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Well, hey everybody. Good morning. It’s good to be with you guys today. My name is Chris Paavola and this is how they keep me contained. It is tight quarters up here. Obviously we have kids in a little bit. I’m actually going to move this back because I am totally going to hit that. We have a kids program today, and this is one of the hardest days to preach actually, because you know that nobody is here to hear you.

And everybody’s here because of  the kids. But thank you guys for being here. Before we see their cuteness come in, I do want to say a few words about what you’re going to see as it pertains to everything that we’re talking about in this series that we’re in called Experience Christmas, where we want you to do that. We want you to experience Christmas, all the love, joy, hope, peace, everything that the Christmas season has to offer and we want that for you. But to do that though, we’ve got to stop taking cues from Buddy the Elf and Clark Griswold. I love the movies too, but it’s just that we’ve got to stop taking cues from them and start taking cues from the original source, the original Christmas story, because actually everything that we talk about, love, joy, hope, peace, faith, all that stuff is actually baked into the original Christmas story and we’re going to pull it out.

We’ve talked about faith and we’ve talked about joy in the last couple of weeks. And this week we’re talking about peace. And this is one of those words that’s on the short list of things that we look forward to in the Christmas season.

Peace, like the peace of the Christmas season, peace on Earth, goodwill to men. We talk about how Jesus is born and a silent night when all is calm and no crying He makes even though he was just born and he sleeps in heavenly peace. And when we say the word peace, we think of calm, serene, serenity now. We think of everything just being no drama. There is no chaos. I am at peace. It’s kind of like a zen- like state, nothing’s going to disturb this. I am at peace.

But the more I describe peace, the more I realize that for the vast majority of people in this room, if I asked you to describe your December, you would not use the word peaceful. You would use the antithesis word, you would use this word hurry because we quite honestly are a busy people who are always in a hurry. And then December comes and it’s this enhanced sense of hurry. It’s like here on top of all your responsibilities is two dozen other things that you need to do in the next three to four weeks. We are running to Christmas programs, Christmas parties, Christmas parades. We’ve got last-minute shopping that we’re dashing to go do. And last night my wife and I realized we haven’t ordered our Christmas cards yet because we got the first one in the mail. It’s like the first snowflake of winter.

We got our first Christmas card and we’re like, we haven’t ordered these yet. And now somebody in the room just realized that they haven’t ordered their Christmas cards yet. So sorry about that. And so now what you got to do is you got to expedite the shipping on your Christmas cards to get them here because there’s not enough time. And the problem with hurry is everything that follows, it’s like this cascading thing, the domino effect of hurry. It starts to affect us mentally and emotionally immediately. Because we’re in such a hurry, we start having anxiety and that raises our blood pressure. We become irritable. I mean, I am the worst person when I am in a rush in traffic. And then I just do the most inhumane things. I’m cutting people off and running red lights all because I’m in a hurry. Then you think about how that affects us then where all of a sudden we’re in a hurry, we don’t have time to do the thing.

We don’t sleep like we should because we’re in a hurry and then we caffeinate to compensate and then we start to have the feeling that we’re not getting everything done. And then our blood pressure raises. And then so what we’re doing because we’re in a rush, we stop and get fast food or we DoorDash, listen to the words that we use. We DoorDash our food or we Instacart our food to get it there. And then this affects our health and then our blood pressure and diabetes and all of this traces back to hurry. And it not only affects us mentally and emotionally, not only affects us physically, but hurry also affects us spiritually because we’re so packed full in our schedules, God is pushed to the razor-thin margins of our life. We don’t have time. How are we supposed to let our relationship with God develop? We can’t even find time to breathe.

And unfortunately, He describes His word. We’d like it to be like a lightning bolt and a sword, but far more often He describes it as a seed that’s planted and it takes time to settle and then spread roots and then a stalk comes forth, then it takes time to grow and then it bears fruits. But who has time for that? Who has time for that!!?

And when I describe peace of Christmas and the hurry and all the deadlines that we have to fill in the next couple of weeks, it starts to feel like peace is relegated to this idea, this nicety that was good in the first century. That’s nice, but it’s not realistic in today’s modern society. Like peace, okay, we’re in a hurry. However, wouldn’t you know it? There’s hurry in the original Christmas story. And there’s peace in the original Christmas story. And interestingly enough, it’s the kind of peace that’s not compromised by hurry.

And so what I want to do is just take a few moments to examine how the hurry and peace of the Christmas story is different than the hurry and peace that we talk about and think about in our Christmas. And then maybe close the gap to see what we can do to make up and make some changes. So right away we see, and again, I just have a few minutes because the kids, right? So let me just, we’ll go through this at light speed.

And honestly, you can pray that at any time. That’s a wonderful prayer. I’m the Lord’s servant, may it be done to me as you’ve said. There’s peace right there. She’s serene and surrender. And then immediately after this beautiful prayer, take a look at what happens next. It’s in Luke 1:39. “After this, Mary set out in a say it”…Hurry.

… “hurry to the hill country of Judea and entered the house of Zechariah and Elizabeth.” She hurries. Well, just put a pin in that. We’ll come back to it. We’re going to hold up both of these because we actually see some commonalities when we hold them together because the next hurry is from the shepherds. So another angel goes to the shepherd, says, “Good news. A savior’s been born, he’s Christ the Lord.” And they say, “Let’s go see this thing angels told us about.” And then we get the next verse in Luke 2:16. “So the shepherds”…Hurried.

