“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined…. For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over His kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this” (Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 ESV).
Ranking high among the many qualities on which we ponder during the Christmas season is that state of internal and external harmony that we call peace. In fact, so widely used is the word “peace” that it is a bit difficult to nail down due to its abstract nature. And its abstraction has, no doubt, something to do with our tendency to utilize it in a wide variety of ways, giving it so many facets that to do the word justice would be beyond our ability explain.
What was meant, for example, when angels announcing Jesus’ birth cried out in the night sky, “Peace on earth, good will toward men!” in Luke 2:14? What do school choirs mean when they sing, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me”? More important, however, is what Jesus meant when He said to the disciples, “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…. I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 14:27, 16:33 ESV).
Usually, when we hear the word “peace” tossed about in any given conversation or in a movie or in a popular song, the word means the absence of conflict and/or an internal sensation of tranquility. But the most important sense of the word, the one from which any other meaningful interpretation must be derived, is the cessation of conflict between God and us. In other words, I must lay down the arms of my own self-will and acquiesce to the holy will of God for me, by which I mean that I turn from my own self-will and believe in Him alone as my Lord and Savior. When I have done this, God promises to receive me as His own child, forgive my sin, and fill my life with His own essence. When there is peace between God and me, then there may be peace within me also.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2 ESV).
This is the peace of which the angels sang in Luke 2:14. The peace that the world understands falls short and is hollow in that it gives no sense of purpose or security in this life for anything beyond this life. It’s really nothing more than an anthem about just trying to get a long in this short and painful existence. It can do nothing about reconciling us to God or removing the blanket of shame that covers us when we realize just how corrupt we are in our nature. Nor can it resolve the inner turmoils of souls lacking a sense of stability in this wild and woolly world.
Thankfully, the peace that Christ offers us, which is “not as the world gives”, addresses our inner places and removes from us the fear of shame and embarrassment in God’s presence and sets us free from our deserved judgment.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set your free in Christ Jesus from sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2 ESV).
For the Believer in Jesus Christ, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard… hearts and… minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 ESV). How does it guard a woman’s heart? By granting her the confidence that God is big enough, strong enough, wise enough and loving enough to keep vigil over her life. How does it guard a man’s mind? By shoring up in him the assurance that God does indeed work all things together for good for those who love Him, for those who are called according to His purpose (see Romans 8:28).
How does a Christian know peace in the middle of the kind of tribulations to which Jesus referred in John 16:33? By knowing the One Who overcame – and still overcomes – the world. How can a Believer know peace in his heart when buffeted by criticisms from the world without and by self-doubts from the world within his own heart? By knowing the One Who, in order to comfort twelve terrified men, calmed a storm-battered sea with the command, “Peace! Be still!” (see Mark 4:35-41).
Today, in this storm-battered world and in our storm-battered lives, we will always find reasons to be afraid if we gaze only upon our trials and tribulations, if we believe only in what we can see, and if we trust only in our own abilities and wisdom. Such inward tempests only breed outward hostilities.
Happily, we have a far greater reason to have peace. To experience it, we must only look upon the King Who was born to us in a lowly stable. To know it, we must only believe in the Savior Who laid down His life for us on an old wooden cross. To feel it, we must only trust in the Lord Who rose from the dead, defeating once and for all our greatest enemy, death.
The message of Christmas is a message of peace. While the hope of God is a light shining into the dark despair of our mortal souls, the peace of God calms the storms of hate and fear that plague our human hearts. God’s peace brings an early spring to the winter of human apathy and bridges one life to another – even if in the past such lives were divided. Today, if people wish to have peace with one another, they do well to first embrace peace with God through Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.
Copyright © Thom Mollohan