When Jen gave us the topic of peace for the month of December, you can probably imagine that a self-ascribed Christmas nut such as myself would be humming all about:
- Sleep(ing) in heavenly peace
- Peace on the Earth, good will toward men
- Pray(ing) for peace, people everywhere
- Let(ting) there be peace on earth (and letting it begin with me)
- Hail(ing) the Heaven-born Prince of Peace
Truth is, I am humming those faith-based carols, as well as the others which are so popular at this time of year, except Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer. That one is just…I have no words. Wait. Yes, I do. Horrid. It’s a horrid, awful song – brings out the Grinch in me. Speaking of which, I once had a driver’s ed teacher call me Grinchen. It’s been 30 years, so I guess you’d say, I’ve made peace with it (see what I did there?). But that’s another story for another time.
You see, one of the reasons I love this time of year is that people are generally kinder, more generous, and more intentional in being peaceable. We’ve only the stores around us to show that a large percentage of Christmas decorations are emblazoned with the word, ‘peace’. In fact, I’d even submit that it’s difficult to avoid riding the wave of peaceful sentiments surrounding Christmas. The traditions and memories made in December can also contribute to our wishes and hopes for peace.
- Seeing Christmas lights.
- Watching A Charlie Brown Christmas with a mug o’ cocoa.
- Opening a present – just one (pajamas) – on Christmas Eve.
- Funny relatives coming over (funny ha-ha and funny peculiar – we all have/are them) to stay for Christmas.
- Donating to a favorite charity this time of year.
- Remembering loved ones who have passed on, perhaps in a moment of reverie in front of a fire, gazing at the twinkling Christmas tree across the room.
- Making Jesus a birthday cake.
- Attending Christmas Eve church services.
- Occasionally, just riding out the holiday season as best as we could because we never did fun things at Christmas time – but we always wanted that Hallmark Hall of Fame Christmas, where everything works out in the end. Maybe this year, it’ll be different.
In addition to being a Christmas-nut, I am a word nerd, with a slight affinity toward theology, and sure do like to learn about how words, like peace, are used in the Bible. In the case of ‘peace’, I wanted to talk about the Prince of Peace and God’s peace that He gives us through His son, Jesus.
I want to remind myself and anyone who also calls her/himself a follower of Jesus, that while there is nothing wrong with the above merry-making thank goodness, since smiling’s my favorite, NONE of those activities bring us peace. Jesus brings peace. Or does He?
But His heavenly peace is so much more than a warm feeling of goodwill and happiness, which is self-created and enjoyed with or without Him. His peace is given to those of us who believe in Him and has only been achieved by the bloodiest battle ever. The battle for our souls, and the battle which necessitated God purposefully allowing His son to be hanged upon a cross. That doesn’t sound very Christmassy – but stay with me, please.
In Matthew 10:34 (NIV), Jesus tells us, “Do not suppose that I came to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Now, I am no theologian, but have read some commentaries, and consulted a dear pastor friend before I took this on, and the best way I can explain Jesus’ peace via sword is the following: The world was/is in such a state of detestable, foul-smelling sin, but God loved his people so very much in spite of their sin, and wanted relationship with them so fully, that he did the only thing He could do to reconcile the relationship between Himself, and His people. He sent His son, Jesus, a holy substitute for the wrath we deserved, and placed all the blame and injustice upon Him to atone for our mess ups. I’m interchanging tenses here, because people sinned back in the day, and continue to do so, today. And yet, God sent His son to pay for the sins of people past, present, and future. God is holy and perfect, and will only be among others who are holy. So, the sword in this case separates us from the bloody sin in this world and re-connects us with our Father in Heaven. The sword also presents us with a choice: We can continue to live separately from God, or we can choose to confess our sins and need for Him, and be reunited with Him through our faith in Jesus. Romans 3:22-26 (NIV) says it this way: This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
So, yeah. This is peace. Reconciliation. Armistice. The sword Jesus brought separated good from evil, and made those who believed in Him righteous again. To all who believe in Jesus, THIS is peace. It comes only through faith–not by any works we’ve done or decorations we’ve purchased–and with a promise that each believer IS forgiven, now and forevermore, and will one day be birthed into eternity with a place at the table of the King of Kings. THAT’s what the Prince of Peace did for us. Thank you, Jesus!