Throughout the Christmas season, children will undoubtedly encounter the phrase "Peace on earth, good will toward men" and the baby described as "the Prince of Peace." How do we model the true meaning of such words while chaotically trying to conquer the holiday checklist?
We begin by understanding the difference between peaceful and peace. It is one thing to live in a continual state of serenity without stress or conflict. It is quite another to experience a sense of well-being grounded in a right relationship with God, even during trying circumstances. As we attempt to model and reinforce a Christian view of peace for our children, we should do so in light of several foundational ideas.
Winning peace: Real peace is not won by avoiding or denying conflict. Conflict may be necessary to achieve peace. That's why Jesus Christ fought and defeated the Enemy of our souls, freeing us to live at peace with God. "For he himself is our peace, who has ... destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility" (Ephesians 2:14). No wonder the angels proclaimed "on earth peace to men" upon Jesus' arrival in the manger (Luke 2:14).
Receiving peace: Jesus told His disciples that He gives peace of a different quality than the world gives (John 14:27). The world can achieve a temporary absence of conflict through a change in circumstances. But lasting peace is received as a free gift from the One who defeated death and sin. It is not something we can obtain through our own efforts, nor something that can be taken away by life's difficulties or conflicts. In Jesus' words: "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
Experiencing peace: We can, however, rob ourselves of the peace that Christ offers. That's why we are commanded to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts (Colossians 3:15). How? By replacing anxiety with prayer and thankfulness. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." The result? "The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7).
— Kurt Bruner
- Christ's sacrifice brought us the gift of peace.
- We can experience peace in the midst of trials.
- We can replace anxiety with prayer.
Family Memory Verse
"Peace I leave with you; 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."
For a more in-depth study on the peace of God, read these Bible passages:
- Isaiah 9:6
- Romans 8:5-6
- Romans 15:13
- Galatians 5:22
- Colossians 1:20
- 2 Thessalonians 3:16
Turn on some music, and let it play quietly in the background. Then give each child a spoon and a pot or metal bowl. Tell them to bang on their pots and sing loudly when you say, "Go," and to stop when you say, "Stop." Let the children have fun banging on the pots for a while. When you are done, gather the noisemakers, then sit and listen to the quiet music.
After the noise making and the quiet music, the parent could ask each child which activity was more peaceful. Talk about how the quiet music is like the peace that God gives us. Trusting God and knowing He's there for us gives us peace. We can have that peace no matter what's happening in our lives.
Play Stress Tag. With your hands waving all around your head like a chaotic windmill, say, "Stress, stress, stress." Chase after the children to make them it. You may only tag those who are not saying, "I have God's peace." Children can do anything fun around you, as long as they are saying, "I have God's peace." They can even flail their arms as you are as they advance toward you, but they can stop doing this when their arms get tired. You can't.
Afterward, tell your children that God says we shouldn't be stressed or worried about anything (Matthew 6:25-34). Remind them to talk to Jesus and ask Him for peace and calmness when they're having a bad day. Explain that Jesus, the Prince of Peace, offers His peace and comfort. To end the game, give each child a big hug.
Map out a 10- to 15-minute route near your home. Try to find places that your children won't recognize. Now blindfold your kids, and tell them that you're going on a little mystery car ride. Drive to different stops on your route, giving your kids a few seconds to lift their blindfold and try to guess where they are. Have them write their guesses down and lower their blindfolds before you leave for the next stop.
After the route is done, stop at a favorite restaurant or snack shop for a quick treat. Ask your kids where they thought they were at each stop. When you hit one where they weren't sure, ask if they were scared. If not, ask them why. The answer is generally something like, "Because you were driving. You knew where you were going."
Tell your tweens that the car ride was in some ways a picture of life. Sometimes we aren't sure where we are in life, why we're here or where we're going. But that uncertainty doesn't have to be scary — God knows where we are, and He knows where we're going next. Just like your kids trusted the driver, we can trust that God is in control. That complete trust brings the peace that God promises us.
Read John 14:27 and Philippians 4:6-7. Ask:
- What do you think Jesus meant when He promised to leave us His peace?
- What does Jesus' peace look like? Feel like?
- Does having Jesus' peace means we'll never have troubles? Why or why not?
- How can we better experience Jesus' peace this week? Let's brainstorm ideas.
Wrap up your discussion with prayer, asking God to help your family recognize His peace in all of life's circumstances.
—Tim Shoemaker and Mike Nappa
Time With Your Teen
The teen years can be a time of emotional highs and lows. Mercurial changes of mood and behaviors may confuse parents, who are trying to understand the dynamics behind their child's disposition. The up side of all this is that such adolescent storms provide opportunity for growth … both for teens and for parents.
The Bible contains a number of inspiring verses that describe the peace God offers to His people — even amid turbulence. Consider Isaiah 26:3, "You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you."
This steadfastness of mind is a challenge to maintain at any age, but especially so during adolescence. Seemingly benign life changes (such as moving up from one grade to the next) can produce turmoil in your teen. Even positive circumstances (such as making the basketball team) can cause a teen to feel stress.
Expressing empathy when your teen is stressed can be difficult, but words of affirmation go a long way in helping a teen open up. When talking with your teen, offer a positive statement or two to help him understand that being stretched and occasionally stressed are unavoidable parts of life. Sharing some of your own stressors can help him feel a measure of relief.
You can also discuss a few simple ways to trust God. Being grateful turns you from worry toward God's provision; spending time in God's Word strengthens your faith; and trusting in God's direction helps you to pursue peace as you think about "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable" (Philippians 4:8).
The good news for all of us is that God is great enough to shepherd us through all of life's changes and pressures. No matter what life throws at us, our reservoir of peace — God himself — is inexhaustible.