Sunday, December 6, 2015

Peace: He Came to Show Us the Way

The great thing about Advent is that the four themes of the season don’t just end as each new week begins, but the story builds upon itself, adding narrative and characters to the contextual foundation of the Old Testament prophecies and basic introductions we learned about during the first week of Advent (Hope).

Today, we light the second candle of the Advent wreath, symbolizing PEACE. This seems like a daunting time in world history to write about peace. Yet every generation since the beginning of creation has been filled with the things we read in the headlines every day: jealousy, revenge, fear, hate, anger, sorrow. These calamities are not new, and they are not news to God. In fact, God set a plan in motion, which we read about in Isaiah 9:6:

“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Arriving and acting counter to the hoped-for messiah, Jesus did not look like one who would bring peace, but He was indeed the Prince of Peace – the true son of the only real Peace-giver. Two passages in the Gospel of John record Jesus’ own words:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

This last one gets me every time, conjuring up images in my mind of C.S. Lewis’ allegorical Christ figure, Aslan the lion. Yet unlike the majestic picture Lewis paints, Jesus did not appear on Earth as a roaring lion or warrior king. He joined the multitude of humankind, arriving as a newborn child. But like the character of Aslan, He brought about peace through an act of true sacrifice.

When the Angels in Luke 2 proclaim, Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests!” (Luke 2:14) they are speaking about a Big Picture peace which no shepherd could have comprehended.  Matthew Henry wrote about this verse in his commentary on Luke 2, saying Peace is here put for all that good which flows to us from Christ's taking our nature upon himself.” If we know the narrative of the Gospels (and our own Christian lives), peace is not always the theme. There will be sin, and error, and many headline-bound hardships. But having Jesus as our Prince of Peace means that He has overcome all of this, and bestowed the gift of Peace to those who put their faith in Him. 

Mary and Joseph, the Shepherds, the Wisemen—and  all the other characters in the story—most likely did not understand how this tiny baby in a barn could lead to God’s peace. They had a different narrative in mind. But Jesus came just for this: to show us the way. 

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