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"It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go," sang the weatherman this month. We've had wind-chills in the teens, snow that has been far more than just a dusting, and days when the high temperatures have barely reached the 30's. Of course, he is not the only one singing this song.

It's "everywhere you go"! We can sing along to the Christmas tunes on the radio, or turn the TV to the Hallmark Channel. Communities and malls are all lit up. Pumpkin spice coffee (I expect) has been replaced with a minty mix. And I have not heard a single person complain about the movement of TV advertising from politics to presents.

The Hetzner home is no different. Our condo is fully decorated. Pandora is set at 70 - "The Hallmark Station" (though the TV has not gone there). Packages of gifts ordered online have begun to arrive on our doorstep. And the aroma of the pumpkin bread baking for the home-bound greeted me just the other day.

At church, choirs and children are feverishly preparing for Christmas Eve's 4:00 worship service. Decorations will go up this Saturday morning (please join us, if you can). Worship folders are being prepared for Advent and Christmas services. This year's Advent devotional booklets (The Coming King) are looking good (Let us know if you would like one).

However, when I take a closer look at things, suddenly that "everywhere we go" stalls dead in its tracks. It doesn't look much like Christmas at our borders, or in many foreign lands. It doesn't look much like Christmas in the funeral home or at the cemetery. Inside our own hearts and minds turmoil, temptation and tempers drive peace far away. And almost every adult I know has a greater desire to encounter an angel proclaiming, "Peace on earth" than Santa saying, "Ho! Ho! Ho!" Yet, it seems, not many ears are hearing it.

So let's pause - not just now, but daily throughout this season and beyond - to hear what God's messenger has to say: "Fear not, for behold I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. ... Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased." (Luke 2.10-14) Did you notice those words "for all the people"? This means it's for you and me, too!

During this holiday season I often feel overwhelmed with the pressures (You probably do, too). Daily routines continue, and then, heaped upon them are all of the seasonal extras. And then the surprises pop up. IF (and that's a big IF) there is a smile on my face, it's not a true reflection of the turmoil in my gut. And then someone, or something, dares to cross my path.

But we won't find the remedy on Hallmark or Pandora, in Christmas decorations or presents. Peace speaking angels are messengers of the one True God, and it is in his Word, and in his Word alone, that the message comes with heart-transforming power. As he takes me back, over and over again, to Matthew 1 and Luke 2, that peace slowly grows, bringing with it love and joy, too ... and I discover that, not only has the child in the manger prepared me for Christmas ... he has also equipped me to be an instrument that helps others receive the peace and share in the love and joy. "Lord, NOW you are letting your servant go in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of ALL PEOPLES." (Luke 2.29-31) This is what I find true Christmas preparations are all about.

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