Every year around this time, I overhear folks sharing these all-too-familiar words: "I'm so busy!" Although Christmas is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, we do our best making it the most frantic and exhausting time of year. As we prepare for the hope of Emmanuel to visit us, I find it fascinating that we do so by rushing, overloading our calendars, spending a ridiculous amount of money and spreading ourselves so very thin. It's curious. When did Jesus ever say he wanted us to celebrate his birthday by adding a gazillion things to our calendar or by putting a significant dent into our checking accounts?
In the Gospel of John, Jesus reminds us of one of the most important reasons he came to earth in the first place. Toward the end of his earthly ministry, he turns to his disciples - to people just like you and me - and says, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid." This time of year often brings with it anxiety and worry about many things. Getting everything accomplished while trying to please everyone in our lives is an impossible mission.
Maybe it doesn't have to be this way. In the middle of a hectic and consumer-driven season, the Prince of Peace invites us to embrace the exact opposite. Jesus summons us to slow down, pause and embrace the peace that comes through moments of stillness - cuddling with your children during a holiday movie, enjoying a date night with your spouse or partner, listening to grandma or grandpa read the Christmas story to your kids or even holding tightly onto the hand of a loved one who is feeling sick or alone. Reconnecting with loved ones while eating, drinking and being merry can also be a source of peace and joy during this season. There are countless moments of peace to experience this Christmas, but the truth is, we may need to make a little room here and there for the Prince of Peace to find his way into our lives.
As we walk closer and closer to the manger this Christmas, may you open yourself moment by moment to the peace of Emmanuel, God with us.
Nick Cheek is the pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Sumter.