Sunday, December 18, 2011

Keeping Focused Down the Stretch

It's here, that final sprint towards the finish line, golden ribbon coming in sight near the horizon, beckoning us to hurry, hurry, hurry faster through the not-enough-hours-in-the-day burst towards Christmas Day.

It always surprises me, this week.

Even when I choose to make my Christmas smaller, focus on the fewer more meaningful traditions, do tasks earlier, make my gift giving smaller and an investment of myself. Even then, something sends me in a last minute scamper for the perfection I promised myself I wouldn't seek this year.

It might be a can of cream of shrimp soup I forgot when cream of mushroom would suffice. Or a friend coming into town who asks to squeeze into a calendar square. Or downloading a few more blasts from the past to put on my dad's very first Ipod.

Or perhaps it's nothing so trivial, but rather an addition of some act of service to show Jesus' love to others, like making that extra trip into town to deliver a gift card to grandparents who can't afford Christmas for the eleven year old girl they care for. Or stopping in my parking lot rush to dig deep for two wrinkled dollar bills to give the deaf Hispanic woman offering me a red pen, her hands reaching heavenward to sign "God bless."

Or maybe it's the unexpected--like my youngest son spiking 101 fever this evening, indicating something unseen is lurking, waiting for its own chance to usurp center stage. Or the death of a grandma in the middle of Saturday afternoon's bread baking, burial grief to come.

Tonight marks the fourth week of advent. During Week One, we focused on Christ being “our Hope.” During week two, the focus was on Jesus being "the Way." Last week, we sought to remember that Christ is "our Joy."

And now? In the blur of frantic rush, in the brittle unexpected, yes, even in heartache and darkness where death seems more my focus than life? Now, I, we must strive even harder to maintain focus, keep our eyes on the One lying in the manger.

This week, we must remember that Christ is our Peace.

The prophet Isaiah described the coming Messiah:

"For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;

And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Eternal Father, Prince of Peace

There will be no end to the increase of
His government or of peace..." (Is. 9:6).

In this poetic litany of adjectives, intentionally last in line, at the end is "Prince of Peace." Yet, the very next line shows it is not least in importance, the ultimate irony that in Christ, peace will ultimately have "no end".

As Christ prepared the disciples for His coming crucifixion, He sought to help them understand this concept, that even in His absence, they could still have His Peace within: "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. 'Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful'" (Jn. 14:26-27).

Christ was not leaving them alone but would provide the Holy Spirit as a comforter, as an indwelling Spirit to remind them that Christ is peace.

Peace is not a state of mind. It is not dependent on circumstances. Peace is trust in the person of Christ. He can give you and me peace not on either side of a storm but within its raging, not either side of an illness but in its feverish heights. It's all about where our focus is.

The prophet promised, "You [God] will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you" (Is. 26:3).

No matter what we think must be done this week, no matter what seeks to steal our peace or steal center stage, Christ made it clear to Martha: "only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her" (Lk. 10:42).

Only One thing is needed. Our focus to be on the Savior. On our Peace.

Image: "A Christmas Blur" from "Nell's Dish Du Jour"


  1. A beautiful echo of His Spirit to my heart this am.

  2. I never ever thought of checking out this devotional blog, but this afternoon I did.

    Wow, it really spoke to me, even came as a confirmation. Peace is the word God gave me for this season.

    Thank you.