His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Peace. This time of year, when I think of peace, a certain image pops into my mind. The Christmas lights twinkle. Silence indeed fills the night. I sit on my couch, toasty under piles of blankets, reading an advent book (or Harry Potter, currently), with hot cocoa on the table next to me. Snow drifts whimsically down from the night sky in flakes, covering our home in the sweetest powdered sugar. The gift of time drops itself in my lap, and I am able to attend every party, enjoy quiet, intimate gatherings with close friends, and make my own family traditions as my husband and I enter our fourth year of marriage. After all, Christmas-time is made of magic, right?
If people were awarded for their ability to dream up picture-perfect lives, and then be disappointed by reality, gold medals would bedazzle every wall in my house.
As for reality, piles of blankets have morphed into a pile of unmarked seventh-grade papers on my desk, whose grades will need to be entered, on, oh that’s right, December 23. Time seems to slip from my grasp like Alaska’s fleeting daylight, and I may or may not have spent the last hour venting to my husband about how I cannot enjoy it all because there are too many options. And these, my friends, are what we call “first world problems.” I am not fearing for my life, I have more than enough food to fill my belly, and I will go to bed warm tonight.
You see, the peace Jesus brought with His arrival wasn’t intended for a snow-globe life. He knew very well the state of the world, my stresses and issues being the least of what many people in the world face. While I do believe God intended the state of things to be different than what sin has created, the fact is, the circumstances that require peace are the dark, scary places of our lives and of our world. Rather than let us escape or avoid our troubles, God brought us Himself, born right into the middle of it all. Immanuel. God with us. And with him He brought lasting peace that is indeed intended at a very personal level, but also extends to every war-torn city and dark corner of our world.
Jesus brings peace for our worries.
You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you. (Isaiah 26:3)
The world is a dark place. Not all the time, but much of the time. There are seasons of great joy, but those seasons are matched by the ones of great sorrow. Peace is not an escape from the seasons of sorrow, but the staring it in the face and declaring and believing Jesus’ presence in that dark place. His presence is promised for the here and now, the gritty, the ugly. He was born in a stable. Your circumstances neither disgust nor deter him. His presence is available, even in darkness. Be not dismayed.
Jesus brings peace for our wars.
For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us… and our hostility toward each other was put to death. (Ephesians 2:14, 16)
This sounds like wishful thinking, but the only thing in the world that will end war and make oppression cease is Christ’s peace. Even if Christians, at times, have mis-portrayed this truth, His Gospel brings not only peace to our hearts, but peace between tribes and nations, between opposing political parties, between oppressed and oppressor. He levels all false notions of self that would give anyone power over another, and offers salvation to all. Rather than turn our eyes from the pain and sorrows of our war-torn world, may we look into the pain and offer the only answer to enmity between people– the peace and love of Christ.
Jesus brings peace for our wandering hearts.
Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. (Romans 5:1)
Christ’s arrival on earth has ceased the enmity between God and us. He Himself is our peace, the peace that saves us from ourselves. When we would choose empty pleasures that do not satisfy, he chooses us, and his life and suffering offers us a peace we cannot even understand ourselves!
This Christmas may not bring the peace you dream up for your life, the kind that is a temporary night by a quiet fire. This Christmas may be all chaos, sorrow, grief, and not-knowing. However, the peace that Christ brings, the peace we are to offer to others, it is more brave and beautiful than we could ever dream. Peace is staring pain in its face and trusting Immanuel. It is taking the enemy’s hand. It is falling on your knees because the God of all sees you, hears you, knows you, saves you.
May the “Lord bless you and keep you, may he make His face shine upon you,
and be gracious to you; may He lift up His countenance upon you, [in whatever situation you find yourself], and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)