December 27, 2023

A Case of Christmas Whiplash

Silent night! Holy night! All is calm, all is bright…

— Joseph Mohr

I recently arrived home from three months on a semi-off-grid island 60 miles from Auckland, New Zealand. When I left home in September it still felt like summer in North Carolina. When I arrived home in mid-December it had magically become Christmas. Having been magnificently out of touch with the real world, and since I missed Thanksgiving, returning home amid full-blown Christmas craziness was a bit of a shock.

Our three months on Great Barrier Island were an extraordinary blessing. My husband and I were there as part of a ministry staff team, but we also had ample time to rest in God’s presence and enjoy the natural beauty of the island. Nearly every evening produced awe-inspiring sunsets. The loudest noises were squawking parrots and crashing waves. During our stay, we developed a different rhythm, a quieter way of living.

Flowering pōhutukawa, affectionately referred to as New Zealand’s Christmas tree.

This slower pace is something I hope to maintain at home, but arriving home to Raleigh at Christmastime has already made that a challenge. Our Christmas was admittedly simpler this year, but I still had an abundance of gifts to buy. Some will arrive late and our rush ordered New Years cards will not be sent until after the start of the year. And you know what? I’m okay with that.

Christmas isn’t about perfection. It isn’t about how much we do or how much we have. It is about relationship—our relationship with God and the people he has placed in our lives. Christmas is the celebration of Love entering the world. Perfect life-giving love, not some human distortion that leaves us empty and exhausted.

On Christmas Eve, I stood with my candle and thought about the words I was singing. Silent night! Holy night! All is calm…

The previous few days had hardly been silent or calm, but in that moment, I could sense God’s peace–the peace that passes all understanding. (Phil 4:7) Here’s the remarkable thing about God’s peace: it doesn’t leave us when things around us get chaotic. Instead, it burns as a steady flame within us, reminding us that the One who is perfect Love is our source of peace. He is the One called Emmanuel, which means “God with us.”

Jesus’ birth is the perfect gift for God’s imperfect people. What a magnificent Father we have! He sent his son, the exact representation of himself (Heb 1:3), to show us what love looks like.

As we head into the new year, I encourage you to look within for that source of peace. He is there. His love for you never wavers. His peace is always available, even in the most trying circumstances.

Maybe it’s been a while since you’ve tuned in to God’s voice. Perhaps you never have. Either way, I promise he’s with you and always will be. He wants you to experience his perfect love and discover his rest. He wants to be your source of comfort and joy. Will you let him? Ask him what he wants to say to your heart today. He might surprise you.

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