In our present, fallen human condition, there exist shadows of the things we look forward to in the glory of God’s presence throughout eternity. Many of these gifts, poor reflections of ultimate spiritual realities though they may be, are celebrated at Christmas. Love, joy, and hope for example.
But of all the glorious things we celebrate at Christmas, I would argue there is one which proves most elusive and fleeting here on earth: peace.
Even underneath a lack of love, or joy, or hope, it seems there is a deeper, foundational, undergirding lack of peace and unrest.
A gravestone does not say rest in love, or rest in joy, or rest in hope. No, for the deceased may have already experienced these things in some small measure during their life.
Rather, a headstone says rest in peace, an admission of our deep yearning that at long last, perhaps only in death, one will find what they could not quite grasp here on earth.
Interpersonal peace, inner peace, world peace, all these often prove precarious at best. A newborn sleeping in the arms of their father or mother, until they get hungry and begin to wail. An international conflict is resolved, until another tenuous alliance breaks. A few oblivious hours sleep, until your alarm wakes you with the day’s reality’s ahead.
And we often find that such lack of peace uncannily converges upon us at Christmas, ironically the very season for which we are to celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace Himself.
For, in Isaiah 9:6, it says,
“To us a Child shall be born, to us a Son shall be given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, And His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
The word “shall” in this passage indicates a future event. But we, as the church, are on the other side of this “shall.” The Prince of Peace has already come!
And yet, we are still, so often, bereft of peace. How can we reconcile this dissonance?
Just before his death, Christ told his disciples they would be scattered, leaving Him alone to be killed. Then he said something quite curious: “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace.”
“You’re going to abandon me to die, so have peace” doesn’t seem to be a premise that follows.
But Jesus continues.
“In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous; I have overcome the world.”
I have overcome the world. You see, peace was not bought simply through the birth of Christ, but through his death and resurrection. So Christ’s abandonment to death is precisely what would purchase peace such that when he says, “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace,” the premise really does follow.
Through his life, death and resurrection, Christ has won peace for his children that transcends the difficulties of this life. It is therefore this ultimate peace which allows us, despite all life’s hardship to experience a true peace here on earth.
Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid.”
Remember Christ’s peace is not the world’s peace. It is ultimate in an eternal sense, so it is relevant in a present sense. It is both for the future and for the presence.
Just this recognition is enough for us to rest in, the peaceful promise of eternal salvation.
By Blaise Kemna