By Kristi Sullins
Have you set up your nativity set yet? For many of us, the pieces of the story of the Messiah are part of our Christmas decorations. You may have one with plastic pieces, perfect for little hands or an heirloom set high on a shelf to be seen but not touched.
The sight of the nativity is peaceful. Everyone looks serene. Mary is clean with hair brushed and clothes just right. Joseph stands proudly to the side as shepherds and wise men adore the quiet Christ child lying in the orderly hay bed. Even the animals of the stable are quiet and reverent.
It is perfectly peaceful, yet it does not clearly reflect the reality of those involved. The truth behind those figures is something all of us can connect with.
Look at Mary, the young pregnant mom. We all know the angel came and explained the blessing bestowed upon her. He told her to fear not, but then she was on her own, explaining the unexplainable. On her own to face her betrothed, her parents and her neighbors. She had followed the rules, been a good girl, and was doing the right thing. Suddenly, the plan changed.
Look at Joseph, the good Jewish man. He was just going along with his normal life. He had developed his carpentry trade, and had a young bride promised to him. His life was mapped out. He would marry Mary, live in Nazareth and work to provide for his family. Then Mary explains how she was carrying the Son of God. His virgin bride is pregnant and giving him a story that is beyond belief. The betrayal is hard, but a visit from an angel stops his plan for ending the engagement. Now he is a man married to a woman who is carrying the Son of God. On top of it all, he has to get his little family to the town of Bethlehem because of a census. Instead of being with family and friends at home they find themselves in a stable with nothing but animals for company. The plan changed.
The shepherds were low on the rung of importance in society, and yet found themselves thrust into God’s plan by a group of angels who scared them to death while they were in the fields. The wise men set aside years of their time to follow an unknown star because they knew it was a sign of the promised Messiah. Maybe you can look at the stable and remember the city full of people forced to follow a government edict no matter the strain or difficulty it caused them.
The nativity is a reminder for all of us that lives were altered forever with the coming of the Prince of Peace. Nothing was easy, and plans were interrupted.What a wonderful lesson on peace. Peace is not positive feelings in the good times or settled feelings when everything is going our way. Peace is a goodness and rest even in the deepest trouble.
The peace of God is anchored to a small manger in Bethlehem and a cross at Calvary. They stand as proof that God willingly gave us His Son, and He freely gives what we need (Romans 8:32). He, God, is our source of peace. He was Mary’s peace facing an unknown future when she willingly said “I am the Lord’s servant”, and He was Joseph’s peace as he chose to submit his feelings of hurt and betrayal to obedience to God ‘s plan. In return for their trust, God remained faithful, giving them all they needed to get through.
God offers all believers that same beautiful opportunity for peace. Through Philippians 4:7 we are promised a peace that will be beyond our understanding. Philippians 4:9 tells us the God of peace will be with us. John 14:27 (NLT) tells us that the peace God gives us is a gift, and it is a gift impossible for the world to give us but one God freely gives.
Peace, true peace, comes from God and can be seen all throughout the Christmas story.
When plans change there can be peace. When we don’t understand what is going on there can be peace. When circumstances are out of our control, emotions are out of control, situations seem less the ideal there can still be peace.
Look at the Nativity again. That small child in the middle is our reminder that the Prince of Peace came, and He left us His peace. In this world, we will have troubles, but take heart, that child in the manger has overcome the world (John 16:33).