In this season of waiting, what are you waiting for? Many anticipate the excitement of Christmas Day, gifts, goodies and family. Some eagerly look forward to a new year, hoping 2021 brings a brighter view to our world. As I journey through Advent, I contemplate the theme of each candle as a gift to receive. Many Advent devotionals point to week two as the week of lighting the “peace” candle. I linger in week two, receiving the gift of “Peace”, perhaps the Lord knows my longing for peace just now.
Though I moved into week three, lighting the candle for “joy”, my mind still stayed focused on peace. Each year as I move through Advent and contemplate the theme each week, one particular theme stays with me throughout. Last year I sat with “hope”, this year I find my companion in Peace. Perhaps nearing the end of this chaotic and unprecedented year of 2020 increases my longing for peace. From a personal viewpoint, 2020 likewise presented many challenges, sorrows and disappointments. All good reasons for my eagerness in receiving the gift of Peace.
there is no peace on earth
Quiet, stillness, tranquility, is the definition of “peace” in the Merriam-Webster’s 1828 dictionary. If, on December 31st each year we rated the current year, according to the quantity of “peace” it offered, 2020 would most likely receive the worst rating of any year. While individually we may rate other years poorly based on personal experiences, 2020 impacted the global population negatively. Certainly, there is no peace on earth if 2020 provides any indication.
Based solely on circumstances, the ratings merely provide commentary that the qualities of peace seem largely missing or “stolen” from 2020. But what if circumstances that appear to steal our peace, instead reveal the absence of peace already there? As the year draws to an end, we wax nostalgic, idealizing the past, falsely comforting ourselves with “the good old days”. Concluding if circumstances were different, then we could finally attain the ever elusive “peace” and happiness. Sadly, placing our hope for peace in circumstances, finds us longing for peace at the end of every year.
Mocking the Song of Peace
A favorite Christmas Carol of mine, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”, originated as a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on Christmas Day, 1864. Later set to music, the poem sprang from great tragedy, depression and loneliness. Yet it stands as a song of great hope, faith and trust.
In July, 1861, both Wadsworth and his beloved wife sustained significant burns in a fire at their home. The love of his life, Fanny, died the next day. Wadsworth’s burns resulted from his gallant attempt to rescue his wife from the flames. A widower left raising five children, often drove him into despair. In addition, his sensitive heart broke enduring the horrors of the American Civil War. The hatred prevalent in his own countrymen haunted him. Facing the voluntary enlistment and subsequent wounding of his only living son pushed him to his limits of his faith. In the backdrop of personal tragedy and the horrors of the American Civil War, Wadsworth penned these words:
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.
I 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.
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.”
peace in the waiting
What if I told you, receiving the gift of peace requires no waiting? Something we all have in common, seasons of waiting touch everyone. The year 2020 seems characterized by waiting, waiting for things to return to “normal”, waiting for the lifting of restrictions, waiting for the end of a pandemic. And many wait for the time when they will once again freely embrace loved ones. At times, in seasons of waiting we feel God has forgotten us. Certainly Israel understood waiting for peace! Nearly 750 years passed from the prophecy given Isaiah 9:6, and the birth of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
Though living in a broken world, we no longer wait for the fulfillment of our peace. Yes, during Advent we practice waiting for the entrance of the Prince of Peace, reminding ourselves of hope, faith and trust in the One who promised. While at the same time we acknowledge we wait still, for the Second Coming of Jesus, when all brokenness and injustice will forever be made right. But in this waiting, we find peace; by releasing our desire for the things we hope for. Instead placing our focus and hope in God through worship.
The Manifold Gift of Peace
Essentially, reframing our season of waiting allows us opportunity for learning the lessons God has for us, building more intimacy with Him, and redeeming the time for the glory of God and benefit of others. In so doing, we find peace in the knowledge that God directs our story and every detail rests in His loving hands. Regardless of circumstances, surroundings, relationships or world events, the peace of God is available right here, right now.
As you consider receiving the gift of peace, behold the manifold goodness of His unspeakable gift. God’s gift of peace transcends circumstances and fills every area of our lives.
Peace with God
By far the greatest aspect of God’s gift of peace rests in Jesus reconciling our relationship with God the Father. This is the gift that keeps on giving; not only did Jesus provide access for us to the Father, but He ever lives to make intercession for us. (Hebrews 7:25) Perhaps today, you feel distant from God, wonder why He hasn’t resolved your pain or sit in disillusionment over the current world conditions. If you have no peace with God today, remember Jesus made it possible for you to receive that peace.
Peace with Others
Jesus also came offering the gift of peace in relationships. We see broken relationships all around us, and many of us sit with broken relationships within our families. But Jesus came to bring healing and peace to even the most difficult of broken relationships. This Christmas bring those relationships to Christ. Pause, think the best of the other person, rather than focusing on their faults and blaming. Be humble, show empathy, and watch God work in you, through you and in the relationship, blessing you with the gift of relational peace.
Peace of Mind
In difficult circumstances where peace of mind eludes us, we can focus on the truth of God’s presence. Jesus came to bring the gift of peace of mind as “Emmanuel”. When anxiety and sorrow fill our minds and crowd out peace, we can remember God will never leave nor forsake us. Surrendering anxiety causing thoughts, resentful thoughts and hopeless thoughts, creates space for the gift of peace of mind.
Peace in Chaos
We all want purpose and peace without pain. We think if something doesn’t go the way we think it should, it has no value for us. But Jesus reminds us that we will have trouble, conflict and sorrow in this world. Everything will not make sense, but He came to give us peace, not as the world gives, (John 14:27) but a transcendent peace in the chaos.
Peace in the Future
We often feel peace missing from our lives when we don’t have all the pieces we want for our life’s plan. We want the answers for unanswered dilemmas, we want security that everything will turn out the way we want in the end. Even though we know that is not possible. But Jesus came offering the gift of peace in the future through faith in Him. He holds the future, so we can rest that everything will turn out well in the end, because God redeems everything for our good and His glory.
receiving the gift of peace
Perhaps you feel much like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow when he penned “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”. Despair may linger in the background of your festivities, whispering doubt in the proclamation of the Angel that first Christmas. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14) seems the furthest thing possible right now. But God brings beauty from brokenness, and the greatest good from the deepest pain. Receiving the gift of peace, Wadsworth penned the final two stanzas of his poem:
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.”
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!
The Prince of Prince came when God determined He would send Him, He will yet come again at a time appointed by the Father. In the meantime, we have the gift of peace, because the peace we have does not rest in circumstances, it rests in the person of Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever.
“For Christ is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility”
Whether or not you have a specific Advent tradition, my new resource, “Welcoming Emmanuel” Bible Verse Reflections to Prepare Your Heart For Christmas”, is a wonderful addition or stand alone resource designed to enrich your daily quiet times. The best part? It’s FREE! Sign up below and grab your copy today!