Christmas is the season of peace. It overtakes us every year like some kind of unexplainable euphoria just about the time the Thanksgiving leftovers have run out. The weather turns colder, we decorate our homes, pumpkin is (finally) replaced with peppermint and Nat King Cole sings our favorite Christmas carols once again. Christmastime swallows us up in acts of giving, extensions of kindness and singing songs of joy, hope and peace.
And it really doesn’t make any sense.
Have we forgotten how November began? Twenty-six people were gunned down in a small church in Sutherland Springs. A month before that, another lone gunman opened fire on a concert of over 20,000 people in Las Vegas killing 58 and wounding over 500. And just over a month before that, hurricanes devastated the Gulf Coast and the Caribbean.
What kind of Christmas will those families have this year?
How can we sing carols of peace when there seems to be so much chaos?
Because Christmas is peace.
In the Old Testament, one of the hallmarks of the coming of the Messiah is peace (Hebrew: shalom). Shalom communicates the idea of wholeness, completeness, and, thus, prosperity. It is the opposite of chaos where everything is in disorder. Rather than simply being the absence of conflict, shalom is more about the presence of wholeness – it’s life the way that God designed it to be.
That should inform the way we understand Isaiah’s prophecy about the coming of the Messiah:
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)
God strongly desires for humanity to know and enjoy his shalom. But humanity is broken and disordered; it is in chaos. This is not the way God designed life to be. This kind of chaos cannot be remedied simply by taking away our guns or signing a peace treaty. If there is going to be a kingdom of shalom built in the mist of the chaos of this world, then it has to begin by rebuilding the brokenness of humanity.
So, in His zealous desire for us to experience His shalom, God has sent us His Son, Jesus, to be born into our world so that, as Oswald Chambers has said, “our lives might become a Bethlehem for the Son of God.” God means to rebuild our broken hearts from the inside out. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection not only bring wholeness to our relationship with God (Romans 5:1-2), but also to our relationships with each other (Romans 14:19).
Shalom is not the absence of conflict, danger, pain or sorrow … at least not yet (Rev. 21:4). For now, shalom is the presence of hearts made whole by Jesus who live in circumstances of conflict, danger, pain and sorrow and sing songs of joy, hope and peace into them. We can sing out our songs at Christmastime because without the birth of Jesus, peace would be nothing more than a myth.
Author’s Note: This post was originally published in and for Christ Chapel’s 2017 Advent series here.