Christmas in July
I love celebrating Christmas in July. Holiday music and movies are the usual this month. But several years ago for my birthday my dear friend Carolyne surprised me with much more than the usual. She went all out, complete with a colorfully lit tree, a delicious Christmas dinner, and the movie Elf. Stuart and I even spent the night at her house for “Christmas Eve” to let the whole experience sink in. Christmas morning breakfast just happened to be at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort which was the follow up to coffee on the beach. Oh, and she had my family send letters that she read to me at the beach. She is awesome.
While that experience is pretty hard to top, I enjoy the music and movies anyway. Since my birthday just happens to be today, I feel doubly entitled to celebrate Christmas the entire month of July just because I want to. So you can have a piece of Christmas right now, too.
The birth story of Christ is most often told one month out of the year. Culturally and even in our churches, Jesus’ birth is mostly explored during the month of December. You may disagree with this observation but if a minister preached a sermon about Jesus and the manger on a Sunday in August you would think he was starting Christmas just a little too early (you know it’s true). We should probably change that tradition and share the wonder and awe year-round. But for starters, let’s take a journey back to Bethlehem for a bit of Christmas in July.
There are numerous aspects of this miraculous story that we could focus on. No room in the inn. A virgin birth. Wise men. Nativity seen. The cattle were apparently lowing. But one of the most significant pieces that brings hope for us today is found in the words of the angel, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)
Peace. To Men.
This peace was prophesied about in Isaiah 9:6, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” And again in Micah 5:4-5a, “He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be their peace.”
Peace is what Jesus brought. It’s what his birth declared and his ministry confirmed. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) Don’t these words from scripture bring, well, peace?
I sometimes wonder what life was like before Christ. There were a few people, namely the Israelites, who had hope in being the chosen ones. Then Jesus came and suddenly everyone was included. Samaritans. Greeks. “Sinners.” Everyone can choose to believe in this hope that brings peace.
In a world of trouble, uncertainty, and many times fear, we are all looking for reassurance. We search for ways to reconcile what is happening, leaning on our own understanding, and longing for peace. And Jesus is exactly where we discover peace. It is exactly what his birth brought to the world, from that wonderful, mysterious night through all eternity.
The realities surrounding the birth story may or may not have actually resulted in a silent night. But I am confident of this. The minute that baby cried his first breath, the world changed. Forever. The trouble, uncertainty, and fear diminished when Jesus entered the world as a human. This birth brought forth the Prince of Peace who has been reigning ever since.
We are reminded of this during Christmas season but I needed this reminder today. The one who brings peace is with me year-round. I just have to remember to celebrate him, Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
Even in July.