“Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled” — the line from a Christmas carol rings in the air this season.
Yet for many the carol’s words do not bring comfort. Peace is elusive, because a lot of hard things have happened this year. Many have experienced turmoil, sickness, hunger, business shutdowns, social-distancing apprehension, the loss of loved ones to an awful pandemic.
We hear the echoes of another Christmas carol — “’Tis the season to be jolly” — but this is not the reality for many. People are in pain. Some are in mourning. Many cannot celebrate family traditions with the ones they love due to COVID-19 restrictions.
These realities bring a nagging question: Where is peace on earth today? When can we see it? When can we begin to feel it?
The first-century Jews, living under Roman colonial occupation, suffered through a dark era. In a time defined by oppression, heavy taxation, death and brokenness, they longed for an age to come — an age of peace, love, joy, political independence and justice.
In their hope for redemption, they longed for a military Messiah whose victory would inaugurate a new age of peace (shalom).
We 21st-century believers have our own fears and uncertainties, but one thing we have in common with the first-century Jews is a hunger for peace on earth.
As we celebrate the Messiah’s birth, let us find peace in this: Peace is a person. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. A prophetic declaration before his birth introduces a few of his names: “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
A story of Jesus and his disciples illustrates the peace Jesus brings. When the disciples crossed a lake with Jesus, peace was not the absence of a storm. As the wind and waves rose while Jesus slept, the disciples woke him and said, “Teacher, do you not care that we are about to die?” Jesus rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” The wind died down, and there was a great calm, a perfect peacefulness. Jesus said, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith or confidence in me?”
You might be going through a significant loss and a painful season. You might feel like a storm is about to drown you. You might be alone and asking the same question as the disciples did: Jesus, where are you? Don’t you care?
Jesus was in the boat with them, just like he is in the boat with you now.
What have you lost? What are you battling with today? Is it a loved one, a job, business, a relationship, health, police brutality, racism, marginalization?
Are you afraid, like the disciples? You are not alone. We all feel helpless when a storm rises against us. But the one who is able to rebuke and calm the storm is alive and present with us, just as he was with the disciples in the boat.
Jesus said to them, “Why are you afraid?” (Mark 4:40). I believe this is the question we all have to answer truthfully today. Why am I afraid? Where is my trust? The answer will lead us to the comforting hands of peace.
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
I will leave you with this encouragement from Shalom Himself: “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33).
Let us determine to have a shift in our mind, despite the pain, this Christmas. Let us resolve to have a mindset that God is sovereign, knows all and can do all.
There is a saying that what Jesus cannot do for you does not exist. All he is looking for is our trust and faith in him.
Let faith arise as we praise the Prince of Peace this Christmas: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors (Luke 2:14).”