… “hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the baby who is lying in the manger.” And there you go. They’re hurrying. The shepherds hurry, Mary hurries. But the difference between their hurry and our hurry is our hurry pulls us in a thousand different directions with thousand different directives. And their hurry pulls them in one direction with a singular focus to celebrate Jesus. Their hurry has a way of prioritizing everything and eliminating all the unnecessary and lifting up what is necessary. We have to do this thing right now. Mary has to get ready for the baby or the shepherds have to rush to Bethlehem to see this thing. They have to hurry and they don’t have time to stop and get a coffee. They don’t have time to stop and bake anything. Let’s go.

When you and I think about peace, we think about serene, tranquil, serenity. Serenity now. Any Seinfeld fans? I thought anyway, right? And the zen-like state. And the problem with that is that anytime there is any kind of busyness or hurry or chaos, it destroys, it compromises the peace. And that’s the problem with it. That leads you to escapism or something like that. But the peace that we see in the Bible is different, especially the peace in this Christmas story. Here’s how. We see it right before the shepherds go running. So again, it’s in Luke 2, the angels appear and the whole host of them say, “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth.” And then they hurry. But the peace is still there even though they hurry because it’s different.

Peace Himself is on earth. He has arrived. Peace is here. Peace is not a feeling. It’s more than that. It’s a person. I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about this. And if you’re just here because you got some relative that’s going to be up here or whatever, you’re just looking into this thing called faith and you’re kind of looking over the fence and trying to figure this whole thing out, it’s very likely you’ve never heard it put this way before. So let me just say it in a very simple way, kind of one of the premises of Christmas. You and I are God’s enemies. We are rebels in the rebel army. We are at war with God because He’s holy. We’re not. We’re far from it. He’s perfect, we’re imperfect.

And just by nature of that difference, the intolerable nature of holiness with our imperfection or the word that we would sometimes use is sin. The incompatibility of that means that we are at war. And then God extends mercy, an olive branch, a peace treaty. He sends his son and in scripture in a book called Ephesians 2, it talks about how His blood shed on the cross makes peace between man and God. It’s a truce. Wow! And there is now peace, not this like kumbaya, serenity now, nothing. Everything is tranquil, all is calm and all is bright. No, no, no, no, no, no. It is a peace that our arms are laid out, truce, a treaty.

And now for all of those who believe and put their faith in Christ, I have peace with God, forgiveness. And not only do I have peace with God, and I’ll talk about this some other time when I have more time, but it is now foundational for all the other kind of peace that I can because I have peace with God I can have peace with myself and the mistakes I made and the failures I made. Now I don’t need to overcompensate to try to make up for them. Now, I don’t need to have escapism or try to numb the pain with something to make up for my mistakes. No, I am forgiven. And that gives me forgiveness within myself. But it’s better than that. Not only do I have peace with God, and not only do I have peace with myself, I have peace with fellow man.

I can have peace with my enemies because I can look at those who have wronged me. I can look at the people in my life and say, I don’t need anything from you. I have everything I need with God so I can have peace. No wonder the angel said, “Peace on earth, good will to men.” And the more I talk about peace like this, no wonder we miss it that this is what Christmas, the peace of Christmas that heaven extends to us, no wonder we miss it because we wouldn’t use the word peace to describe this, this truce, this treaty, this laying down of arms. We would use another word forgiveness.

Forgiveness is on earth. No wonder it’s a peace that surpasses understanding. No wonder it’s a peace that prevails in the hardest of circumstances. It’s forgiveness. And so now really we can ask a question with these two definitions established a new idea of hurry that’s focused, not chickens with their heads cut off, just focused hurry and peace that is forgiveness.

Now we can ask a question. How do you need to hurry to celebrate the peace of Christmas? We wouldn’t usually put those words hurry and peace together in the same sentence, but now we can. How do you need to hurry to celebrate the peace of Christmas? There is still time. Two weeks left. How do you need to experience forgiveness in this season? Maybe you need to tell God for the first time, “I believe, I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” And salvation is yours. Maybe you need to forgive yourself for God has already forgiven. Maybe you need to forgive someone who has hurt you. I know it’s hard and we’re going to talk about this also some other time. But maybe you need to extend the same mercy and grace that you’ve received and forgive someone that’s so hard to do. But to just finally say, I don’t need anything from you. Forgiveness. In the words of Jesus, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” And when you do as hurry and as busy as you are, you will finally experience Christmas peace.

Let me pray for you. Heavenly Father, we hear a short message like this and it comes, it’s super condensed and intense and it’s hard. We need to take time to process this. But I guess the first thing we need to say is we’re sorry for being in such a hurry, doing everything else. We are like your son once said, concerned about many things, but only one thing matters. And so in this season, we want to celebrate your son. So help us to hurry to celebrate Him. And in the same way, God, this idea of peace and forgiveness for those of us in here who have never received that forgiveness and peace from you, we ask, would you please extend it to us today, that today could be the day of our salvation. Help us forgive ourselves as you forgive us, and help us forgive others as you forgive us. It’s really hard. It’s really hard, especially when the hurt is deep. But God, your mercy and grace is greater.

And do all of this that we can experience peace. And we pray now the prayer that your son taught us to pray, saying our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.