
The other night my middle child asked me to read her Christmas wish list. She stood there looking at me as I did and when I looked up, she asked me, “Mom, do you know what I want most?” I shook my head no. “I want grandma and grandpa to visit me.”
At that the tears flowed from my eyes and I wrapped her in my arms. Grandma and grandpa are far away on the other side of the ocean, down south in the Peruvian mountains.
My heart ached with a longing to see my parents and even more so knowing that my daughter’s simple wish would go unfulfilled.
It’s in times like these that I realize that I need look to Jesus, who came as a small babe in a manger. He also grew up away from his grandparents, but more than that the Son of God left his Father and came down to us. He is the bright sun that has come to shine in our darkness.
It’s as Zechariah prophesied,
“because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.” Luke 1:78, 79
In the end, His light is all we need. So we are lighting our advent wreath candles each night and just seeing them flicker brightly is such a powerful reminder of what Jesus came to do.
He is my light and as I seek to follow Him, I know He will guide my feet in the path of peace.
In the midst of all the Christmas sales, the baking, the wrapping of presents and attending gatherings, I want to be led in that path of peace and be reminded just how greatly loved I am by our Heavenly Father.
I inhale deep and close my eyes and I think of the babe in the manger. It’s going to be ok. Immanuel — God is here with us.