“‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!'”- Luke 2:14
“‘For he himself is our peace. . .'”- Ephesians 2:14
The peace of mankind is not a feeling: it’s a person. As little ants who run frantically about when their mound is disrupted, humans attempt to procure peace from all sorts of places. Our lives are filled with hectic-ness; horn honking, getting to the restaurant on time for reservations, texting, and hoofing a consistent 5 over the speed limit are all signs of the busyness and fast-pace of our lives. From having the kids all home for Christmas to sitting around the tree by a fire, humans really do, however, experience a measure of peace this side of eternity, but the peace we experience by feeling is only a shadow of the reality of Peace we truly have. I find myself, though, praying as if I really had none. In the midst of the world, suffering, sin, and uncertainty are the norms, and our experience works hard to deny the reality of Peace which we truly have. The promise of Christmas is that Peace has arrived and is not far off; Peace was born in an animal den over 2,000 years ago, lived, died, and rose again. Peace is alive, and Peace is a person.
As we talked about the implications of Philippians 4:6 over coffee the other day, a high school student reminded me of truth. Paul writes, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” On first glance, this verse seems to be describing something which we do not already have. We certainly must cast ourselves upon Him and allow Him to comfort and console us, and certainly there is a future consummation awaiting the Christian that we don’t experience here. Christ has not returned, and the earth still groans. Simply thinking this way, however, can be extremely discouraging and is plainly incomplete. All of us pray for peace, for the ending of hardship and trial, awaiting a feeling of elusive serenity. And all of us await it with discouragement and a sense of abandonment. We are not relieved of the immediacy of hardship. We really do still struggle with our beliefs and our actions. Christians really are a mixed bag of emotions and experiences. But the promise of Philippians is still a promise. There is peace: but where? With his words, the student reminded me (I tend to forget large swathes of truths at any given time) of the truths of Ephesians. It is Christ Himself who is the Peace of mankind. We need not procure something we do not already have; we need to remember our Reality. In Reality, we have all we need.
Paul tells us, “But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near,” (Eph. 2:13-17). A large chunk of Scripture like this is packed with information, but the truth remains: Christ is the Peace of His church made certain by the blood of His cross. He is the reconciliation of all broken relationships; He is the calm sea between husband and wife and the bright sky between God and His creation.
Immanuel, God with us, is a message of Peace, a Peace which is real and certain, though it is often not felt. The Father’s storm for the judgment of His people’s sin descended upon the Christ at Calvary and was endured for the sake of reconciliation. Christ does not, then, offer us an abstract feeling of peace and serenity; Christ offers us Himself. This is why Paul makes statements like that of Colossians 3:15: “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.” Christ offers us Himself, and in offering Himself, all relationships in Him, though still plagued with a measure of sin, are, in essence, untroubled and still. The message of the Christ-child of Bethlehem is a simple one, echoed again by the Apostle Paul: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Romans 5:1). We do not then, need to clutch relentlessly for feelings of certainty and stillness. Peace is ours, now. We can say with Job in the midst of our storms, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth,” (Job 19:25). We know that Christ is, and because Christ is, we are secure even while being tossed about between the waves of doubt, unbelief, and rebellion.
Certainly the Peace of Christmas is eschatological; it is concerned with the second coming of Christ. He will suddenly come again, and the present storms, the present sufferings and sins, will cease. The Peace of Christmas, though, is also a reality now. That’s why the angels can make such a statement to the shepherds. The Incarnate Christ, Immanuel, is a message declaring the glory of God and the Peace ensuing from it. Peace came to us suddenly one night in the village of Bethlehem, he grew up and died, and He rose again and lives today. He is with us even now, and He will come again. Christmas celebrates Immanuel, God with us: the Peace of yesterday, today, and forever.