"Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means 'God is with us.'" – Matthew 1:23
In 1979, Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace Prize and was asked “what we can do promote world peace? This was her answer:
“Go home and love your family….Spread love everywhere you go: first of all in your own house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next door neighbour…let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”
So often the idea of peace seems huge and insurmountable; something that begins with a grand gesture. But we ever stop and consider that the peace that starts in our homes, a peace that seems so domestic and insignificant, can also have deep meaning and importance? That this peace – so easily forgotten amidst the dirty dishes, unfolded washing and bin night – can help change the world?
It’s something that is challenging me in the lead up to Christmas, this precious, sacred time when we celebrate the arrival of the baby who came to bring joy and peace to all people. This baby that came to be with us, in every time and in every place.
Peace is not something I feel when I think of Christmas. By this time of year, my fuse is short and my energy is depleted. While my family’s pre-Christmas schedule looks fun and exciting on paper (Christmas drinks! Church lunch! End of year concert!), it usually leaves me tired, grumpy, and burnt out. Peace seems achievable once the craziness of Christmas Day is over and we can all go into hibernation mode.
Our homes are the place where we can be totally ourselves (the best and the worst). Patience can wear thin, voices raised and harsh words spoken to those we love and cherish the most. Sometimes, we give so much to the world outside our home that we don’t have a lot left to give inside it.
And yet God is with us. He wants us to find peace here. Here, where we leave dirty socks on the floor. Here, where we argue over whose turn it is to clean the bathroom. Here, despite the many challenges and heartbreaks that continue to happen around us, both in our families, our homes, our communities and our world.
Where do we even begin to find peace in this mess, in our stress, in this pre-Christmas chaos? Could the answer, like Mother Teresa said, be to start with love?
If we think of it in this way, maybe peace in our homes is achievable as we hurtle through this busy season? Not in one done deal, but in tiny steps, in precious, sacred moments?
Frederich Buechner also said: “For Jesus, peace seems to have meant not the absence of struggle, but the presence of love.”
So, this Christmas, my prayer is that we can live with huge open-hearted love. And that this can start at home. A deep breath. A soft word instead of a sharp one. Arms outstretched instead of a back turned. Patience instead of frustration. A loving no to things that will overstretch you so that you can say a more loving yes to the people closest to you.
May we intentionally make space to contemplate and pray about how, in this Advent season, we can embody the life-giving hope and peace that Jesus brings. How we can remember that Immanuel – God is with us’ – everywhere, even in our own homes, amidst the unfolded laundry.
How can you, your household and/or your church or small group help to embody peace throughout this Advent season? How can you show peace and love in your workplace, family, friendship group or community? One thing we have done as a family is start a Christmas tradition of gathering our neighbours for an end of year celebration. People have loved connecting and talking with those who live in our street, and it has helped build a real sense of community.
Caroline works in the communications team at TEAR Australia. Every year she runs a TEAR Useful Gifts Shop at her church, and also loves to buy Useful Gifts with her husband and two boys (toilets are a big favourite). If you’d like to find out more about TEAR’s Useful Gifts Catalogue visit www.usefulgifts.org