Holidays. Family time. Meaningful yet messy. Happy, yet hard. That first Christmas, angels proclaimed peace on earth for all people. It is as if all heaven knew that this season would need peace because it is messy, difficult, and painful – because it is a season of family, so we need peace. I’m blessed to be a part of an amazing extended family and yet we do not have any family gathering that is easy. We journeyed to visit family over Thanksgiving and both of the two family gatherings we shared in needed a proclamation of peace. We visited my parents who live in a three bedroom home with no basement. My sister and her husband and their middle school daughter moved in with my parents after dealing with some very painful family issues, which fills the three bedrooms. My other sister’s daughter, my adult niece, finds herself in the midst of a difficult season and is also living there. Our first messy family decision for the holidays was where we were going to stay. My mother actually assumed that we would stay there in the house with the six people already living there. Sounds exactly like peace on earth to me. My extended family has dealt with divorce, sexual abuse, problems with alcohol, drug abuse, job loss, stepfamily challenges and all sorts of interpersonal strain. Family can be an amazing gift but family…is…messy! Into this messy world, the gospel of Matthew begins by describing Jesus’ family tree. As we heard during the message this past weekend, Jesus’ family tree was filled with messy, broken branches. Into this genealogy, the Prince of Peace arrives. But even Jesus’ coming into the world was messy. Unmarried parents who have to leave home for a census and then have no place to stay other than a stable filled with noisy livestock, trampled hay, and smelly dung. Childbirth itself is a painful, messy experience. And within the first year or two this family has to flee for Egypt as refugees. And into all of our mess, Christ has come. The Prince of Peace. God with us…in our mess. Often Jesus does not change our circumstances but brings the gift of presence and peace into our circumstances. He brings peace that passes all understanding. Sometimes he calms the storm around us and sometimes he calms you and me in the midst of the storm. If your family seems particularly messy this Christmas, look for Jesus and the peace that he offers amidst all the mess.
Jesus, Prince of Peace, be my peace this Christmas. In the midst of family stress or heartache, may your peace calm me, center me and flow through me. May I be your ambassador of peace in the midst of the storm. Amen.