By Bruce Boyer
Amid the fast pace of everyday life and everything families need to accomplish before Christmas Day, the arrival of Christmas brings our family a sense of peace. By then, we will have completed a long to-do list of preparations. The season of Advent includes shopping, baking, Christmas cards, and moving the thirty bins of Christmas decorations from the attic to their place in our home. We also attend several Christmas parties leading up to the big day. Our December calendar is full of community events, such as the Christmas tree lighting, the Christmas Parade, and other events. There is no shortage of opportunities, such as our church’s angel tree and the Kiwanis Club’s “Christmas family,” to help people in need. The town atmosphere is brightened with locally manufactured “Blinkie lights,” sparkling lights creating a winter wonderland appearance, particularly in the downtown area. We love living in a community that celebrates the true spirit of Christmas.
The weekly Sunday lighting of the Advent candles at Fountain of Life Lutheran Church is a spiritual countdown for us, with candles portraying the messages of hope, love, joy, and peace. The final candle – the Christ candle – is lit on Christmas Eve. Family members who do not regularly attend church with us are seated beside us on the sanctuary pew. Being part of the family of God, we feel particularly blessed by our family this night. Readings on Christmas eve recall the biblical Christmas story, emphasizing the hope, peace, and joy that comes to us through knowing Jesus as our Savior. Our traditional Christmas Eve service closes with the lyrics to the familiar hymn, Silent Night. The sanctuary lights have been extinguished, and each member of the congregation holds their lighted candle as they sing: “… All is calm; all is bright …” and concluding with the words, “Sleep in Heavenly Peace.” We celebrate that Christ is born, and His presence brings us a sense of peace.
Christmas morning is anything but calm and peaceful in the Boyer house. Excited young grandchildren rip open packages when it is their turn, jumping up and down in an expression of joy for what they have received. Adults marvel at the thoughtfulness that went into the gifts they received. We often hear, “this is just what I need.” Moments later, we gather around an iPad screen for a video call to family members who are elsewhere this day. A meal is served, featuring favorite entrees of each family member, as feelings of love and satisfaction fill our hearts and bodies. Sometime in the afternoon, we break out a deck of cards for the traditional family card game, Liverpool Rummy. As the day winds down, the prevailing mood transitions from excitement to contentment.
Our family is fortunate that two of our three adult children live in the Triad area, so Christmas gatherings are easier to orchestrate. The pandemic has geographically separated us from our son and his family in California, but the video call to them is the first on our list. Christmas is a time of expressing our love for each other, wherever they may be. It is also an opportunity to remind our grandchildren about the “reason for the season.” We celebrate Christmas because God gave us the biggest gift of all – His Son, Jesus Christ. Whether extended family members live near or far, each is a cherished gift from God. Looking at my family gathered around the Christmas tree and on a video call brings a sense of peace.
We love because He first loved us. Jesus came to earth to show us how to live in peace, even in the midst of a chaotic world. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27). I recently read a quote from singer/author Sheila Walsh, who said, “Peace is not the absence of trouble but the presence of Christ.”
For the Boyer family, Christmas is a peaceful respite from the daily chaos all around us. It is the hope that having Christ in our life will allow us to live in peace, not just on this day but throughout the year. As we enjoy the gift of peace, we can say, “this is just what I need.” Jesus is the “Prince of Peace,” this day and every day. We wish you a Merry Christmas.