One Gift to Grow This Christmas
By: Noelle Kirchner
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
One of my favorite traditions in the church leading up to Christmas is the lighting of the Advent wreath. It’s partially because of my fond memories serving as an acolyte at my cathedral-like church as a girl. I remember walking down the long aisle in my robe and lighting additional candles with sacred meaning at Christmas. It felt like I was contributing something special to my congregation’s holiday preparations.
The Advent wreath is rich in symbolism. The circle of the wreath symbolizes eternity. Its evergreen nature symbolizes life and immortality. We light candles because Jesus is the Light of the world. There are four candles around the wreath because there are four weeks in Advent. There is one pink candle, which stands for joy. There are three purple candles, which often stand for hope, peace, and love. Frequently, there is a fifth candle in the center of the wreath known as the Christ candle. It’s white because Jesus was the spotless lamb, and it’s lit on Christmas.
The peace candle on the Advent wreath reminds me of our passage today. It’s an important reminder. Sometimes, the peace of the season alludes me, especially as a busy mom of three children. I find myself wanting to pack even more into the calendar because I don’t want to miss out on any traditions. As meaningful as these traditions may be, I remind myself that their goal is to enrich the season. When they end up subtracting from it due to stress, I need to rethink them.
I heard a useful example to illustrate this principle. Imagine that you’re holding a snow globe. You shake it up. The snow swirls around frantically, and it’s hard to make out the image of what’s inside. Gradually, the snow settles. The image inside the globe becomes clear. It’s a peaceful scene, like the quiet after freshly fallen snow outside. Consider which scene resonates with you. Do you feel frantic and distracted, or peaceful and clear-headed as we approach Christmas? What could you do to calm any flurries?
We’re preparing to welcome a child who came to give us peace. Because his peace is different from what the world offers, we cannot find it by getting swept up in what’s going on around us. Instead, we need to intentionally look to Jesus. This focus is a spiritual discipline, particularly during the season we most anticipate its gift!
It’s a worthy discipline. Jesus spoke the words of our passage to his disciples. He wanted to reassure them that they would not be destitute when he left them. They would have two things after his departure: The Holy Spirit and his peace. Both would equip them to surmount any trial. Both were measures of his very spirit.
Peace is a gift that Jesus left his disciples, and it’s a gift that he wants you and me to have this Christmas. It’s not a trivial pursuit, but a treasure to enjoy from his own hand. He encouraged his followers to be salt in the world—to be different. One way we can do that is by benefitting from his peace. By living less distracted, we help Christ take a firmer root in our hearts and in the lives of others who seek him.
Want more tips on keeping Christ at the heart of Christmas? Watch my Christmas show as I interview two pastors on meaningful traditions.
Rev. Noelle Kirchner, MDiv., believes we don’t have to live with full schedules and thin souls. A busy mom of three boys, she is passionate about making faith fresh and relevant. Noelle is a graduate of Princeton Seminary and an ordained Presbyterian minister who has served in churches for over ten years. She has written for places like the TODAY Show Parenting Team, Huff Post Parents, The Laundry Moms, and (in)courage. Her faith and family cable television show, Chaos to Calm, features parenting hot topics and has hosted two New York Times bestselling authors. Watch her episodes or sermons, connect with her on social media, and follow her blog by visiting her website, or receive her free devotional e-book.
Originally published Tuesday, 14 December 2021.