This line from today’s Psalm 122 struck me as I consider the imminent approach of Christmas. So many persons have feelings of anything but peace as they fret about getting together for the holidays with relatives they may not have seen since last December. (Hopefully the same feeling is not the case with friends; I recall the famous Harper Lee quote made known to me by Peanuts: “You can choose your friends but you sho’ can’t choose your family.”) Anxiety builds as the party approaches. Will Uncle Joe go off on a rant after one too many cocktails? Will my Great-Aunt Joan ask me again this year why I haven’t yet married? Will Cousin Carl bring up once more the slight he felt from my dad a dozen years ago? Will the tension in the air be thick enough to cut with a knife as the competitive sisters try to outdo each other in their baking? Will little Billy (who’s not that little anymore) continue to terrorize the guests with his bad behavior that mom won’t discipline? It’s enough to make one not get out of bed the entire day.
While skipping the event might be tempting, let’s consider how we can help by our presence. In the run up to Christmas (Advent, not the three months — or more — of advertising leading up to it) we should be preparing for the coming of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace (Is 9:6). Since we are to imitate Him in all things, we should also imitate Him in this aspect (remember “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” — Mt 5:9?). Just your calming, patient, smiling presence may provide an island of refuge in the turbulence. Engage Joe in conversation taking a real interest. Tell Joan you appreciate her concern and would value her prayers. Explain to Carl that no offense was meant if he brings it up. Tell the ladies that both of their desserts are wonderful and made the day better. Play a game with Billy and really engage him in conversation. Some of these attempts will work better than others but you can rest assured there will be several folks who will appreciate your being there. Whatever happens, pray before, during, and after for all the guests and everyone who needs to find peace so that they may properly enter into the silent night of our Savior’s birth.
A final note. Helpful when coming across a particular word in Scripture that strikes you in a special way is looking for other instances of that word in the entire Bible. “Peace” shows up well over 400 times (see my favorite Bible search engine here). A systematic reading of even a few of these instances will quickly impress upon you the importance of this concept in the Word and will help you to experience it and to live it.