“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” – Matthew 2:18.
This past Sunday, I preached on how Jesus is our Peace, how He is the Prince of Peace, and how He came to bring peace to the world. The biblical idea of “peace” is “shalom,” which means a sense of wholeness, completeness, prosperity, and healing. Jesus makes things right.
There are 5 main ways that Jesus brings us peace.
1. He brings peace with God. We are at enmity with God because of our sin, but Jesus makes us right with God through His forgiveness and sacrifice.
2. He causes us to be at peace with ourselves – we are forgiven and loved by God. The turmoil that we experience inside of ourselves because of sin is done away. We are healed. The storms are stilled. Jesus brings us peace within.
3. He brings peace between people who were at odds with each other. Ephesians 2:11-22 says that Christ himself is our peace. He tears down the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile, and ultimately between all of us, and causes us to be one in Him. “Surely he taught us to love one another . . .”
4. He brings peace to the world. When people live in relationship with Jesus and in relationship with each other, conflict and strivings cease. When we live according to the law of love, we put aside our weapons and serve one another. This happens personally, but it can happen socially as well. It has happened many times.
5. Jesus says that we are blessed when we are “peacemakers” (Matt. 5:9). We will be called “sons of God.” When we go around making peace, or bringing “shalom” and making things right, we are living like God and we are blessed as a son of God. So, we could say that being a “peacemaker” is the mark of a Christian.
When we experience God’s peace through Christ and when we spread the peace of Christ around to others by stepping in to try and make things right, we are, in a sense, experiencing Christmas all year round.
But, Matthew 5:10-12 goes on to say that we are blessed when we are persecuted and insulted and reviled. Great is our reward in heaven. This follows being a “peacemaker” in the text, but I also think that it follows it in life. When I live according to the peace that Jesus gives instead of what the world offers, I will be at odds with the world and its system. When I step into brokenness and attempt to make things right, I will be persecuted and rejected just like Jesus was. But, there is blessing there.
The peace and joy and blessing of Christmas comes also comes with persecution and pain. It is accompanied by rejection. It is sometimes even accompanied by terror.
King Herod, upon hearing of the birth of Jesus, sought to kill him. He sent soldiers to Bethlehem to kill all of the boys aged two years and younger. Joseph, warned in a dream about what was to happen, took Mary and Jesus to Egypt to escape. The Slaughter of the Innocents ensued as an evil king engaged in acts of terror and brutality to stamp out any rival to his throne. That story is grisly and terrifying, but it reminds us how the world and Satan want to treat those who belong to Christ and who have received God’s peace and who seek to spread God’s peace.
Revelation 12 tells us, in metaphor, about this battle between Satan and God’s angels and God’s children. Satan is seeking to devour and make war against all those who belong to God. The woman bore a child and the Dragon sought to destroy them. Vs. 17: “Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.” This is what the Devil is doing today through every means necessary. The actions of Herod tell us how the world sees us – enraged, war is being made against the children of God.
Christmas is beautiful as it speaks to the Incarnation – the Word being made flesh and making its dwelling among us. But, we should not forget that there is a terror to Christmas. A war was started and it is still going on. As we celebrate the peace of Christ, let us not forget that when we seek to extend that peace to others, we are going to face conflict and opposition – and possibly even death. Things are not as they seem.