Recently I visited a church in San Francisco and halfway through the worship service we were instructed to ‘pass the peace’ while the music played. In the past, I have participated in services with elements of ‘passing the peace’ but I’d never seen anything like this. Everyone–all 300 people–got up, filled the aisles, and spent at least 15 minutes greeting one another with ‘the peace of Christ be with you’ and replying ‘and also with you.’ Really, everyone participated–young and old, visitors and pastors, the energetic and those with canes. This was very cool!
Several Bible passages give us this example of speaking peace to each other. After his resurrection, Jesus spoke of peace in his greeting to his followers, Peace be with you. And most of the letters in the New Testament open with the greeting “peace to you.”
At this time of year, especially, peace is a common message. Many Christmas cards proclaim:
“Peace on earth!”
“May Peace be your Gift at Christmas”
“May the Peace of Christ be yours this Christmas Season”
and sometimes simply: “Peace.”
What is peace? Do we automatically have it at Christmastime because we receive these greetings? Of course not. Christmastime often brings stress instead of peace. I am reminded of a quote I recently heard: “If we could only have Christmas all year long . . . then we would all be totally stressed out!”
What is peace? Quietness can sometimes be mistaken for peace. However, we don’t always have a quiet home–especially if we have young children on Christmas morning! Others of us can actually experience a quiet Christmas morning if we want. My four kids are grown and three live on their own now. This Christmas my family will be celebrating together but I’m sure that everyone will want to sleep in at least till the late hour of 9:00 a.m. 🙂 Until I have grandchildren (no announcements yet!), it looks like our Christmas mornings will be spent quietly sipping coffee while we decorously open our gifts.
But this isn’t the kind of peace we’re talking about at Christmastime. In Isaiah 9:6, the messianic prophecy includes the titles: Wonderful Advisor and Mighty God, Eternal Father and Prince of Peace. Jesus, our Prince of Peace, said to his followers before he was crucified in John 14:27 I give you peace, the kind of peace that only I can give. It isn’t like the peace that this world can give. So don’t be worried or afraid. This Prince of Peace was heralded by angels who declared in Luke 2:14, Praise God in heaven! Peace on earth to everyone who pleases God.
Peace comes to men and women who please God. How do we please God? We know that pleasing God is not based on how beautiful our home is decorated at Christmastime, or how tasty our baking is, or how busy we are preparing Christmas gifts for our loved ones. So, how do we please God? Hebrews 11:6 says, …without faith no one can please God. We must believe that God is real and that he rewards everyone who searches for him.
This Christmas season, let’s remind ourselves of the peace that comes from acknowledging the reality of God in our lives. God, our Creator and our Saviour, is also called Immanuel–“God with us.” In the coming weeks, as we celebrate, sing, shop and rub our sore feet . . . as we work, cook, host and help others . . . let’s consciously receive the peace that Jesus offers. One way to intentionally receive this peace is to pray, be thankful, and mediate. Read this advice, accompanied by a promise of peace, found in Philippians 4:4-9:
4Always be glad because of the Lord! I will say it again: Be glad. 5Always be gentle with others. The Lord will soon be here. 6Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. 7Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel. 8Finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper. Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise. 9You know the teachings I gave you, and you know what you heard me say and saw me do. So follow my example. And God, who gives peace, will be with you.
Prayer: God, our Prince of Peace, thank you for sending Jesus to become one of us. Thank you for peace that comes from you. This Christmas season, we want to intentionally meditate on what is true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper. Thank you for being with us through all our joys and sorrows. In the name of Christ, our Prince of Peace, Amen.
Contributed by Patricia Love