Celebrating the Gift of “Promised Peace”…

Sue Reeve

     Hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, the prophet, Isaiah, penned these words about the promised Messiah:

     For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

     Many, many nights later a band of angels announced the birth of that Messiah—a baby named Jesus—to a group of shepherds, declaring:

     Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward all people. (Luke 2: 14)

     But, instead of the peace, 33 years later the Messiah, born as babe in a lowly manger, would die a violent death on a wooden cross.

     Shortly before his crucifixion, Jesus spoke with his disciples. For three years, Jesus had shared an exhilarating life with these dear friends, who, in the process, accepted his divinity and pledged their lives to him. They’d shared laughter and tears. They’d walked many miles and eaten many meals together. They’d listened to Jesus’s radical teaching and marveled at the miracles he performed. Scripture records that some of his last words to his beloved disciples warned that in the days to come, they were going to suffer horribly—to the point of martyrdom— because of their alignment with him. And, then, he said…

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)

     In 1863, civil war raged in our fractured nation. Brother fought against brother, father against son. The Civil War created countless tragic tales. I’d like to focus on one—the story of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. His son had been slain in a fierce battle. The brutal grief he experienced as a result of his son’s death was complicated even further by the untimely death of his wife, whose life was lost in a house fire. During this time of anguish, Mr. Longfellow wrote the words to what has become one of my favorite Christmas carols.

Christmas Bells

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said:
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

     It’s been more than 1000 years since the angels sang their song, more than 100 since Longfellow wrote Christmas Bells. We still ponder peace. Evening news reports scream violence. Christians—my brothers and sisters in the faith—are being beheaded in faraway lands. Innocent young people, out enjoying life, were murdered in Paris. Co-workers in California, celebrating workplace accomplishments, were massacred during a holiday staff meeting. Children are being sold as sex slaves in horrifying numbers. A young mother, just this past week, wept angrily as she described to me the injustice of dealing with an abusive husband while caring for a severely disabled child, agonizing about how to purchase Christmas gifts for her kiddos.

     Some of my young blogger friends often begin a post saying, “Just being real here…” So, I’m going to mimic their verbiage and say, “I’m just being real here! There’s a part of me tempted to ask, ’Okay, where is this Prince of Peace?’”

     Then, I remember the words Jesus spoke to his disciples about the kind of peace he promised to bring—peace “not as the world giveth.” Here’s another one of those spiritual paradoxes with which I often grapple.

     This Christmas Eve day, it’s true. The peace the world “giveth” seems pretty hopeless. Indeed “hate is strong” and “mocks the song” angels sang to that group of lowly shepherds one night so long ago.

     This special day, I want to declare, in faith, to you, my reader friends:

“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth…!”

Dear God, today I pray for good-will to men who are hurting, to women being abused, to children being misused, to the terrified and broken hearted, to the old and feeble, to the dejected and sick. May each of us catch a glimpse of peace, and may our hearts be encouraged this Christmas with promised peace given by the Prince of Peace.

Peace to you and yours!

Sue

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Residents of Coeur d’Alene are given the gift of over a million twinkling lights each Christmas season. Here’s one amazing scene.

 

 

 

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