Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Ugly Christmas Sweaters and Peace on Earth

I get a kick out of the popularity of ugly Christmas sweaters. Over the past few years you see more and more about these 1980's fashion relics from grandmas' closets. A National Ugly Sweater Day has been established for the Second Friday in December. This year 5 million participated. Seasonal stores have been popping up: like the Christmas Sweater Depot in the Chicago area. Ugly sweater themed Christmas parties and pub crawls have become popular with millennials who are looking to have another excuse to dress up and act goofy. One leader in the apparel industry thinks that the whole phenomenon is a rebellion against the formality found this time of year: from stressful travel plans to dinner and office parties. "Everybody could use a laugh... the world is so incredibly stressful."

Knocking down the stress level a few notches just might be what the doctor ordered. During the darkest time of the year, as the sun disappears behind the clouds and the temperatures get colder, its tough enough to find the good news that comes with Christmas. But then when you add all the financial and time expectations placed upon you, this time of year can easily lead more people into a dark fog than toward the Light of the World.

Humor helps. I love reading the Christmas story to children and adults from a Children's Bible. It adds some humor, knocks down the stress, and still reveals the good news that is given to the world through the story. After the angel shares with the shepherds the news about Jesus' birth and the Heavenly Host sing "Glory to God," the shepherds are called to pay homage to this new born king. But they wonder what they should do with the sheep. They can't leave the sheep all alone. "Let the angels watch them," is what the youngest shepherd says. And I guess that's good enough. Later, at the manger with Mary and Joseph, the story is intentional to tell us about the "moo-o-o-o" and "baa-a-a-a" and "coo-o-o-o" of the cows and sheep and doves. Try making the sound of a dove right now. It will put a smile on your face.

Maybe by knocking down the stress levels a little bit and finding a chance to laugh we will be more open to power of that Heavenly Host song: "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors." When there was no room in the inn, you gotta believe that a little bit of a laughter would have been extremely helpful in Mary and Joseph not falling into deep despair. It can do us all a little good.

And may that little dose of humor move us to hear the Lord's call through the Christmas story: Our Savior has been born... born to bring us peace. Christ's peace will be a direct contrast to the peace that was found at the time in the Roman Empire. Romans celebrated the peace that Emperor Augustus brought through conquest by building the Ara Pacis Augustae in 9 BC. The peace of Christ will not be found through contempt for weak neighbors. The Prince of Peace points to a peace that comes through the Kingdom of God... it is peace and power through compassion... Freedom through service.

Armed with your ugly Christmas sweater, the news of Christ's birth and mission, some humor in your soul, and a heart eager to speak kindness, you are ready to become an instrument of peace. The world is so incredibly serious and so incredibility needs peace. Allow yourself to be a light of hope as we await the coming of the Kingdom of God and the Prince of Peace.

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