Merry Christmas Is A Declaration Of Peace

Submission to the Bonner County Daily Bee Newspaper, by Pastor Andy Kennaly


Friday, December 15, 2017

The Christmas Holiday is upon us, and one thing I hear people talk about this time of year involves how busy we get.  Lots of great opportunities to connect with friends and family; the parties, shopping, and hosting are usually really fun, but they do take time and energy.  Expectations or financial strain can also be high, and when things don’t match up or get out of balance (which is often the case) there can be a let-down, or depression, that follows.  Plus, it’s really dark this time of year as the sun is low on the horizon or enshrouded by clouds, and this adds to the dynamic.  For many, the holidays can be a challenging struggle.

The first Christmas was similar between struggle and amazement.  As the story tells, Mary and Joseph go to Bethlehem and she gives birth to Jesus.  As Luke’s Gospel shares, an angel appears to shepherds to proclaim the good news of this birth.  Then an entire angel army appears, whose mission is to praise God.  The shepherds head into Bethlehem, find the scene just as they were told, and convey all this news and activity to Mary and Joseph, and apparently others, because “all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.”  Then comes the clincher, because in the midst of all this action, “Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.”

The gift of Christmas is for the heart.  It’s ironic that this season has evolved into a busy time of hustle and bustle, when, as Mary shows us, the heart involves pondering, stillness, and reflection.  God gives the world the gift of Jesus, who is non-violent, lives simply, identifies with the marginalized and ostracized of society, and embodies love and justice even through suffering tremendous injustice.  It’s ironic that the Church has taken the gift of Jesus, who is “good news of great joy for all the people” and reduced it, invariably excluding many.  Church history and social structures prove that people often prefer to stay in the mind space, rather than the heart space.  But the gift of Christmas is for the heart.

The gift of heart space is rooted in the peace of Christ.  In celebrating Christmas, we claim gifts of love, peace, joy, and contentment.  Through a variety of ways, we are invited by God train our hearts to not only receive, but to emanate divine Presence.  That Mary “treasured all these words,” shows us the importance of this mission.

On January 6, from 8:45 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., a partnership between Cedar Hills Church and First Presbyterian Church presents an introduction to Contemplative Prayer.  This half-day retreat explores spiritual practices which help train our hearts to encounter God.  Call 208-290-3119 or for registration information.

Because “Merry Christmas” is a declaration of Peace, open your heart to receive the Living Christ.

Peace and All Good,

Pastor Andy Kennaly

First Presbyterian Church of Sandpoint