Hope, Joy, Peace, & Love

As of 10:31 p.m. on Monday night November 27, we are ready for Christmas.

We made sure our calendars were in sync and reviewed all the events and activities that would shape our 2017 Christmas experience. Our next full free day will be Monday, December 25.  

Between now and then, our calendar looks pretty much the same as yours: dinners, parties, programs, and worship services. Add to that rehearsals, weekend message prep, deadlines for sermon series coming the first quarter of 2018, creative team meetings, video shoots, all leading up to 14 Christmas Eve services on December 23 and 24, and the season of busyness is in full swing. 

We will dig into four words for Christmas: hope, joy, peace, and love. And when I pull into my garage around 8:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve, my prayer is that those four words will be alive in my own soul, that those four words will drown out any fatigue, and there will be the exhilaration of knowing that many people chose to accept God’s invitation to the manger, to “see for themselves” this unspeakable gift that has come from God Himself.

I encourage you to begin praying today that the busyness of Christmas will in no way hinder the thrill of an encounter with Jesus.

Two nights ago, it was time to get the house ready. Kim was kind as she gently gave me directions as to what went where. There are really three important jobs I have to complete each Christmas. The first is to bring in the pre-lit Christmas tree that rolls in from the garage. We remove the cover, fluff the branches, and plug it in. The second is that I’m tasked with putting the angel on the top of the tree, then Kim guides the process of hanging the ornaments.  And my final job is to hang the stockings above the living room fireplace.

The whole experience is a trip down memory lane. As we prepare for the coming Christmas, we get a chance to look back on previous Christmas celebrations in our home. Christmas 2017 is our 35th Christmas together.

Our first Christmas arrived just over five months after our wedding in July of 1983. There were two stockings hanging on the mantle of our small townhouse then. Five years later, stocking number three was added to the mantle when our first son came along in 1988.  We added stocking number four in 1989 representing the birth of our daughter. We added stocking number five in 1993 after our second son was born. And for the next seventeen years, there were five stockings hanging on the mantle.  

But that changed in 2010 when our oldest son married our first daughter-in-law and stocking number six appeared on the mantle.  A few years later, our first grandson arrived and that Christmas, we added stocking number seven.  Two years later, our second grandson arrived, as did stocking number eight. And stocking number nine has appeared this Christmas which represents the marriage of our youngest son to our second daughter-in-law in the coming weeks. 


As you can tell, those stockings are very important pieces of our Christmas experience.

After the stockings were in place, we began placing the ornaments on the tree. Many of our ornaments were made by the kids or were gifts from other family and friends.  So many of them remind us of someone special, or a special season of life that brings a smile to our faces. The nativity scenes are placed on the various tables or cabinets all of which point to a manger where it all started--a stable, barnyard animals, angels singing, stars in the sky, and the first cries of a baby boy, God in flesh, coming to terms with the limitations of being a human being.   

Once the hard work of getting the house ready for Christmas is complete, we can then get about the task of staying focused on the “why” of Christmas. His name is Jesus. And my prayer every Christmas season has been:

”Dear God, please help me keep Jesus at the center of the celebration. Please don’t let the schedule and the demands steal my joy. Please protect me from the temptation of materialism, the audacity to ask for more when I already have far more than I need.  Help me to be mindful of so many people around me who will face more pain than joy during this December month. Somehow give me words to say that will help the one far from God know they are as loved and welcomed as I am. May the lonely be comforted, the confused given clarity, the distraught be given a peace that passes all understanding, and may the arrogant be humbled.”

His name is Jesus.

May we see Him in every light, every ornament, nativity scene, stocking, Christmas tree, Christmas carol, dinner, program, worship experience, and every note sung whether by a well-rehearsed choir or the simplicity of the tone deaf.  

May it enlarge our hearts, so we can make room for the only one who can fill our hearts with hope, joy, peace, and love.

“And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” -Matthew 1:21