For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself.He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.
~Colossians 1:19-20 (NLT)
Peace on Earth. It’s a cliché saying that’s posted everywhere around Christmastime – greeting cards, floor mats, ornaments. If you want to sound sophisticated and grown up, scratch off everything else on your Christmas wish list and just ask for this. Peace on earth.
We’re in the second week of advent. The candle lit this week symbolizes peace. Peace. What an absurd thing it is to try to wrap everyone’s connotations and definitions of this idea into one word. Inner stillness. Outer quit. Ceased turmoil. Wars ended. Calm serenity. Rested hearts. The soft glow of the falling snow as the moon lights up the world on a dark night. Peace on earth. That’s what we want. As if we could have the remotest hope that it is possible when we can’t even offer an answer for what it means.
We plow ahead with our Christmas festivities. We try to light up the darkness filling the world with a strand of LED lights that create an unsatisfying blue glow as we let that wish list get shuffled under catalogues, bills, and to-do lists. There’s nothing we can do to bring real peace, nothing anyone can do. It won’t last. Just as soon as you feel calm and serene another gunshot will sound, another innocent life callously ended, another hole dug into the ever-increasing ache in the caverns of our hearts.
I’m in a Presbyterian church in our neighboring town for a choir concert listening to a set of Christmas pieces. “Please join us in singing our last song,” the director announces. I take the lyrics from the program, but I can’t sing them. Not with authenticity. Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me. I laugh a little at thought of this, a jaded, sarcastic laugh. If peace begins with me we’re left in a hopeless state on this broken and hurting planet. If peace begins with me than it will be lost today when I wake up stressed, crabby, and tired. If it begins with me it will be stomped out the second I lose my patience with the little ones, or snap at my husband. If it begins with me and my feeble attempts to extend goodwill to man we will never see peace.
The Hebrew word for peace is shalom. It refers to wholeness. Nothing missing, nothing broken.
If we think we are capable of bringing peace to this earth by our own works, we are living in deception. Because what frail, wounded, imperfect human could ever start a peace rally – expecting to make this a world where nothing is missing and nothing is broken? How could we possibly reach into the dark corridors of hearts and extend wholeness?
Christmas is about the coming of Christ – the Prince of Peace. It is about this Prince who, by His gruesome death, made it possibly for His subjects to actually experience complete peace. The second week of advent celebrates the advent of peace – the first time since Eve took a bite of the apple that we could ever hope to find true peace. It is about a God who sweeps His children away from their feeble peacemaking attempts and offers them a place where real peace is found, a place that they can be whole.
The phrase “peace on earth” used in this song mentioned earlier originated with the angels’ message in Luke 2. It was with the arrival of Jesus that they proclaimed peace on earth. Never before had this message been given, never again would it be given apart from Christ. Peace on earth is directly linked to the coming of Jesus. Without Christ it is a hollow saying that goes no further than the holiday knick knacks it is painted on. But with Christ it is life changing good news that was shouted across the sky by the shining angels. Peace on earth.