When we moved to Tomball years ago now, we moved from a one-story house with a low-pitched roof to a two-story house with a high-pitched roof. But lights for our first Christmas was a must.
Our ladder barely reached the first roof level. I climbed up and, with my best James Bond impersonation, leapt from the last rung to the roof. As soon as I landed, Karen and the boys erupted in great applause. I stood to take a bow and instead took a slide. I looked like Jose Altuve coming into second base on a steal.
I clawed my fingers into the shingles and stopped just before my shoes felt the gutter. I crawled my way back up, slowly hanging the string of lights along the roof line. With every move I made I could feel myself sliding a little more. Two crawls up, one slide back.
Within fifteen minutes my nerves were shot. When Karen asked me if my life insurance was paid up, I decided it was time to return to terra firma. I had nothing to hold onto. And my anxiety meter was moving off the charts.
The United States is the most anxious nation in the world. In fact, it’s dangerous for a foreigner to move here. When people from less developed nations move here they become just as anxious as us. And the average child today is showing the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the 1950’s.
Maybe you need some peace in the present. The angels announced, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people he favors!” Ever wonder what Mary and Joseph thought about that declaration? They’re poor. Birthing a baby in a borrowed barn. Gossiped about. Joseph wondering how he will afford to raise this child. Mary concerned about the cleanliness of her baby’s crib.
No one needed to remind them of their present problems. And no one needs to remind you of yours. Scrooge, however, did. The ghost of Christmas present took him on a tour of Christmas day in London. He sees the people’s cheer contrasted against his own misery. He observes the poverty of the Cratchits and the declining health of their Tiny Tim. He sees starving children called Ignorance and Want.
Scrooge sees enough to be anxious. You’ve seen enough too. And yet “peace” has been proclaimed at Jesus’ birth. Jesus taught peace for anxious days. He said, “Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Consider the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they?
Jesus’ prescription for peace in the present? Look at the birds. And look at where worry gets you. We worry about what we will have to eat, drink or wear. We worry about all the basic things of life and yet the birds don’t. And last I checked, they’re doing OK.
We have a cardinal and a blue jay that bless us with their presence most days. We watch them in all their beauty. And I take Jesus to heart. I think, “Now those birds are not worried about anything. They take the water we have in our bird bath for them. They find food wherever it is available. They enjoy our trees until the stupid squirrel comes out and chases them away. And then I think about the squirrel. “He’s got a pretty easy life, that is, until he decides to cross a street. Then all bets are off.”
Then I get anxious again.
We have not been at peace since the Garden. But Jesus was bent on teaching us to live at peace. His peace is a different kind of peace, mind you. The peace of the world is defined as absence of conflict. When warring nations end their battles we say they are “at peace with each other.” Jesus’ peace is something different. The peace of Jesus is possible in the midst of conflict. It is defined in this way: Peace is when things are operating as God created them to operate. It is a peace that can be experienced regardless of outside circumstances.
If you’re feeling some anxiety this Christmas season, give yourself a present. Look at a bird. Then look at the One who cares for the bird. You’ll have something to hold onto next time your feet are sliding out from under you.
Question: What Christmas worry is causing anxiety in your life today?