My Column for the Elgin Review 12.18.19
For two or three weeks before Christmas, little Libby, a precocious three-year-old whose parents were directors at the YMCA, answered as her parents taught her to every time she was asked by people at the Y, “What do you want for Christmas, Libby?”
“Peace on earth” was her constant, quick reply.
Word spread throughout the Y, “ask Libby what she wants for Christmas, she’s just the cutest little thing!” And so, a gazillion times, Libby responded saying all she wanted for Christmas was peace on earth, until, she was asked the gazillion-tenth time. Libby didn’t answer right away, but looked at her mother and said,
“Mommy, I don’t want peace on earth for Christmas anymore. I want toys!”
Peace on earth is a lot to ask for, isn’t it? And, truly wanting peace requires sacrifices we aren’t all that interested in making once we find out what they are. I mean, who doesn’t like shiny new toys? Who doesn’t want some nice new thing chosen just for us, wrapped up in a bow? Wanting stuff is easy. Giving and receiving gifts is fun. Peace, on the other hand, makes demands on us. If our prayer is, “Let there be peace on earth” we know the next stanza of the old song is, “and let it begin with me.”
Wanting peace on earth means sharing earth’s resources fairly so everybody gets clean air to breathe and fresh water to drink. Wanting peace on earth means protecting the planet’s resources, not pillaging them to fuel our latest desire for gizmos and high-tech gadgets and the profit-driven desires of big business.
Wanting peace on earth means doing the hard work of going beyond charity like providing food in back packs of school children for the weekend, to figuring out why so many families are too poor to buy their kids food, and then doing something about it. Wanting peace on earth means going beyond putting plastic toys into a shoebox for children across the globe, to finding out why those children die of cholera or have so little hope for living healthy, productive lives.
Wanting peace on earth means being willing to give up some of our comfortable homogeneity to make room for people fleeing persecution or hardship where they come from. Wanting peace on earth requires us to be brave enough to say, “this is wrong” to those in power when what they are doing makes life harder for people whose lives are already hard. Peace requires of us the willingness to sacrifice things we want for a greater good, for the collective good of all people.
God did not send Jesus into the world so we can have picture perfect celebrations with our families around lighted-trees each year, even though our celebrations are wonderful and good. God did not send Jesus into the world so we could be a thousand dollars in debt and ten pounds heavier come January 1st even though the gift giving and delicious indulging feels worth it at the time.
God sent Jesus into the world, a baby, a refugee, a small-town boy from an occupied land, to teach us the way to peace. God sent Jesus into the world to be the Prince of Peace, a Messiah who saves us, not through power and not through might, but through self-sacrificing love. A Savior who died, not to make us feel good, but to show us the way to make the world good, as it was in the beginning, as it is in God’s holy imagination, as it is in heaven.
What do we want for Christmas this year? What are we willing to give up in order to receive it?
Join us at Park Church for worship this Sunday. Worship is at 9:15 am ten miles west of Elgin on HWY 70 and ½ mile south. On Christmas Eve you are welcome to worship by candlelight at 7:00 pm followed by refreshments in the fellowship hall.