The kids dropped yet another ornament.

“Thank goodness they are plastic.”  That refrain was on repeat in my mind.

“No, sorry babe.  You can’t help Mommy hang these ornaments.  These are from when I was a little girl and they are super fragile.”

Outwardly, I was smiling.  Inwardly, though?  Not so much.  “Please, just leave me alone so I can decorate in peace,” was what I was actually thinking.

Peace.  That is what I was searching for; however, the feeling eluded me.  Isn’t that what we’re supposed to be surrounded with this season, though?  A feeling of peace, love, and goodwill toward men?

My kids’ faces were full of joy while looking into the twinkling lights of the tree.  Excitement radiated through them, as they pulled out my carefully wrapped decorations from the boxes.  The wonder of the season was alive in their wide eyes and broad grins.  I was missing it, though.  Peace and joy were not on my radar.

Another clank from behind me.  Plastic ornament…meet hardwood floor.  This was going to be a long afternoon.

There’s no denying life has changed greatly over the past six years since children entered the scene.  What used to be quick to accomplish and easy to create has now become agonizingly slow and sometimes painfully difficult.  If it has been a while since you attempted to get out the door on a weekday morning with a child in tow, you may not fully appreciate the painful part of the former statement. Let me assure you—it can be excruciating.

Since starting a family, the backdrop of order and calm I always thought was present has been replaced by messy and chaotic.  I mean before kids, I always had it together, right?

Prior to children, the stretch from Thanksgiving to the New Year was my favorite time of year.  That hasn’t changed, but have I?  How did what used to be a magical season transform into something overbearing and oppressive?  Why do I feel the need to get every decoration perfect at the expense of genuine connections?  When did the need for peace become an excuse for denying my kids what they long for the most—time spent decking the halls and hanging ornaments and doing nothing yet being together?  How has peace overshadowed joy?

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

Tiny feet scurrying down the hallway.  Infectious giggles from the living room sofa.  Stolen kisses and great big group hugs.  The elated yell of “Cannonball!” as my daughter flings herself into our bed.  To the outside observer, these scenes might seem lacking in peace.  But they aren’t.  Indeed, I would offer such illustrations as representative of peace in its truest form—peace coupled with joy, not devoid of it.  While I used to define peace as quiet and calm, now it’s cloaked in spirit and energy and love.  The greatest peace this world has ever known entered in the form of a newborn baby—a loud, crying, needy baby.  But what a vision of joy.  New life!  Could a happier occasion exist?

Jesus, the embodiment of peace and the One we recognize during this Christmas season, to be seen and acknowledged entered the world as a noisy, crying infant.  But what delight he must have brought to his parents!  He was a rowdy toddler full of energy and life, scurrying and giggling and acting like a kid.  What unsurpassed joy!  Mary and Joseph’s house was undoubtedly not what one might describe as peaceful, but the Prince of Peace resided there.  Christ ushered in peace because of the joy His presence brought.  Peace incarnate resided in Nazareth because there was laughter and love.  There was joy.

He resides here, too, in my home full of running and jumping, broken ornaments, lopsided garland, and full hearts.

Peace looks different now, but it includes joy. It includes love.

All is calm.  All is bright.

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)