Monday, December 22, 2014

The Prince of Peace

Christmas has always meant different things to different people. As  others have so eloquently shared, it is a time of sharing and making fun memories as we celebrate the birth of our Savior. Annual traditions are important, and it tickles me to see some of our family traditions being passed on in my children's families--like our much anticipated Christmas Eve dinner. A tradition that started in my maternal grandmother's family has been passed down through the generations. We fix seafood dishes, and fun finger foods for everyone to enjoy. My maternal great-grandmother was from Scotland, and a love of seafood has been passed onto her posterity. Christmas Eve became a special time of sharing food that was hard to come by in the small Wyoming farming community where my great-grandmother raised her family. She would be happy to know that this tradition is very much alive and well in our clan.

This year, however, it has been more of a struggle to feel the Christmas Spirit. So many of the people I know and love are struggling with difficult trials. My heart goes out to all of them, and I pray daily that somehow, we'll all make it through these trying latter days.

For example, tomorrow there is a funeral in my husband's family. A cousin has passed away after bravely facing a debilitating illness. We learned yesterday, that a dear friend of my mother's passed away after falling and breaking a hip. Two good friends of mine were recently released from the hospital after enduring challenging surgeries. Others are facing financial setbacks, life-threatening health issues, and all kinds of icky trials that I wouldn't wish on anyone. 

For some, it really doesn't seem like Christmas this year. And yet
 . . . if we understand what this time of year means, it should be a season of peace, regardless of what we're facing. (Note to self: pay attention to this message. I was feeling less than peace yesterday.)  

The birth of our Savior brought hope into the world. His arrival meant that eventually, all of us would be able to return and live with our Father in heaven--thanks to the overwhelming sacrifice our Elder Brother would be making on our behalf. He paved the way so families can be reunited when this life is through--something that can bring comfort to those who have lost loved ones.

His example showed us how we are supposed to treat each other while in mortal mode. It would truly be a much better world if we all followed the precedent He set. He also gave us the precious gift of peace. "And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7) To me, this means that when we are going through heartbreaking moments, we need to remember that we're not alone. The precious gift of peace can be ours, if we so choose--a gift freely given by our Elder Brother.

In my own life, when heartache has descended, the gift of the Comforter has eased that inner pain. "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you . . .  Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." (John 14:18; 27) I have found this to be very true, and inner peace is treasured gift I seek on a regular basis.

How do we discover this gift when our hearts are on the floor, feeling stomped on by life? It truly is the simple things that open the door to peace. Acts of service seem to help the most. Whenever I'm having an extremely bad day, even though I'm not in a great frame of mind, I have found that when I do something for someone else, even if it's just a phone call to check on them, it eases the pain I feel inside.

Going for a walk to clear my head is also helpful. Eventually I spot something that reminds me of the beauty of this world, and the great gift it is to us. An attitude of gratitude inspires peace.

Searching the scriptures has also brought a ton of peace into my life. I can't tell you how many times I have turned to scriptures that have given me a feeling of hope when I've needed it the most.

Prayer. Plain and simple, heartfelt prayer. I always rise from my knees feeling better than I did when I first knelt down.

Those are the main things that help me through when life throws a curve-ball at my midsection. I still get caught off guard periodically, like the inspiring song that cracked through my fragile walls of defense yesterday (music always manages to pierce through to my heart--in part because it has been such a huge part of my life) but when I follow my formula, I can usually pick myself up, dust myself off, and continue on with peace in my heart, compliments of our Savior.

So this year, as Christmas arrives, pause a moment to consider what the birth of our Savior actually means. Ponder the numerous ways our Elder Brother has touched our lives, and remember that the best gifts are those that come from the heart.

One final scripture that has inspired peace in my life: "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed . . . For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts . . ." (2 Cor. 4:8-9; 6)


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