Peace. Reconciliation. To some, these might seem like merely nice ideas, pretty little concepts, theories and hopeful dreams that will never truly see the light of day.
But to the one whose sight remains fixed on Jesus, these are realities, truth in action as the kingdom of heaven continues to break into our current existence.
These aren’t merely pie-in-the-sky fairy tales that we tell our children to help them sleep at night. These are traits that we can grasp and cling to in the darkest hour and yes, even now at Christmas.
Peace and reconciliation were at the center of the message brought to shepherds years ago. They were stunned and shocked by the appearance of angels in their field, to the point that one of the angels had to encourage them not to be afraid, for their message was one of hope and promise (Luke 2:10).
If you’ve spent any time whatsoever in or around a church or other Christians or even watched the Charlie Brown Christmas Special that airs yearly on TV, you’re aware of what was said next. In fact, it’s probably overly familiar to you. But it bears repeating:
Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger…Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased! (Luke 2:10-14)
Given that we tend to hear these words a lot this time of year, it’s easy for our hearts and minds to gloss over them. They go in one ear and out the other. But to the Jews of Jesus’ day, these are words of transformation and life. The long-promised Messiah was here! I imagine that they must have doubted their ears, even as they hoped beyond hope that the years of prophecy and longing were finally fulfilled.
Can you picture it? Peace on earth? In a region that was (and still is) constantly in conflict? How many times had the children of Israel wandered, conquered and been conquered throughout their existence? How many times were they exiled and persecuted? Even now, the heavy hand of the Roman Empire ruled over them, forcing them to uproot and travel for the sake of a government-sanctioned census.
Though the pronouncement of peace was given to the shepherds, I doubt that the irony would have been lost on Mary and Joseph, who had traveled about 90 miles from Nazareth to register in Bethlehem. Can you imagine having to make that sort of trip while on the verge of giving birth? The discomfort that Mary must have been feeling and the anxiety that must have consumed Joseph…and in the midst of it, this little baby born into squalid conditions. He’s the sought-after Prince of Peace?
Yes! That’s the resounding message of the angels. Ultimately His life was lived and given to bring peace back to earth through the reconciliation of Creation to Creator. How beautiful and miraculous. And how much do we need to hear this, even now? Our world is in constant upheaval. Wars rage and lives are being snuffed around the globe. Nations are in a state of financial crisis. You name it and it’s broken.
And yet still this quiet message of a Savior baby ripples throughout human existence. There is another Way. There is One who embodies salvation. It’s a foolish thing, but what do you expect from one who made His earthly debut in a food trough for animals?
So this Christmas, cling to the hope that is Christ. In the midst of pain and suffering, hold fast hope. He is our peace. He is our reconciliation.