For many the holidays are a time of joy and merry-making with family and friends. We all have our own traditions. My family enjoys driving through our local park decked out in Christmas lights, visiting a local holiday fair, and taking a carriage ride in an adjacent community. I shouldn’t forget the food. We love some seriously good eats. And would it be Christmas without watching the classics? Elf. Miracle on 34th Street. It’s a Wonderful Life. Home Alone.
However, not everyone’s holiday memories are joyful and merry. Wendell Berry gets it right, “It is hard to have hope.” No other season of the year amplifies this difficulty like the holiday season. All of our misplaced hopes rise to the surface of our hearts and cause discontent and hopelessness. In part this be may due to the holiday façade. Commercials with happy families and friends gathered around the table and the Christmas tree. TV shows where “Christmas magic” makes everything better. Or the picture perfect homes in magazines.
What a juxtaposition. Hopefulness, joy, and merry making and hopelessness, conflict, and loneliness. So what if Christmas isn’t very merry? What if Advent doesn’t feel hopeful?
A PRINCE OF PEACE ARRIVES
For those who are dreading the holidays because of fear, hopelessness, conflict, and loneliness, hear the word of the Lord in Isaiah 9:6-7,
6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
A child was born who brings peace. God offers terms of peace that He meets in the arrival of His Son. Isaiah, as we read, calls Jesus the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Hear what the angels say when they announce the arrival of Jesus in Luke 2:8-14:
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
ON EARTH PEACE
I love how the KJV renders this announcement: “[O]n earth peace, good will toward men.” There’s an expectancy only fulfilled in the gospel. We know the peace is delivered through Jesus Christ, but how? This advent proclamation of peace is the foundation for Paul’s theology of justification. Without this proclamation there’s no justification! So let’s read what Paul writes about peace in Ephesians 2:13-16:
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”
Col. 1:19-20, “19 For in him [Jesus] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”
Romans 5:1-2, “1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
It’s in Paul’s magnum opus, the letter to the Romans, that he makes the connection undeniable between peace and justification.
So when someone asks Paul “How can a righteous God make peace with man through Jesus?” Paul would say, in shorthand, justification. Study the ministry of Jesus—it’s centered on bringing peace to those who are sinners, sick, scandalized, and the poor in spirit. Jesus embodies and acts out the divine peace through justification by faith in the Gospels, whereas Paul explores and mines these truths systematically in his letters. Latter in the prophecy of Isaiah, the prophet writes,
Isaiah 53:5, “5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”
Jesus was crushed for our transgressions which brought us peace. Notice that stark juxtaposition—crushed and peace. Words that are not normal bedfellows.
PEACE FOR FAMILIES
Jesus’s arrival marks the proclamation of good tidings for everyone whom God is pleased with by offering peace with God by Jesus’ blood! And isn’t that good news for families who are hurting this holiday season? The beauty of God’s peace is that it’s not just an individual thing. This peace is covenantal and forms a community of people who have received peace and who can share that peace with others. For the family in conflict there can be peace. For the family ruptured by divorce there can be peace. For the family separated by death there can be peace. For those who feel the weight of loneliness there can be peace. For the husband and wife mourning childlessness there can be peace. Remember Isaiah 53:5? God crushed Jesus to bring us peace and healing. Paul echoes this same sentiment with a twist: “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”
Those same odd bedfellows (“peace” and “crush”). Satan who is the father of lies and conflict and the dark prince of this fallen world will be crushed under our feet. The authority that Jesus wielded is passed on to us. With His presence (Matt. 28:19-20) and Spirit (Acts 1-2), we are ambassadors of peace in this fallen world and Satan will be ultimately crushed by the authority of the God of peace and His Church.
Dispense peace this week. Plead and pray and trust that the peace of Jesus will be with you and that others might see and receive this blood-bought peace this Advent season. Come alongside those who are hurting. And if there’s conflict in your family, lead with peace and grace and mercy.
Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace,
Hail, the Sun of Righteousness
Light and life to all He brings,
Risen with healing in His Wings.
Now He lays His Glory by,7
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the New-born king!”