During Monday’s chapel service at Hartford Seminary the preacher talked about how all the people he is hearing from are complaining that they are not “feeling the Christmas spirit.” I can relate. We almost didn’t decorate the house this year. The season was well underway by the time we returned from Israel. Unlike years past, we are not having an open house because the wedding was our big party for this year. Bill has been having some health issues, and the whole world seems to be falling apart. So how can you “feel the Christmas spirit”?
As the preacher talked, however, I wondered if the circumstances in our world are really that much different this year from any other. The tragedy in San Bernardino, California certainly weighs on our minds and has increased tensions between Christians and Muslims. Ironically, though, Monday was the third anniversary of the horrific shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. There, a white, male, Christian American massacred 20 children and six adults. Was Christmas more spirited that year than this one?
Our chapel preacher reminded us of the assigned epistle lesson for this past Sunday, which includes Paul’s promise that we would be “kept” by a “peace that passes all understanding.” It seems to me that, as people of faith, we seek the place of inner peace that trusts our lives to God, regardless of what is going on in the world as a whole or in our personal world. It doesn’t mean we like it or enjoy it. Remember: Paul wrote those words from prison. What they mean is, if we can entrust our lives to God by faith, there is the possibility of peace that “passes all understanding,” a peace that is irrational, inexplicable.
I must admit that I’m not there yet. I have moments of trust when I am at peace, but then worry and anxiety invade again. My hope is that those inexplicable stretches of peace will expand as I learn to entrust more and more of my life to God. Who knows? THAT just may be the real spirit of Christmas.
Rev. Michael Piazza