Peace is commonly associated with Christmas. Luke’s gospel tells of the shepherds who, as they watched over their flocks, heard a heavenly host declare:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
(Luke 2.14 KJV)
Peace is one of those words, one of those ideas – like love – that has been thoroughly hijacked by popular culture so that when we employ it in the context of God’s Kingdom, we often end more confused and off-track than anything else. Think about it: angels proclaimed peace now that Jesus was born, yet sometime in the upcoming months mothers would scream in the streets of Bethlehem as their toddler sons would be murdered before their eyes…all because the deranged egomaniac known as Herod heard that there was a new king in town (and there was!). How does the ruthless murder of some 15-20 toddlers fit with the idea of “peace on earth”?
We need consider the possibility that what we’ve been calling “peace” is really nothing more than pleasure (or pleasantness). We’ve really been looking for a Jesus who is the Prince of Pleasure, not the Prince of Peace. We want a savior who has the power to provide us with a pleasant, enjoyable existence but aren’t so interested in the self-denial and submission that the King requires. Am I ruining the idea of peace for you? Oh peace is not the absence of conflict. Peace is not the lack of tension or violence. Peace, in the biblical sense, is a way of life that flows according to the design God has for life.
Rather than get into a lengthy discourse on possible interpretations of the text, let’s simply realize this: God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but neither did he send him into the world to give it a soft blanket and a warm cup of tea. He came to bring “life as God intended it to be.” Shalom. Not life as we made it for ourselves. Not a life of “I’m OK, you’re OK, we’re all OK!” No, shalom refers to a life so unique, so distinct – such a contrast (can someone say “holy”?) that it would eventually cause deep division amongst those who encountered it (keep reading Luke’s gospel – chapter 12 talks about this division that Jesus brought).
Yes, Christmas does rightfully raise the topic of peace. Isaiah’s messianic prophecy rightfully called Jesus the “Prince of Peace,” but as biblical followers of Jesus we must embrace the peace his life brought to earth and reject the superficial warm and fuzzies our culture plasters on wrapping paper and Snapfish holiday cards. Oh we need to be excited and get stirred up about this true peace, but only because we see the big picture, according to the grace of God. We celebrate the fact that our Maker saw the ruined state of humanity and sent his Son Jesus to be truly human – to live life according to the terms of its Designer. This Incarnation IS peace! And this “true humanness” (thank you Bishop Wright!) is accessible to us as we humbly surrender our hearts and yield our loyalty to the Prince of Peace.