Our Christmas decorations are out and up, and man was that a lot of work! The tree was purchased, white lights were strung (inside and out), wreaths with red bows were hung, and the multiple nativity scenes were set up on book shelves, table tops and credenzas. Our holiday pillows were thrown, candles placed, garlands displayed, dishes and mugs loaded in the cabinets, and numerous Christmas pictures and signs have temporarily replaced our typical wall art. Over my shoulder, a rustic looking picture made from a wooden plank proclaims “Christmas Peace.” Oh, the irony!
We’ve tried to streamline the process, but it still takes a couple weekends after Thanksgiving to do all that needs to be done. I’ve even incorporated work-saving technology the last couple of years, connecting the tree and interior lights to our Amazon Echo and hooking the exterior lights to outlet receivers that turn on and off with a remote-controlled fob I stumbled upon at Wal-Mart. The transformation is festive and beautiful, but it comes at a price, as the most repeated phrase at our house during the Christmas season is “Alexa, turn on Christmas lights!”
Still, there is that sign for elusive Christmas peace. At times it seems hopeful, while at others, especially during the frantic push to set everything up, almost mocking. But the proclamation is appropriate, is it not? We are at Christmas, after all, celebrating the birth of the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
Grace before peace
Several times in the scriptures, maybe a dozen, writers use the salutation “grace and peace” (see, e.g., 2 Peter 1:2; Philippians 1:2; Ephesians 1:2). It is always in that order—grace before peace. I’m sure that is no accident. Without grace, which is God’s undeserved favor, we cannot know peace. And, according to the Bible, that grace is offered to us all, for “at just the right time,” while mankind was at enmity with God, he sent the Christ of Christmas to die for us in the ultimate act of love (Romans 5:6-11). Such favor is a gift and, by definition, undeserved. Yet, it rests on us who will but receive it. And peace is the result: peace with God, peace with others and peace with ourselves. It is the peace proclaimed by the angels in that first Christmas so long ago:
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)