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.
Perhaps the word most often associated with Christmas is peace. The angels sang, “Peace on earth good will to men.” Our Christmas songs and cards are filled with messages of peace. One of the greatest desires of the heart regardless of one’s background, nationality or ethnicity is to live in peace.
World at War with Peace
Yet the world is filled with disorder, dissension, and chaos. Even nature itself is in turmoil with hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, devastating fires and earthquakes globally.
In our own country, we face extreme political division with a constant media and partisan dialog of negativity, distortions, deceptions, and personal attacks. Our government and politicians seek political power above the people’s goodwill. Terrorists and hate-filled ideologues attack the innocent even in our churches, schools, and synagogues, the places we most expect peace.
How can we find peace in a world torn by war and rumors of war? Where is good will when nations are divided with seemingly incompatible ethnic and political factions? How can we live in peace when the world seems literally at war with peace?
Only by adopting the message and meaning of Christmas can we achieve true peace – in Hebrew shalom. The ancient Hebrew priestly prayer was given by God the Father to Moses in the wilderness after the Hebrew people were released from Egyptian bondage. It declared shalom on the Israelites throughout their desert journey to the Promised Land:
The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you and
give you shalom. Numbers 6:24-26
Meaning far more than the English word for peace, shalom is the absence of all things negative and the presence of all God’s blessings – tranquility, justice, sufficient provision, health. Shalom is heavenly completeness. This divine prayer is an impartation of supernatural blessings from the Father Himself and, as of old, is meant for us today.
Prince of Shalom
Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah, Jesus, would be born the Prince of Peace, of shalom. Only He can bring peace to our hearts, our homes, our nation, and the world. Jesus proclaimed to the disciples after He was resurrected and before ascending to the Father,
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives…”
The world’s peace is a false peace, an imposed peace, always a temporary peace. But the complete peace of God is achieved through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is gained first by following Him in obedience. Jesus said,
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.”
Just as Jesus gave Himself for our salvation, living in peace means dying to self and giving of ourselves to others.
Modern Model of Love
This year a famous couple passed on to their heavenly reward – Barbara and George H. W. Bush. Their lives were a wonderful testimony to the nation and the world of how to love one another — one’s family, friends, and neighbors. Their funerals were celebrations of their lives with many sharing poignantly of how Barbara and George served well, truly giving of themselves and transforming the lives of others.
As George’s family and close friends crossed the garden bridge in College Station to lay him to rest beside Barbara, I was on a treadmill watching the televised procession on a club screen and listening to a favorite praise and worship music app on my iPhone. Greatly moved by the somber scene, at that very moment as if ordained in perfect timing, one of my favorite hymns was sung, The Love of God:
George and Barbara Bush
The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell
It goes beyond the highest star
And reaches to the lowest hell
The guilty pair bowed down with care
God gave His Son to win
His erring child He reconciled
And pardoned from his sin
Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky
Indeed, George and Barbara lived what it means to be at peace with oneself and those around you. Barbara in her faux pearls and George in his fun socks, from head to toe they embodied authentic grace and humility. Surely, they demonstrated daily the fruit of the Spirit… “…love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23
Path to Peace
It is not material gifts that bring peace. They bring pleasure, joy, and satisfaction but only for a brief time. In the long term, it is inner peace that we most desire: peace with our families, our neighbors, our communities; peace in our hearts despite the world’s chaos; peace in our souls for strength to endure things we cannot control — hardships, misfortunes, health challenges, and natural disasters. “Jesus said it is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35
Why? In giving we receive much more abundantly than we could ever ask or dream! (Luke 6:38) What a paradox! Jesus Himself came to the world in a manger to die on a cross that we may have a path to overcome strife, chaos, and disorder and be reconciled to God. He is indeed the path to peace. Follow it and receive peace this Christmas. Accept His gift of grace that you may give grace to others.
Jesus said to build up your treasure in heaven that you may have peace now and in eternity. (Matthew 6:19 – 20) Set aside the temporary and illusory peace of this world.
“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33
Peace comes with the realization that this life is but a breath, while eternity is infinite. Where is your treasure?
Be at peace when others are in discord and you will be the calm in the storm, just as Jesus calmed the waves on the Sea of Galilee. Peace comes from the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit. Be at peace by the power of the Holy Spirit within you. This Christmas, give the gift of peace through love that others may know the Prince of Peace, the Prince of Shalom.