Christmas Traditions, Peace, and What Does not Change

Christmas Traditions, PEACE, and What Does not Change
12/9/2020 Reflections. Pastor Scott Arnold
First Baptist Church of Los Angeles
6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

      When the angel chorus announced the birth of Jesus to the humble shepherds, the word was “Peace”, “Shalom” in Hebrew. This word is timeless and means several things all at once. “Shalom” is a greeting and a proclamation. “Shalom” is also a state of being and way of living. “Shalom” is also a belief in the Sovereign reign of God and a hope in the Kingdom of God that is at work and shall come to fruition upon the earth. “Shalom” is a rich word, a hope, a promise, a lasting work, and presence of God’s Holy Spirit.
     Amid a global pandemic, people are contending with matters of peace, and Christians are asking themselves “How are we to celebrate Christmas?” “What traditions must we part from this year in order to stay safe and be mindful of the greater good for our world and our neighbors?”  Just this last 5 days, 1 million more Americans have tested positive for Corona Virus, and this makes the total infected since last Spring at 15 million. The rapid increase of infection is cause for pause, and reason to adjust our ways of celebrating the Christmas season.
    First, this will affect our gatherings. Families must seriously consider if and how they will gather. Travel will be restricted. Traditions will be put on hold, adjusted, or changed.  Worshipping in person, even outdoors, must be put on hold considering the broader matter of public welfare and witness. The lockdown is not simply an inconvenience, it is a respectful necessity.  Second, we must consider how we can celebrate the Christmas Season in ways that focus on Christ, His presence, to simplify and modify our previous norms so that we devote our hearts in prayer and join the angels in celebrating “peace”. The “favor” of God is upon those who open their souls to the humble “child born in Bethlehem and lying in a manger”.  The rooms in the Inn are full, or as one might say “social distancing” has become a reality we are called to live with. Third, our gift giving is to be thoughtful and simplified as well. The needs of our world are calling us to consider how we can give to help people and families at risk. A recent survey showed that 29% of families with children in the U.S. are having serious food shortages and insecurity. How can we share and help this Christmas? With this, I encourage you to give as God leads.  First Baptist Church also is helping several families with food cards for local grocery stores, so please give to the Christmas toy and help offering. Give to the Salvation Army, local food distribution programs. Let us know if you need help as well, or know someone we can help.
    Traditions can be adjusted or postponed. The one tradition that will not change is the Gospel message proclaimed by the angels.  This message of “Shalom”, “Peace”, “hope”, “grace” is what may abide and rest firmly in our souls and get us through this challenging Christmas season of 2020.
Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)

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