This Christmas, I decided to simplify. I know, I know. It’s so common in Christian circles to hear about simplifying and focusing on peace during Christmas that it’s almost trite. But last year our Christmas season was so stressful, Bryan and I said “never again” on December 26th. This year we entered December with a different approach. For example . . .
We normally throw a huge holiday party. This year we are skipping it.
We often go on vacation the week before or after Christmas. This year we are staying home.
We usually wait until the last minute to finish Christmas shopping. This year we started in October.
We always go to the big Christmas tree lighting at church. This year we didn’t.
When I hear or read the message of simplicity at Christmas, I sort of picture that peace is just waiting for us at the bottom of our pile of stressful seasonal activities. After all, the notion of simplicity implies the absence of unnecessary things. So that should mean if we keep stripping things off our activity pile, we should find peace. Right?
Well, I got (mostly) to the bottom of the pile this year and found something unexpected. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but instead of peace I found boredom. Each night since we put our tree up I have sat in our living room staring at it, feeling like so much is missing this year. Not only are the activities gone, but so is a lot of the excitement. Christmas has never been “peaceful” for us with all the usual activities and events, but it certainly has been exciting . . . fun . . . and even joyous.
Is peace truly found in the simplification of our schedule, as is so often implied? I had to do some thinking on this after finding myself disappointed by the results.
The secular definition of peace is “the lack of violent conflict”. The Biblical definition is really not too different (Romans 5:1-2): “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand…” In other words, due to our sinfulness, we are by nature in “violent conflict” with God, but through Jesus we can be reconciled to God, resulting in peace.
Peace is about the PRESENCE of Jesus in our lives, representing reconciliation with God . . . not about the ABSENCE of anything.
Granted, when we fill our lives with too many things or activities, it becomes much more difficult to focus on Jesus’ presence. But a dutiful simplification of our schedules at Christmastime does not lead us by default to peace as one might imagine from years of December sermons. It just lands us at a place where we are more free to focus on the reconciliatory peace that was brought to the world through the baby born on (what we celebrate as) December 25th.
That’s something I should get excited about. That’s something I am getting excited about now that I’m free to do so. In fact, I’m already excited to simplify again next year now that I understand peace is about presence and not absence. Absence is boring. Peace is exciting.
How have you defined peace – by absence or presence?
Meditate on Romans 5:1-2. Then pray that God will help you increase your understanding of Biblical peace this Christmas season. If your kids are old enough, use today’s thought as a conversation starter.