Dec. 26, 2012 — Thoughts of a Merry Christmas were in full swing a few weeks ago. Susanville had celebrated its Uptown Magical Country Christmas, tickets were selling for the Susanville City Rockettes Christmas Spectacular, and local churches were celebrating the Advent season. Unfortunately, all of that was interrupted on Friday, Dec. 14, when news of the Connecticut shootings hit the airwaves and in the course of a few minutes, the “merry” had left our Christmas season.
I’ve been involved with the good, the bad, and the ugly of people’s lives for decades doing church ministry. I’ve not always had answers, but trusted what God said, “He is our refuge and strength, an ever present-help in times of trouble” (Psalms 46:1). As a Christian, I can’t help but think about God’s offer of peace; in our pluralistic world it may not be the answer for everyone, but it’s worth considering.
For the lowly shepherds on the hillside outside of Bethlehem watching their flocks, it was a night like every other before the angel shocked them with “good news that will bring great joy to all people.” He said that over in Bethlehem, in a stable, the Savior had been born. A single angel is plenty to get God’s point across, but then the heavenly choir kicks in, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased” (Luke 2:14). God revealed his glory and his plan in a way the shepherds could understand, and they ran like mad into the city to find this infant in a manger. The results of this unparalleled event: God gets glory, people get peace, and all this happens because of God's favor.
Tradition and Christmas carols tell us that “Peace on earth and goodwill toward men” somehow magically appear. Theologically speaking, peace and goodwill do come, but not to everyone. God’s promise is to those who like the shepherds, respond to the call of God. Those who see their need for a Savior and engage God in a personal relationship are the recipients of his favor. This is the sad part of the story: peace is available to everyone, but not all choose to take God up on his offer.
God’s peace and goodwill toward others is not based on outward circumstances or our current situation in life. It stems from a relationship with Jesus Christ, but that’s not to say that Christians are exempt from foolish or poor choices, either. We all are free to choose every day — good, bad or otherwise. Sadly, the bad choices happen way too often, and innocent people suffer.
They say, “Hurt people, hurt people.” Maybe we need a Savior more than we realize. After all, “peace on earth and goodwill toward men” just isn’t happening in our own power. Christmas celebrates God’s love for us all by sending his Son to be our Savior. Maybe it’s time to look outside of ourselves to an amazing God, with a life-changing offer of peace.
Senior Pastor at Community Church of Susanville
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