NEW ORLEANS (BP) — The angels’ proclamation to the shepherds at the birth of Jesus included the phrase “Peace on earth” in Luke 2. Indeed the birth of the Prince of Peace ushered in the possibility of a new era of peace and tranquility.
While it has been seldom realized in the political realm here on earth, in hearts of those who know and follow Christ there is a peace “which surpasses every thought” as highlighted in Philippians 4:7.
Too often in our busy world this peace, which should be especially evident during the Advent season, is not experienced in our homes. The Christmas season has become a time of intense activity — parties, programs and other social obligations.
This can be especially true for families with teenagers. Teens will have their own social schedules during the holidays, and often the conflicting obligations and desires of family members creates tension. Children who once relished visits with extended family members may not have the same excitement as teens. This can lead to a cycle of resentment — first from you, and then from them.
Evenings that should be filled with reflection and joy may be packed with more responsibilities than you can handle. The shepherds who heard the glad tidings from the angels may have lived isolated lives but at least they had time to ponder deeply the truths they had experienced. Luke 2:20 tells us, “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard.”
How can we ensure that this season is not spoiled by anxiousness, conflict and exhaustion?
First, evaluate your schedule
Are you allowing your family’s schedule to be so packed that it robs your time together? When busyness interferes with togetherness, more diligence is required so that the spiritual realities of Christmas are not superseded by a demanding social calendar. Find compromises so your teens can spend time with extended family members and still be allowed to spend time with their peers.
Reserve some nights just to be together.
Watch your favorite Christmas movies, put up the tree, go look at lights. Letting your teens know they are a priority during a hectic time of year can instill a healthy self-image and prepare them for those inevitable stressful times that accompany the holidays.
Are there needy families in your community that your family could be involved with? How about setting aside some time to visit a nursing home? Let your teenagers brainstorm ways to be a blessing to others.
This is also a great time to emphasize missions. Many churches focus on prayer and support of mission efforts around the world during this season. Find ways to involve your family — whether it’s praying together, supporting a missionary or packing your bags and going yourselves.
Above all, worship together
Go as a family to church for worship. Spend time as a family reading and rehearsing the biblical accounts of Jesus’ birth. Take time to pray for those in your community who desperately need the peace-giving relationship with Christ that you experience each day. Give your children an opportunity to reflect on what Jesus means to them in their daily lives.
One Christmas we were visiting family in a rural part of Alabama when the area experienced a serious ice storm. Trees broke under the weight of the ice, knocking down power lines, and electricity was lost for a number of days. We woke to a Christmas morning with no power, no TV, no movies and no oven. We wondered if Christmas was going to be a big flop for our four children.
We used my father-in-law’s wood-burning heater to cook and keep us warm. It was much quieter than our usual Christmas. The roads were icy and travel was extremely limited. I felt sorry for our children since they were deprived of the power grid. I was greatly surprised on Christmas evening when our oldest teen son said, “This has been the best Christmas ever.”
Not much driving, no fancy cooking, not much noise, not many distractions — and positive proof that all the conveniences of our modern era don’t necessarily make for the best Christmas. It is something deeper and more fundamental.
Luke 2:19 tells us that Mary “was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them.” With some planning, sacrifice and creativity, you can create a Christmas season with more peace in the home — and teenagers who will treasure it.