This morning I woke up with a cold. Restless, tossing and turning and thinking about all the potential things that could go wrong this family Christmas. The last few years have taught me that as an adult, you see Christmas through a more complicated lens than the magical one your parents worked so hard to give you during childhood. Christmas is magical and fun and family as a kid. As an adult, you want that too, not just for you, but as a slightly less self-centered human being—you now want that for others. And you are acutely aware that for every happy Christmas dinner, there is someone cold and lonely that this season is miserable for. For every table that is perfectly set and tree nicely decorated, there was someone that snapped and lost their cool.
There’s expectations and disappointments and pushing of buttons and the same problems as last year, you just hope that this year we’ll handle them better.
I’ve never done well when expectations go unmet. I’ve particularly struggled when there’s relational tension in a room. Wisdom teaches me that perfection is not the point and relational tensions are the most natural thing in the world, but still I long for one perfect Christmas day where nothing goes wrong and everyone is happy.
I already have a cold, so perfect is blown. And I’m not terribly sorry, to tell you the truth. My cold is regrettable but maybe it will start the day on a truthful front—family celebrations were never meant to be perfect. They were meant to be peoply. And people are messy and wonderful all at once.
The verse scrolling in my mind as I blow my nose for the thousandth time is Colossians 3:15:
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
It’s a fitting verse to talk about family gatherings since Paul is giving instructions on how the family of God is supposed to treat each other and he follows this passage with specific instructions on how to interact with family members. This chapter is rich with instruction, but this verse specifically holds out a candle this morning.
What I really want is peace during Christmas. I want the absence of conflict and the absence of anxiety. Positively, I want the warmth and calm that I associate with peace. No matter what happens today, I want peace.
Peace is possible according to Paul. The peace of Christ is not from everything going as planned. It’s not from everyone behaving, it’s not from my own goodness and it doesn’t rely on others’ goodness either.
It’s the peace of Christ—the absence of conflict and absence of anxiety that comes from our hope being in him. It’s the absence of conflict because I trade my warring emotions and conflicting needs for submission to the one who loves perfectly. It’s the absence of anxiety because I am trusting the sovereign—the one who knows all and whose purposes have never been thwarted.
Peace is our calling and privilege. This is one of those commands that is truly to our benefit.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart.
Rest all your hopes on him this morning. Rest all your burdens in his trustworthy care. Trust that as he rules, the external conflicts and anxieties will be sorted. You’ll be left with unstealable warmth and calm as he cares for you.
Christmas was his from the start. Families were his idea. Rest in his rule this Christmas day.
It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth
To touch their harps of gold!
Peace on the earth, good will to men,
From heaven’s all gracious King!
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.
For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When, with the ever-circling years,
Shall come the Age of Gold;
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And all the world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.