As the holidays approach I listen to many families who are adjusting or even canceling holiday plans and to news reports of political upheaval, riots and violence. The lack of godly leadership and chaos often leaves us with no sense of peace or hope.
But as I ponder these things, my mind races back to the circumstances surrounding the time of Jesus’ birth.
A casual description of that year doesn’t really sound much different from the circumstances of 2020: Political upheaval, corrupt leadership, violence, wars and religious unrest are all descriptions of the year in which Christ was born. Amid all of this chaos, God’s son, Jesus, entered the world as a baby born into a humble carpenter’s family.
In Luke 2:14 Jesus’ birth is announced to humble shepherds by a host of angels whose declaration is this: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace toward men of good will.” This declaration was a message of hope and peace to all of us, and yet we look around and wonder, “Where is this peace and where do we find hope right now?”
I believe our questions are answered by Jesus later in Luke 12. Jesus is telling several parables that are about enduring while we wait for his return and describing what we should be doing while we wait. In response to one of his disciples’ questions Jesus tells them that if they think he came to bring peace on earth, they are wrong.
I know this seems like a harsh truth and contradictory to the declaration of the angels at Jesus’ birth, but when we consider the context of Luke 12, we get a better sense that what Jesus is saying: As the “Prince of Peace”, Jesus brought peace between us and God but not necessarily peace with mankind.
In fact, because of the sinful nature of mankind, when we are following God and proclaiming his message, it often puts us at odds with others.
In our sin, without Jesus’ sacrifice we are God’s enemy and the chaos and hate and suffering we experience in a sin-cursed world will continue for eternity. But because Jesus came to earth as a baby and paid the penalty for our sin, we have hope.
One thing I know about human behavior is that when we feel there is no hope or no end to suffering, we are not as resilient. As people, we need hope to endure the troubles of this world until the Prince of Peace takes the throne as the King of Kings for all eternity. Anyone who tells you all of your problems will go away because you put your faith in Christ is making empty promises.
But the promise of peace is not empty. Through Jesus, we can be at peace with God, and through the Holy Spirit’s presence we can have peace in our hearts and minds even when our circumstances are not what we would like them to be.
So in this time of turmoil and anxiety, I urge you to consider two things:
First, consider your standing with God. If you are still an enemy of God because you haven’t put your trust in him and accepted his payment for the penalty of your sin, you do not have hope that suffering will end, and therefore you cannot be at peace. I encourage you to accept this free gift that God offers to you.
Second, consider the message of Philippians 4:6-7: “Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds”.
When we are at peace with God, we are united with and partnered with the God who has ultimate power over our hearts, our minds, and all of His creation.
It is my hope that as you celebrate the holidays in whatever way you are able this year, that you enjoy the peace OF God in your hearts and minds, because of the peace WITH God provided by the birth of his Son Jesus.