Checking to find peace

Scripture: Psalm 80:1-7; 17-19


When did Christmas get so complicated? We are so busy making lists and checking them twice, decking the halls and dashing through the snow. What if our list checking meant finding ways to restore peace in our lives over the Advent season? Instead of asking for restoration at the end of Christmas, we could start by having a list filled with items that give us peace.

Bulletin cover/worship slides:

If you are using our worship resources, use the bulletin cover and worship slides that say, “When did Christmas get so complicated?” with the image of the string of lights. Additional resources here!

Scripture thoughts:

This is a psalm of restoration, and it is a lament. There are different types of lament, and as we read commentaries, we find the type of lament that comes with tragedy happening around the holidays, the sorrow and tears that come from those events. However, we recommend you use this Psalm in a different way. An article found on said,

“The Psalmist is crying out for God’s grace, God’s peace and God’s love to be present there with the people in their distress. It is a plea for the restoration of relationship with God, who seems so distant from their suffering as to appear angry (verse 4). The intensification of this plea each time it is repeated (verses 7 and 19) demonstrates the Psalmist’s increasing anxiety at God’s distance from the people.” (1)

This suggests that many of us, in the weeks leading to Christmas, are much like the people in Scripture. Our distress comes both from tragic events that happen in our lives and from getting lost in the items that pull us away from a relationship with God. We get to the point where we must cry out because we realize mutual distance has occurred as we prepare for the holidays. Repeatedly, the Psalmist says, “Restore us.” Such repetition usually warrants stopping to take notice. Many shows on television deal with the concept of restoration. Entire networks are dedicated to repairing things that seem to have lost their value or are broken in some way. This Scripture is about people who seek rehabilitation from God. We can learn a lot from their cry to “Restore us.”


This week is all about checking our lists. We all know the song,

“You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why, Santa Claus is coming to town. He’s making a list, checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty or nice, Santa Claus is coming to town.”

Santa’s way of doing business has become a way of life for many of us around Advent. We build our lists, check them twice and throughout the season, work hard to check things off. This can leave us exhausted and needing to recover from the holidays, instead of refreshed and restored.

In the Psalm, something terrible has happened. The people are lamenting about it, begging for help from God. Is the consumerism and materialism of Christmas a tragedy? Has something terrible happened to this holiday? Have we made it something it is not? It is easy to give in to building and checking our lists, but it is hard to keep God at the forefront of the holiday. Like the people in the Psalm, we need God’s help.

Think about all the hype. Find examples of people overcome by the Christmas hype through a movie clip, cartoon commercial or advertisement. Find a way to make people laugh about what Christmas has become for many. Think of lists you have built. Consider what a typical Christmas “to-do” list looks like and use it as an example. The point of this week is not to say one must choose between the parties, gifts and Santa because the season is about Christ. It is not to try to get people to denounce Santa, give up gift giving or check “no” on their party invitations. The wonders of Christmas and holidays fun are great, but they should never replace that baby for whom we are waiting, the baby born in Bethlehem. Think more about the spirit of the Psalm. The vine in verse 8 is planted and bears great fruit, but in verse 13, “all that move in the field feed on it.” The vine that started out so deeply rooted had to be cut down. It is more about calling attention to how we work through tension during the holiday season because if we do not, we miss the point.

Take time in your sermon to reflect on what it means to ask for restoration. What does it take to “restore us” when the holidays end? “Restore us” is sometimes our prayer after Christmas, but what if we began the season with it as a prayer? The point is to get your congregation to think about having a checklist for how to infuse peace this season. Suggest that people in your church make peace lists about things that will restore them; invite them to check off items on the days leading to Christmas. This is a step in making Christmas less complicated and focusing on the true message of the season.

Advent candle reading: Peace

As we begin this holiday season and enter the chaos and conflict that can come this time of year, seek ways to have moments of peace. As we think about buying gifts and going to parties, we do not want to get so overwhelmed that we forget Christ. We ask upfront for restoration because we will need repair. As we light this candle of peace, let us remember that Christ is coming with a peace that passes all understanding. 

1 Webb, Elizabeth. “Psalm 80:1-7, Preaching This Week

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