Advent Series -PEACE
"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
The streets are empty. Some Christmas lights are off now. Others still glow in the darkness, an extension of the stars frozen in the night sky. For some, Christmas is now over, even though the holiday is barely an hour old. I am spent, but a good spent. The 11 pm Christmas Eve service just finished not long ago. The string quartet’s instruments are packed in their fur-lined cases and on their way home. The smell of candlewax and smoke lingers. The refrain of “Silent night, Holy night” still hangs somewhere in space. All is calm. All is bright. It is my favorite moment of every Christmas. A moment to savor.
It is peace.
For some, peace is the cessation of conflict. It is a power outage shutting off the hate speech scrolling on the cable news monitors at the airport. It is silencing words spoken before the slamming of a door. It is concrete trenches filled with curious tourists instead of soldiers.
But such peace never lasts. The power is restored. The door slams. The trenches are filled with uniforms and guns. Peace is elusive. Longed for, but elusive. Just when you think you have it, it slips through your fingers and things are as they were, worse even than they were. Shutting off the news only helps for the moment. It follows you and hunts you down.
So, where is the peace promised by the angels? Is there no one on whom God’s favor rests?
Even if all were calm on the outside, the waters still beat the shores within. Thoughts which judge your neighbor. Gossip that finds its way to your lips before you are even aware that it is gossip. Criticism that is played like a sport. Demands of entitlement. Hurt which comes easy. Forgiveness that comes hard. Wounds which never heal.
Where is peace?
Paul once said, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:18-20, 24,25).
Peace is found in him.
Peace is found in him because he is the great healer. He heals the anger within. He silences the accuser. Peace begins with peace with the One who made you. If he can forgive you, then you might just be able to forgive yourself. You might just learn a different way to view the world. But how? How can this happen? Even in Israel the common people could not come close to the place where God was said to dwell, in the Holy of Holies. The sacrifices on the temple altar were never enough. They must be done again and again and again. There must be another way. There must be a way to peace.
Then, the star appears. The child is born. The angels sing. The shepherds come. Peace. God has found a way. That way is in His Son, Jesus. A baby born in a manger in a stable. Who would have guessed? The prophets, for one. This was God’s plan for you all along. His plan for you to read this today. His plan for you to, at long last, have peace when you put down your fists and open your hands and your heart to Him.
Peace. It is God’s gift for you this Christmas. It is found when you open your life to Him. God’s favor rests on you.
1. Did you know studies have shown that, for most of us, reading alone isn't enough to really learn something? One way to increase the effectiveness of learning and remembering is to write it out. Below is a 31 day guide for taking 10 minutes out of our your day to write out scriptures which talk about God's peace.
2. Often times it can be hard to find peace within if we are holding onto anger, resentment, or other negative feelings. Search your heart and ask God to help you forgive and let go.
3. What images come to mind when you think about peace? What moments in time or experiences have you felt true peace? What verses come to mind to remind you of true peace? Put reminders of these things where you will see them when life inevitably gets a bit crazy and stressful as a reminder that peace is possible regardless of life's circumstances.