Still no snow, but seeing how much snow has been dumped onto other states in the last couple of weeks, we aren’t really complaining too much here in Illinois. But it would be nice to have a little bit for next Wednesday evening -- just not so much that we end up having travel advisories...
The weather was great last week for our annual Christmas caroling around the neighborhood, and our neighbors genuinely seemed to appreciate it. In fact, one neighbor -- who was out walking her dog -- joined us in singing for the last house that we hit. It’s a joy to share the joy of the season with those around us!
There are a lot of “life change” moments that several of our FCC family have been working through this month, and I’d like to ask you to be praying for them. The Baugher family is preparing for the first Christmas without their daughter, Mary, who passed away in mid-November. Melinda Merz is finishing everything up in her ministry in Australia, since her visa was denied and she suddenly has to come back home at the beginning of February. And Carol Johnson just moved into the Grand View Alzheimer’s Special Care Center here in Peoria this week, so please keep both Cliff and Carol in your prayers as they work through this adjustment -- pray for God’s peace, which transcends our understanding.
Actually, we talked about that a bit in our message this week, continuing to look at “Christmas Presents” that God has given us. This time, we talked about the peace that the angels proclaimed in Luke 2:14. Even Henry W. Longfellow struggled to see any peace on Earth, after his wife died and his son was gravely injured on a Civil War battlefield, though he finally reminded himself that “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.”
But the peace that God’s angels proclaimed that first Christmas Eve -- the peace that Christ shared with His disciples in John 14:27 -- was not the kind of peace that you look around and see. It’s not a peace that comes from a lack of civil wars, or a lack of physical loss, or a lack of life upheaval -- it comes not from finding peace from the storms of life, but from finding peace within the storms of life.
See, this world is broken, and darkened, and tainted, and confused. Even at Christmastime -- a time when people actually might seek some peace and pursue it -- what the world tends to look for is quieted voices, thoughtful gifts, a warm family meal, a cessation of strife, and other external “smoothed roads” to make them feel calm and at peace. But on that first Christmas Eve, none of those things were present. Angels and shepherds shouted loudly and freely, no one brought any gifts but God, there was no big family meal, and strife was all around. God’s peace was not the promise of a peaceful world around us, but the promise of a peaceful heart within us, when we dive deep into our relationship with God.
When troubles come (and they will) practice Philippians 4:4-9, putting into practice the wisdom that God has given you. Don’t wait to thank Him only after He’s done something for you, but to thank Him simply for being so trustworthy in the first place, regardless of whether or not He smoothes out any roads for you. Take time every day to focus on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable... anything... excellent or praiseworthy” (Philippians 4:8), training yourself to think God’s thoughts, from God’s perspective.
The roads may not get any smoother, but God’s peace will guard you and give you better shock absorbers to handle the bumps along the way.