On any given day I will throw out a half dozen fliers for companies I don’t frequent, and answer at least one phone call from someone who needs my valued opinion in a survey that will take “less than 30 seconds”. And then there’s the spam emails, promising one thing but delivering another...
Case in point: earlier this week the staff received an email from Pastor Aaron Groat with the subject PEACE. Naturally, we assumed it was our Pastor and friend sending information about the upcoming Peace week of Advent. Nope. Just some scammer who had spoofed Aaron’s name and was trying to steal from us. (Note: Pastor Aaron will never email you to ask you to buy iTunes cards, Google Play cards, or anything else!)
On the surface, I was promised peace, and I almost fell for it… but I didn’t. And do you know why? Because I checked the source. You see, clicking the sender’s name revealed that another email address was hidden below the surface. The author of that kind of peace was a liar and could not be trusted.
Man, it’s almost like there’s a theological lesson in there somewhere.
There are many things that promise peace at Christmas time. Spend time with family. Watch some cheesy Hallmark movies. Travel. Enjoy some Christmas parties. Light the tree. Hit the slopes. Relax at the spa. Have Sunday brunch with friends. Shop early, shop online, wrap it up and then you’re done.
I’ll bet that if you watched enough commercials, you’d think that peace was guaranteed if you follow those few easy steps. These things by themselves are wonderful diversions, but you can’t manufacture peace.
But you can receive it.
You see, Ephesians 2:14 says that Christ himself is our peace. He’s the source. He’s ‘it’. Jesus is the one who broke down the dividing wall of hostility between us and God and reconciled us to Him forever through his shed blood on the cross. He’s the giver and we are the receiver.
What Jesus did brought us peace on two levels: The temporal and the eternal. The now and the forever. The peace you receive when your sins are forgiven is now, and the peace you enjoy knowing your life is hidden in God is eternal. It comes when we stop living for ourselves, and we begin living for God.
Peace is the result of our surrender and the root of our relationship.
This Christmas I pray you won’t fall for a surface promise of peace, but instead you’ll look to the Author of peace himself. Receive Christ and His gift of peace, for now, and for all eternity.
“Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace"
PS One time I did reply to a scammer, and had a whole day of fun sending them a barrage of nonsensical emails. I don't recommend it, but it was a fun way to spend a Saturday! But nothing compares to the Infamous Red Toaster Email found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSoXEtFPTfI
As I write this, I have just finished packing up the costumes from this year's CB Kids Christmas program. It offers me a moment to reflect on all the preparations over the past six weeks, having the children learn songs and poems about Jesus’ birth. I’m reminded too of all the programs and presentations that Calvary has had in past years and the people who allowed us a moment to just pause in the business of the season. Through all of this, the message has remained the same year after year - God promised to send a Saviour to the world, and there in a stable, that promise came true. Jesus was born quietly and with simple beginnings. I love how God kept this incredible, world changing event so humble. He could have done it many different ways, with glitz and glamour, but that was not His plan.
It’s easy for us to get lost in the bustle of the season, but let's try to find ‘the simple’ this Christmas. Take moments to find peace and quiet in random, small things. I love playing board games with the family, watching a holiday movie with snacks, or hiking through trails. What are some activities your family likes to do?
I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and I wish you happiness for the year ahead!
Tanya Chant, Director of Family & Children's Ministry
“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy. It is for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord.”
Let the celebrating begin! The Christmas season is upon us and with it comes the opportunity to mark the birth of Jesus into our world. I don’t know about you, but every time I think about that event and all that God made possible through the gift of his Son it both encourages and challenges me.
The encouraging part of the gift is obvious yet amazing. The fact is that the God of the universe came to earth because of his love for you. Jesus considered the value of your soul great enough that he would trade the comfort of heaven for a straw-filled manger bed.
It’s the challenging part - our response to this gift - that sometimes gets lost in the chaos of all things Christmas. Yes there are trees to be decorated, presents to be bought and meals to be prepared. Might I suggest that while God wants us to enjoy celebrating this great gift to us, it matters more to him how we respond to that gift. How will you respond?
First, I hope you respond by accepting the gift of grace that Jesus brought into the world. After all, Jesus didn’t come so that we could look back fondly and think of him as a sweet little baby lying in a manger. He didn’t come so that we could read the Bible and appreciate the moral teaching and social revolution he brought into his time on earth. Jesus came to live and to die so that the forgiveness of God the Father could be made available to us. Jesus went to the cross for our sin and shame so that we could have a clean heart and a fresh start before God.
Second, once you have accepted this gift I hope you respond by sharing it with others. You can do this in a number of ways: Invite someone to come with you to hear our Sunday School kids share their Christmas gifts of song with us - people love to watch kids, so this would be an easy invite for you. You might also invite them to come on Christmas Eve at 5:00pm. We intentionally have the Christmas Eve service early so that you and your friends can leave here and continue with Christmas celebrations wherever they may be. Friends, Christmas is an easy time to invite someone. It’s a time when people are open to hearing the Christmas story and singing carols. It might seem like a simple gesture to you, but these invitation communicate the value we place on God’s gift to us.
So I do hope you enjoy celebrating this Christmas season, but more importantly I hope you respond to all that God has done for you. Be encouraged - God loves you! Be challenged - the gift of Jesus is yours to share with others!
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