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A cup of peace with a heart of joy
by Leslie Schonfeld
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A cup of peace with a heart of joy.

ďItís Christmas time again Ē What emotion does that provoke in you? Excitement, blaise, dread, or panic? Why do we respond in various ways to a season that is supposed to be both joyful and peaceful? I believe it a can be difficult for various reasons. Pain or loss, loneliness, and wrong expectations can sabotage your holiday spirit.
Often times, pain due to loss and the loneliness that accompanies it last for a season. Although these are things out of our control, we can have hope that this pain lessons as time goes on. I do not believe time heals all wounds but I do believe God does. If you are dealing with a crisis now, my heart goes out to you. Although, I may not know your name Iíve been praying for you. May the Lord meet you here and embrace you with His infinite source of comfort.
So that leads us to the more common stumbling block for keeping peace and joy. Itís a biggy and one many of us ignore - EXPECTATIONS Not that expectations are bad, but we truly need to examine the motives behind each expectation. Heidi did a wonderful job illustrating that we can get so caught up in what to do, we miss who itís for. My friend if your holiday preparation gives you joy do it. But just because you did it in the past doesnít mean you have to do it now. We also have to deal with the expectations of others. There are obligations we have to meet that may not be our choice to participate in. Whether it is office partyís or family responsibilities we must look at our own heart first. Take our kids for example...
Now, I love Christmas and I tend to be a bit of a romantic. For years I tried to pull off what I believed to be the perfect Christmas Eve. It was simple really, appetizers at 3:00, Christmas Eve candle lite service at 5:00, dinner (which cooked to perfection while we at church) at 6:30, then listening to Christmas carols in a room lit only by Christmas lights and candles...simple right? I tried this year after year, never quite successful, but it came to a head the year our son was four and Elizabeth was 22 months. If youíve ever had a 4 year old and almost 2 year old you know where Iím going with this. Dave, my husband was the sound tech for the Christmas Eve service. So, the kids and I sat in front of the sound booth, right about there. At one point Mark was lying across the seats, there were cheerios all over the floor and the only reason Elizabeth hadnít completely crawled under the chairs in front of us was because I had a hold of the hem of her dress. I donít think my children had the same expectations for that service that I had. Iíll sum it all up by saying at the end of the service I could totally relate to Ebenezer Scrooge.
There is a man in the bible that beautifully illustrates the proper Christmas expectations. This man is Simeon. Simeon is found in Luke 2. (Read Luke 2: 25-35) Simeon was a devout and righteous man. For a Hebrew to be called this he would have to know the scriptures and live the scriptures. This passage also tells us that he heard the voice of God, therefore, he also knew God. Simeon knew Godís word, lived Godís word and spent so much time with the Lord, he recognized His voice.
The other clues to who he was we learn from when he lived. Israel was now under Roman occupation, so his beloved country was not an independent state. Not to mention before the Romans were the Greeks, before that the Medes and Persians and before that the Babylonians. It had been a long time of domination by foreign lands. The king, put into place by the Roman Emperor, was corrupt and many of the temple leaders were following their own path and relying on their own judgement, instead of the Lord.
The Hebrew people had waited for Messiah for a long time. Isaiah had prophesied about Him 700 years earlier. That is really a long time to wait I canít even wait for the coffee to finish perking before I get my first cup in the morning. Put yourself in Simeonís place, his home occupied by gentiles for centuries. The temple - the home to his God - drifting from its purpose. All his hope is in seeing Messiah come. On that day his desire is met. On that day, he held in his hands the hope of the world.
He took the baby in his arms and held Him up to God and thanked Him. He rejoiced and declared his heart was now at peace. He announced that this little one would not only save the jews but the gentiles as well. Thatís you and me Then he did something remarkable, he turned to Mary and said ďa sword will pierce your very soul. This man will be rejected by many.Ē BAM Right there he jumped from Christmas to Easter. He continued with ďhe will be the greatest joy to others; he will reveal the deepest thoughts of my heart.Ē You see that is the key. The human life of Jesus was from beginning to end miraculous. From is immaculate conception to the resurrection of His body. From what Simeon says, I believe he saw it all. Right there, Christmas and Easter wrapped in one beautiful baby boy. The hope and glory for all mankind.
Over the years Iíve seen my Dad exemplify this kind of attitude. In 1996, we had a Christmas where we threw out all our expectations. It was a normal day of holiday preparation, I knew my Dad was going in for a heart cauterization but it seemed to be fairly routine. I left to run errands and visit a friend. That afternoon, I arrived home to an answering machine full of messages. ďI this is Mom, Dad has too much blockage, heís having emergency bypass surgery.ĒThen, ďHi this is Laure, Lois and I are going to the hospital to be with Mom. You can meet us thereĒ ďHi Dadís in surgeryĒ ďDadís out of surgeryĒ ...it just went on and on like that. I was rather stunned by all this. I walked down stairs and down into are Family Room to find our Christmas tree had fallen over. I just turned around and went back up stairs...the perfect tree didnít matter anymore. Through the grace of God, my Dad recovered and although we celebrated late that year, we really celebrated. In 2003, my Dad was told he needed another bypass surgery. The night before he left for the Cleveland Clinic, he was here watching the kids Christmas program. Before he left, we hugged, a nice long bear hug, the kind my Dad has always given me. I told him I loved him, I was praying for him, and my heart was going with him. He pulled back from me and looked me in the eyes and said ďNo matter what happens, everything will be alright.Ē I have never been more proud of my Dad then at that moment. Although he was going to one of the best heart clinics in the world, his trust was not in man but in his Lord. He went on to tell me that God was in control and he trusted Him to whatever the results would be. He was at peace and his joy was secure in eternal hope. He did not go expecting perfect outcomes, nor did he dread disaster, he went in faith of his father in heaven. We did get a miracle that year. During the surgery it was discovered that his aorta was damaged. The wall was paper thin and rupture was inevitable. The surgeon that was doing the bypass surgery just happened to be one of the worldís best aorta replacement surgeons. Twelve hours later, my Dad came out of surgery, the bypass complete, a new aortic valve, and a new aorta in place. Once again we had an amazing Christmas.
I am working to have a heart like Simeon this year. I have learned to be flexible. Now Christmas Eve is different each year. I have to say though I do end it the same. Listening to Christmas carols, tree and candle lite glowing, maybe sipping hot cider and always alone. The kids are usually in bed, Dave is always wrapping presents until that last minute- usually for me so I donít mind. I sit and I am so thankful for that little baby born 2000 years ago because He has changed my life and I know He loves me so much.
All the trappings of Christmas are fun but they are not itís heart. The heart of Christmas is recognizing you can be just like Simeon. You may not even realize but your heart has been yearning for Messiah, for your savior Jesus. Grasp the joy and embrace the peace of seeing your one true heart desire met. . ďFor I bring good news of great joy that will be for all people. Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.Ē Take time today to greet Him for who He really is your cup of peace that fills your heart with joy.

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Member Comments
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Linda Settles 26 Oct 2008
It is amazing how faithful our Heavenly Father is to teach us spiritual lessons through everything that happens in our life if we take time to look for them. I have just spotted another lesson from the "falling Christmas tree" along side a challenge to your faith that, once again, brought glory to God because your faith was in Him. Thanks for sending me to your site @ FaithWriters. Linda Settles


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