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Advent| Week Two | Peace

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CHRISTMAS AT THE MOVIES | How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Read | Isaiah 9:6; Micah 5:5; Matthew 5:9; John 14:27; & Philippians 4:7-9

This time of year is my very favorite. I love the songs, the decorations, the excitement. But this season is also busy, chaotic, and it seems we either experience the very best in those we encounter - or the very worst. Amid the hustle and bustle all around me, my very favorite thing to do is turn off all of the lights in my house except for the Christmas Tree. Then I make myself a warm cup of something, track down my coziest blanket, and snuggle in, staring at the tree and the way the lights provide a warm glow in the darkness around me. And it seems no matter what has happened in the hours before, there is a sense of peace that surrounds me in that moment.

Over the years, the Grinch has worked his way into the hearts of many and has become almost synonymous with Christmas, possibly because many of us can relate to his grinchiness. The Grinch was full of hatred, assuming the Whos believed Christmas was all about the stuff. But why? What was missing in his life? Some would argue that he was missing peace.

Peace has been defined as “a state of tranquility or quiet; freedom from oppressive thoughts; a stress-free state” (Merriam-Webster). But it goes beyond that. It comprises notions of wholeness, completeness, and soundness. And I think it’s safe to say, the Grinch did not possess peace.

After years of listening to the joyful and triumphant celebration, he finally decides he cannot handle one more Whoville Christmas, and takes matters into his own hands. He will steal Christmas. At least that’s what he thought. But after the deed is done he hears the singing, and slowly he begins to realize that Christmas might be more than just stuff.

The Grinch was hurting because he lacked peace. And his resolve was to hurt those around him. When we lack peace, we are held captive by oppressive thoughts, and the natural outflow from our thoughts to our actions quite often will result in destruction. Peace is replaced by disorder and chaos. From broken people to broken homes to broken communities and countries - we are surrounded by hatred, anxiety, and sorrow. And as the saying goes, misery loves company. Hurt people hurt people.

But because peace was God’s plan, He promised to send One who would restore peace. The prophet Isaiah called Him the “Prince of Peace”. Jesus was sent to bring peace to the world, and left His peace with those who follow Him.

This Christmas, we can actually be Peace on Earth. We can defy the assumptions and expectations of this hurting and broken world by being Peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). We can be hopeful in those moments that seem hopeless because we have hope in Jesus. We can be joyful when we are surrounded by sorrow because we can rejoice in the Savior. We can be loving in the midst of hatred because we are loved by the Prince of Peace. Peace on Earth looks like God’s people bringing hope, joy, and love to the hurting and the broken.

When the Grinch’s heart grew, he couldn’t help but be the bearer of peace, realizing Christmas was not about the material items, but about those members of the community who warmly embraced him and brought him tenderly into their family. Calvin Coolidge once said: “Christmas is not a time or a season but a state of mind. To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”

Stealing a few quiet moments with the soft glow from the tree allows me the time and the space to recenter my heart and mind, remembering who Jesus is and what He brings to my life. He is the Prince of Peace who has left His peace with me to be a Peacemaker in the chaos of the word.

Reflect | How can you create more space for peace in your daily life?

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Advent| Week One | Hope

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Read | 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

I love this Advent season, I love Thanksgiving and being together with family. I love the lead up to Christmas with decorations, lights, good food, hot chocolate and I even love Christmas shopping. For many people it is easy to be hopeful in this Christmas season, but for others it is difficult to be hopeful at any time of the year. It totally depends on your circumstances. Hope is a funny thing, it is our expectation of something or our desire for something to happen. Hope can come and go pretty easily.

A year ago my family and I had been waiting for 3 years for our son Firaol to come home from Ethiopia, and in November we were told that it would not be happening. Things felt pretty hopeless at this time last year. However, by spring it began to look like we would be able to complete our adoption and hope began to build again.

This week we’re taking a look at the movie A Christmas Carol. Ebenezer Scrooge seems to be someone who doesn’t have a lot of hope in his life. He’s selfish and has no real personal connections. His old business partner has died, he doesn’t have any friends.  The guy who works for him isn’t really a friend and still treats Scrooge better than he is treated by him. But once Scrooge is visited by the Christmas Ghosts of Past, Present, and Future he realizes that he needs to make some changes in his life. He needs to let hope into his life and then spread it into the lives of others. At the end of the movie no one can even recognizes Ebenezer Scrooge because he is such a different person. He has a sense of hope.

Jesus gives us this same hope. We may feel like hope can come and go pretty easily, but that’s only if we take our eyes off of Jesus. 2 Corinthians 4:18 tells us we should fix our eyes on Jesus not on the circumstances around us. Jesus can give us hope here on earth but also into the future when we will spend eternity in heaven. If we look around to the stuff here on earth, we can lose hope really fast. If we look to money there might be a time when it runs out, if we look to a friend there might be a time they aren’t there for us and  if we look to our health what happens when it fails. The only way we can truly have hope is by looking to Jesus and the hope that he gives us. I think that’s why it can seem a little easier to have hope during this advent season, because we are looking to Jesus coming into this world and bringing us the “thrill of hope” in this holiday season.

This year is full of hope for my family, our son has been home for 6 months and we are enjoying every bit of all new traditions for him and our family, first thanksgivings, cutting Christmas trees, decorating, making a Christmas list, and experiencing advent. Praying your family experiences the hope that comes from Jesus this Christmas Season.

Reflect | What are the temporary places you tend to look for Hope?

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