We want to talk about the real meaning of Christmas. We don’t want you to miss it. The question for you today is: Are you at peace today? To the core of who you are, are you able to say that you are content, peaceful and well rested in your soul?
I remember when we owned our first house and brought a baby girl home from the hospital. Every month we paid our bills but we struggled to balance it all. That struggle was normal but after a while it turned into feelings of despair. It started because when we would be a couple hundred dollars ahead, we were slammed with a couple hundred dollar repair. The car. The house. Appliances. We just couldn’t get ahead.
The biggest hit we ever took was in the city of Harrisburg. We owned a townhouse on Green Street and as the months passed, we noticed that the road in front of our house began to collapse. One day I got a call at work from my wife who was in tears, that’s never a good thing. I came flying home and noticed that the police roped off our street and workers where tearing up the street in front of my house. The city gave me a document that was a couple hundred pages long that basically meant: You are paying for this, if you try to sew us, we will nail you. It cost us $11,000. The problem was a lead water pipe that cracked and leaked.
What made this feeling of despair even worse, was when I compared my life to others. It seemed like they were doing great. I was envious of their lives. I wondered when life going to work out for us? All of this left me feeling worse. Can you connect with that feeling?
If you would have asked me if I was at peace, I would have starred at you and said, really!?! And even though I went to church at that time, this following scripture would not have meant a lot to me. Then Zachariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; he came and set his people free. He set the power of salvation in the center of our lives, and in the very house of David his servant, just as he promised long ago through the preaching of his holy prophets: Deliverance from our enemies and every hateful hand; mercy to our fathers, as he remembers to do what he said he’d do, what he swore to our father Abraham – a clean rescue from the enemy camp, so we can worship him without a care in the world, made holy before him as long as we live. And you, my child, “Prophet of the Highest,” will go ahead of the Master to prepare his ways, present the offer of salvation to his people, the forgiveness of their sins. Through the heartfelt mercies of our God, God’s Sunrise will break in upon us, shining on those in the darkness, those sitting in the shadow of death, then showing us the way, one foot at a time, down the path of peace. MSG Luke 1:66-68
I’m struggling. I am feeling despair and envy and because Jesus was born, I’m supposed to be at peace?
What are you talking about? What I needed was $11,000. What I didn’t need was some dreamy idea that Jesus was born and now everything in my life is fixed. So I continued to struggle. I grew angry. And I worked harder and harder.
Tell me scripture isn’t relevant: Then I observed all the work and ambition motivated by envy. What a waste! Smoke. And spitting into the wind. The fool sits back and takes it easy, His sloth is slow suicide. One handful of peaceful repose is better than two fistfuls of worried work – more spitting into the wind. I turned my head and saw yet another wisp of smoke on its way to nothingness: a solitary person, completely alone – no children, no family, no friends – yet working obsessively late into the night, compulsively greedy for more and more, never bothering to ask, “Why am I working like a dog, never having any fun? And who cares?” More smoke. A bad business. MSG Ecclesiastes 4:7-8
Can you connect with what I am talking about? You work and work and work and for what? Walk with feelings and emotions like struggle. Despair. Envy. Anger. Not able to see the connection between Christmas, the Jesus story and your life now, today?
I want to share with you what I know now, what I have learned over the years. No one told me what I am about to tell you. If they did, I wasn’t paying attention. First, peace is spiritual. When you are spiritually healthy, you will experience peace. Now, there are times when you will not be at peace but in general, peace defines your life. Peace is not found from anything on this earth. That’s what makes it spiritual. Scripture explains this. Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. MSG Philippians 4:6-7
That’s what Christmas celebrates. God entering this world. Emmanuel means, God is with us! Zachariah was right, Jesus was coming to earth to set us free from sin and all it’s damage. He came to displace worry at the center of your life. He came to rescue us spiritually. He came to destroy chaos and give peace in the center of our lives. So today we can experience peace to our core.
Secondly, greed is spiritual damage. Greed is believing that something practical will fix my spiritual problem. When spiritually healthy, you have peace. When you are spiritually hurting, greed moves in. Greed is known as one of the seven deadly sins that leads to all kinds of damage. I have six questions for you to think about.
1.) Do I work obsessively to support a life style leaving me exhausted and worn out? It’s good to work to get out of debt but work, money, life styles doesn’t fix a spiritual problem.
2.) Am I aware of what others have, focus on that, and become envious? It’s fine to notice what others have but to focus on it will not fix a spiritual problem.
3.) Am I aware of what I don’t have, focus on that, and become discontent? It’s good to have things you are saving for but to focus on it will not fix a spiritual problem.
4.) Do I worry about what could go wrong tomorrow, focus on that and live in fear? It’s good to think through tomorrow and prepare but to worry about what could go wrong will not fix a spiritual problem.
5.) Am I a people pleaser, have little priorities or boundaries, leaving me feel like I disappoint everyone? It’s good to get along with others but to live for their validation will not fix a spiritual problem.
6.) Do I live in fear that if I give, I will have less and that terrifies me so I give nothing?
What’s happening? Spiritual damage allowing greed to move in. It’s thinking that something from this earth will fix my spiritual problem. I need to ask you: Are you at peace today? To the core of who you are, are you able to say that you are content, peaceful and well rested? Or, do still think that something from this earth will fix your spiritual problem?
I invite you to into a life where you can experience the peace of God but understand, it’s spiritual. You have a choice. You can blow off what I am saying but I will tell you this, you won’t find the peace you are looking for. Logically, I have to ask you this: how has doing it your way worked for you so far?
You have another choice, you can also carve out time and space, to pray. You can invite God into your chaos and turn it into peace.
This is what Jesus said. Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. “The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this: Our Father in heaven, reveal who you are. Set the world right; do what’s best – as above, so below. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You’re in charge! You can do anything you want! You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes. MSG Jesus in Matthew 6:6-13
Please, don’t miss the meaning of Christmas. Peace is available to you. I want to tell you something that you can do that is practical but has huge spiritual implications. To have peace, we invite God into our chaos. To destroy greed from ruling our hearts, we give. When I say that, what does that do to you? Do you feel the heart just cringe? Do you feel terrified about having less, losing control? That’s what we call greed.
Peace is spiritual, it’s from God. Greed is spiritual damage. To avoid this damage, the practical step is to live a life that gives.