Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. (2 Peter 1:2) In cased you missed it (or forgot), last week I made a case for extending our celebration of Christmas past December 25th. The idea was that we are in better shape now to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, since we're not as easily preoccupied with getting and giving and buying and decorating and planning, etc. In keeping with that, I thought I'd share with you a Christmas story that also provides a springboard for this morning's message. In a recent article for Christian Standard magazine, Brian Lowery recounts his visit to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. His expectations for the trip were low, having heard that it was something of a disappointment. After waiting in line for hours, he descended the steps that lead underneath the church into the cave that is purported to be the birthplace of Christ. He recalls how unexpectedly moved he was to be singing "O Holy Night" and "O Little Town of Bethlehem" there in that church. There he was, praying for peace in a church that had been a cause of great division among Christians. Look at what he says: "As we left, I passed by all the pilgrims yet again. Some were from Germany, Poland, or Italy and others from England, Spain, or China. They, too, sang and prayed. Anger and violence wrestled about in all our worlds, but in that moment we had all come together in Bethlehem to worship and celebrate the Prince of Peace who, if anything, was working shalom into the folds of our lives as he will until the day he returns to work it into all things, once-for-all." It's that word shalom that leaps out at me. Shalom is the Jewish word for peace, but as we shall see this morning, it means much more than just the absence of conflict. In the opening statement of his "second" letter, Peter includes a greeting with a prayer for "grace and peace." In one sense, it's just a greeting-like saying "Dear _____, I hope you're doing well." But there's more to it than that. As we prepare to spend some time reflecting on the verse that will be our theme for the year (2 Peter 1:3), it is clear to me that the grace and peace of knowing God are crucial to seeing just how he is able to meet all of our needs. So this morning, I'm praying with Peter that grace and peace will be yours through your knowledge of God. I'm assuming that's one of the reasons that you're here. My prayer is that you will find it.