Where’s the peace this Christmas?
How can we spread joy in a world filled with disasters and heartache?
Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men! (Luke 2:14)
At the start of December, I was in my usual Christmas Bubble - Cinnamon in the air, Carols up loud... wonder and whimsy all around...
Then a few things happened in my own country of Australia and around the world that woke me up... shook me out of my bubble of niceness and made me aware of the state of our world...
People are hurting each other everywhere I turn. Whether it’s a gunman in Sydney Australia holding 17 people hostage, or a school in Pakistan where innocent children are slaughtered, or the house down the street where a woman is beaten, or the silent crimes that we hear nothing about — people whose situations don’t make it to the news, they don’t get streamed on the internet, suffering alone and in silence.
I think about the family that just lost a loved one, or the child whose parents are cruel, or those who are financially crushed at Christmas... I don’t want to write fluffy words about peace while many are experiencing the opposite.
By the time Jesus was born, the Jewish people had been to hell and back several times over since the beginning. They knew what it was to be captive, oppressed... brutalised. They were waiting for a saviour who would bring peace... Isaiah prophesied “He will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace...” Can we blame them for seeking circumstantial peace? We do it all the time... “If only my circumstances changed... if my bank account was full, if I got the right job... if I hadn’t suffered this or that, than I would have...”
A good friend of mine, Katie Kobler says, “Peace is found in my soul, not by my eyes...” Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God...” Collosians 3:15 says, “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts...” Phillipians 4:7 says, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus...”
Peace doesn’t begin in the physical... it’s not based in the circumstantial. It’s transcendent... a stillness of heart, a knowing... A gift from God. It’s the fragrance of His presence, an awareness of His heart for humanity.
In the midst of turmoil, bad economies, illness, tragedy, heartache, the uncomfortable, the unfair, the downright evil that happens all around me, Jesus brings peace to my heart. When I still my raging mind and close my eyes, not to become unaware of the world, but to focus on Christ, he settles the churning within. I can open my eyes again and gaze upon the same world facing the same struggles with new hope...
So what do we do with this peace that we have within us? What good is it in the face of pain?
Rather than working to a place of peace, we work from a place of peace, injecting it under the skin of humanity and watching its subversive effect on the lives around us from the inside out... Collosians 3:13-14 says "Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you... clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” Peace allows us to live from a place of love...
It strengthens us to be people who help. Not just consumers or observers, but people who get down amongst the muck of the world and help pick up the pieces, shoulder each other's heartaches, bring wisdom and friendship, defy evilness and strengthen the vulnerable. Peace engages compassion and compassion calls for action.
Frederick Buechner writes, "Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else's skin. It’s the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too."
As we head into this season where the phrase “Peace on earth, goodwill towards men” gets passed around like Christmas candy, still yourself and allow Jesus to bring his transcendent peace to your life, permeating you with healing and wholeness... Look out into the world near and far, not with hopeless eyes or defeat, but with peace and compassion... and then get amongst it and spread that stuff around like snow flakes and confetti...
Be the peace.
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