Sometime in October this year, I drove past a huge, local retail store and noticed that workmen were already starting to put up decorations in preparation for the festive season. A few days later, my daughter asked me why Christmas ‘stuff’ was up so early. It seemed a simple enough question. As I then tried to answer her, I realised that I didn’t really have a kid-friendly answer to give her. To get into a babbling rant about how stores all over the world capitalize on emotions to siphon hard-earned cash from the buying public in the name of Christmas wouldn’t really have been a bright idea. So, like I always do when faced with a tough question from my kids, I left it at a pretty neutral “hmm, good question”, and moved swiftly to asking her if she preferred strawberry or apricot yoghurt. Though I’d managed to dodge a bullet, I still ended up ruminating on the issue as I lay in bed later that night.
In need of an answer
As a parent of two little kids who are now verbalizing very clearly their attempts to make sense of the world around them, I’m faced daily with the responsibility of guiding them through that process. Lying beneath the surface of most things my kids ask me these days are far deeper questions: why do we do the things we do? There is so much craziness around us and we see people frantically busying themselves with all kinds of things. Dad, what does it all mean?
More than meets the eye
At times, to be honest, it’s not easy to accept that I don’t have all the answers that my kids – or other people – need from me. Yet, I am comforted by the knowledge that my relationship with God has allowed me to experience certain truths very deeply and personally. I have learnt that the activity of life can, many times, be a cover for the lack of peace we sometimes feel within us. If we all had peace and were perfectly content, we wouldn’t have come up with terms like ‘retail therapy’ for example. That we even have terms like this, suggests to me that we’re looking for peace and think we might just find it if we fill up our trolleys and accumulate as much as possible.
A gift for all
Lest I be misunderstood, this isn’t an anti-shopping piece. Much as I’m not a big fan of some of the manipulation that happens around this time of year, I’m not even against retail stores and all the ‘incredible deals’ or ‘limited time offers’ they advertise. Rather, this post is intended to remind anyone reading it to give as much time to careful reflection as to merrymaking and gift-wrapping, as the year comes to an end. True and lasting peace is a gift. That gift is found in the person of Jesus Christ, given to us by God the Father. His words to us are “…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.”
As Christmas approaches, we can be sure of one sad fact: there are many people who are troubled and afraid. In some of us, it may be obvious and visible. In others, it may be masked behind the veneer of Christmas cheer. For those of us who have come to know true peace, may this be a time of extending it to others. For those of us who are searching, may we come to truly know the peace that comes from a genuine relationship with Christ.