Central’s planning for the holiday season begins soon after Easter. Discerning what God wants to say some six months before we’ll need to say it is no easy task. Last year God led is to the Christmas refugee idea. Oh boy! Long before the topic ever became the political football it did, I might add! I could never have imagined what happened in the weeks and months after we’d determined that’s where God wanted us to go. That the refugee crisis would work out the way it did was not what we expected. Our intent was to show how through Jesus all people could come home. We took a lot of heat for ‘playing on the refugee theme’ when all we did was follow the Lord’s lead.
This year, God has led us to the theme of unity. I'm praying that we won't get as much heat for this even though the theme is certainly as relevant to what is going on! As I’ve sat and watched what has unfolded after the election, I’m once again sensing that God has led us to the right place (I know, does He ever lead us to the wrong place?). We live in a very troubled world and, for those of us in the USA, a very divided nation. Over the weeks leading up to Christmas we are going to celebrate the gift of Christmas as ONE people. Whether black or white, Asian American or Native American, rich or poor, old or young, this Christmas is a celebration of the unity possible because the gift of Christmas, Jesus, not only brings peace but “is our peace” (Eph. 2:14).
I love those words of Paul and will spend some time unpacking the implications of them this weekend. Suffice to say here, Jesus doesn’t simply make peace possible. He IS our peace.
Every Christmas since I can remember I’ve sung the carol that contains the words first uttered by the angels over a field in Bethlehem: “Peace on earth and good will to all people” (Luke 2:14). What I’m realizing is that without knowing Jesus, who is my peace, I’m tempted to see peace as nothing more than something that’s out there somewhere. In reality, if Jesus lives in me then peace lives in me too because Jesus is my peace. Peace is right here with me. Peace begins with me accepting God's gift.
I am convinced from the Scriptures that peace is what God wills for His people (see Isa. 2:2;4; 11:1-9). I know that because God Himself is peace (Judges 6:24). More than that the Bible tells me that this God of peace makes a covenant of peace with people (Num. 6:26) and promises to one day bring peace (Isa. 9:1-7).
Christmas is a time for celebrating that, in Jesus, peace has come. So, this weekend (11/27/2016) we begin our journey towards Christmas celebrating what happens when the peace that’s here is allowed to rule. Peace in the Bible is not the absence of conflict but the Shalom of God. It is the rule and reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. In Jesus, God’s rule and reign have broken in and peace has broken out. Things that were distorted have now been corrected and people that were divided have now been united. Such transformation is not simply a picture of what happens when peace breaks out but what happens when Jesus comes in! That's worth celebrating!
I am so pumped for Christmas this year. We have so much to celebrate and so much to offer. Our celebratory journey begins this weekend but lasts an entire month. With the Women’s Christmas Deserts, the Christmas Store, the Christmas Experience (12/16-18) and the Christmas gifts we have for the Central family we have a lot to Celebrate!
Make sure you join us in a month-long celebration of peace and unity!