“One star burns in the darkness, shines with a promise, Immanuel. One child born in the stillness, living within us, Immanuel. We’re singing glory, glory, let there be peace. Let it start in me. One voice speaks for the voiceless, hope for the hopeless, Immanuel. One love brings us together, now and forever. Immanuel. We’re singing glory, glory, let there be peace… Do not be afraid, his love is strong enough to save us. Nothing stands in the way. His love is strong enough to lead us.”

Are you ready for a moment of peace and personal focus right now in the midst of this Christmas season? Listen to this beautiful song called ”Glory, let there be Peace,” by Matt Maher and focus for a few moments on God’s glory. Close your eyes. Breathe. Just listen. If you like, sing along as it says “Let there be peace; let it start in me.” Peace on earth starts with peace within each of us. As we feel peace in us, we can be “bringers of peace” to others.

But where does this peace come from? It comes from Immanuel, our God who is with us. In John 14:27 Jesus says this: “My peace I leave with you. My peace I give you, not as the world gives do I give you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” If we keep our eyes on the world, the circumstances and situations around us, we may not feel peace, but if we can close our eyes, meditate on God’s glory, knowing he is with us and will never leave us, we can feel a supernatural peace that passes our own understanding.

Our prayer for you this Christmas is that you will feel God’s glorious peace in your heart and know him in a deep personal way as your Savior and Lord.

Matthew 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and they shall call him Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Questions to Ponder: What does it mean to have a “peace that passes understanding?” Have you ever felt that kind of peace in a difficult situation? Have you ever been afraid or troubled, then felt God’s peace fill your heart so that you “knew” he was with you? What was that like?

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to pause to listen to you at this busy time. Fill me with your supernatural peace. Help me to share your peace and your truth with others. Amen.

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Jeannie Blocher is the President Emeritus and Director of Spiritual Impact of Body & Soul Fitness. She and her husband Roy founded Body & Soul in 1981, and now Jeannie serves in a volunteer capacity. She is an author and speaker, who treasures first her role as wife, mother of three and grandmother of eight. She wrote the First Place 4 Health Bible Study “Make Every Day Your Best Day” and the book “Encouragement for the Body & the Soul.” She enjoys speaking on behalf of Body & Soul, sharing the message of faith & fitness.

Contact Jeannie at jeannie@bodyandsoul.org.

I’m a podcaster by profession. It’s my job to interview guests and to truly listen. But listening doesn’t come naturally to me, I must confess. I’ve always been a talker. (In elementary school, my report card consistently included the note “Talks too much.”) I’ve had to learn to listen. But listening isn’t just a matter of being quiet and letting the other person talk. The key to listening, and I mean really listening, is to be present and attentive. To do so, you have to eliminate distractions—whether they’re voices in your own head or some external visual competing for our attention. (Have you ever tried to hold a conversation with someone with the TV on in the background? It has a kind of magnetic pull on us, doesn’t it?)

The carol It Came Upon a Midnight Clear says, “The world in solemn stillness lay to hear the angels sing,” but how can we possibly listen to the angels’ song when the world seems so very loud at this time of year?

Here are my six secrets for cultivating quiet and truly listening for the voices that matter this season:

Stop.

Say “no” to one holiday demand that you really don’t need to accommodate. I’ve been known to cart my family to several events in one day in an effort to please others at the expense of our own mental health. Practice exercising the “no” muscle and find some heavenly peace.

Exercise.

You knew this was coming, right? We need to move, but not just from the parking lot to the closest mall. Movement to music releases endorphins and brings some natural joy. Find a fitness class that takes you out of the “stress zone” for at least an hour or two a week. (Body & Soul classes fit the bill for me!)

Connect with Jesus.

THE best gift ever. Be intentional about moments with the Reason for the Season at the beginning of the day, if at all possible. Read an Advent devotional or download an advent app. It will help you set your internal antenna to receive positive heavenly signals all day!

Relish relationships over presents.

Make people the priority, not things. To make sure this happens, set dates on the calendar ahead of time, to ensure that you don’t miss prioritizing those closest to you. Make a date night with your spouse; make individual dates with the kiddos. When the holidays have come and gone, you’ll have built into what matters most.

Experience.

Consider giving a gift that doesn’t come in a box: One that will connect you w/ neighbors, children, friends in the months ahead. It doesn’t have to be pricey. Give babysitting coupons to your best friends, offer to make soup or shovel snow for the neighbor, plan an outing to a nearby museum with your nephews, etc.

Take time for yourself.

This is last, but truly not least. Again, this will take some intentionality, but you need to listen to your body/mind, to find what you need most. Maybe you can cut out of a party early or hit the hay an hour or two early one evening (and have your spouse put the kids to bed for a change).

Note that none of the above include technology. At the top, I mentioned that in order to be present and attentive we must eliminate distractions. And the commercialization of Christmas attempts to persuade us that the season is about the “new,” the glitz, glitter, flash, and buzz. We know better. Unplug and eliminate yet one more distraction. And then, hear the angels sing.

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Hilda Labrada Gore is the DC Metro Regional Director for Body & Soul Fitness. She is a certified Integrative Nutrition health coach and the author of “Podcasting Made Simple.” She is the host and producer of the Wise Traditions podcast, sponsored by the Weston A. Price Foundation for wise traditions in food, farming, and the healing arts. She lives in D.C. with her husband, Mitch, their children, and their cat and dog.

I love Christmas music of all kinds. I love the traditional carols, I love the recently written songs about the true meaning of Christmas and the joy of family. And yes, I love the crazy Christmas songs that just make you smile, tap your toe, sing along and clap. One such song is “The Christmas Clap”, a hiphop-style song by B-Shoc and his buddy Mello. You should watch the youtube video if you want the full effect. Christmas deco, lights, cookies and wrapping paper abound, and you can make it into an exercise routine just by moshing and clapping.

But the reason I like “The Christmas Clap” is that the true message and meaning of Christmas is clear in this song. The lyrics say “You know it’s Christmas time. You know this light of mine. You know I’m-a let it shine… You know it’s Christmas time, so let your Jesus shine! Celebrate his birthday!” This Christmas let’s sing, dance, work out, and do the Christmas clap, but most of all, let’s “let our Jesus shine” through us as we love and serve and give. Let this Christmas be the biggest birthday celebration ever!

Psalm 47:1 “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.”

Questions to ponder: How do you “let Jesus shine” in your life in specific ways at Christmas time? Do you do special things at Christmas to highlight the fact that it is Jesus’ birthday—such as have a birthday cake for Jesus as one of your desserts? Brainstorm on ways to let the light of Jesus shine in your holiday traditions.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to shine your light brightly this Christmas. Help me to treasure the fact that Christmas is your birthday. Thank you, Lord, for loving me. Amen.

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Jeannie Blocher is the President Emeritus and Director of Spiritual Impact of Body & Soul Fitness. She and her husband Roy founded Body & Soul in 1981, and now Jeannie serves in a volunteer capacity. She is an author and speaker, who treasures first her role as wife, mother of three and grandmother of eight. She wrote the First Place 4 Health Bible Study “Make Every Day Your Best Day” and the book “Encouragement for the Body & the Soul.” She enjoys speaking on behalf of Body & Soul, sharing the message of faith & fitness.

Contact Jeannie at jeannie@bodyandsoul.org.