In May of this year the Wall Street Journal published a list of 29 countries currently engaged in armed military conflict around the world. It is difficult to reconcile this reality with the Christmas longing of peace on earth and good will to men. To say nothing of the ancient prophecy of Isaiah declaring that a male child would be born to a virgin and his titles would include, “Prince of Peace.”
Yet we enter the second week of Advent 2023, preparing for Christmas by meditating on the theme of peace. A beloved Christmas carol nostalgically opines:
That carol is an adaptation of a poem written in 1863 by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, composed during the height of the American Civil War. It was one of the darkest hours of American history, a time of hatred, death, and war. One particular verse captures the enigma:
And in despair I bowed my head; “There is no peace on earth,” I said; “For hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
We can appreciate this lament. Our world is at war. Hatred and conflict flow in the streets. How does the Jesus of Christmas bring peace to the world? We would be lost without an answer were it not for the Bible which unequivocally explains that the purpose of Jesus’ incarnation in Bethlehem was to establish peace between God and humanity. “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:19, 20). His death and resurrection are the only grounding for sinful humans to be forever at peace with the Almighty and Holy God. By grace through faith in Christ’s death on the cross all enmity with God is removed from every individual who calls upon the name of the Lord. No more clear statement is made in the Bible than Romans 5:1. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
So, peace WITH God is both a gift and a status. It is now our standing with Him that we are in a state of shalom: a settled contentment of soul undisturbed by tribulation, uncertainty, or confusion. We are united with God, no longer estranged. He is for us not against us. He is with us as Immanuel, never to leave or forsake us. He is before us and behind us as security and the hope of our future. Glory to God in the highest! May peace with God be your lived experience this Christmas and be an anchor for your soul in our troubled world.
Beyond this, the Bible speaks of the peace OF God as an inexplicable reality and the unique possession of His followers. Yes, we’re right with Him, but we also have His stabilizing peace in our hearts while the world burns in conflict. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” Paul explained that the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, protects our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus in every circumstance.
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep, God is not dead nor does He sleep.
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.
Lucy and I wish you each a very Merry (and peace-filled) Christmas!