As we wade through the aftermath of, perhaps, the most contentious election that I have known in my lifetime, my heart is craving peace. Yet, it seems that peace on earth is more illusive than ever. In our preparations to celebrate Christmas, it might be helpful to remind ourselves that the first advent of the Prince of Peace did not result in political peace. In fact, that was not even the purpose of Christ’s birth. He was born that His kingdom might first be established in the hearts of men and women. He came to bring peace within. While there will come a day when the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ, we are all living in the messy realm of “not yet”.
In the “not yet” realm of unrealized peace on earth, election time isn’t the only season that can be difficult to navigate peaceably. Holidays can, unfortunately, be another time when peace feels illusive. Schedules are fuller, budgets are tighter, relationships may be strained by unrealistic expectations and unreasonable demands. What can we do, in practical ways, to bring peace on earth into our everyday life?
“Let’s begin at the very beginning” as Julie Andrews used to sing. Peace with God is the place to start. Have you ever strained against God’s rulership in your life? I know I have! I have been like a willful two year old straining to get away from the reach of my Father, all the while screaming, “I’ll do it myself!” Maybe I can save you some pain by telling you that that has never worked out well in my life. In fact, peace only rules within me when I let the Creator of the Universe be the boss of my life. That’s what the word “Lord” in essence means. So, when we are craving peace this holiday season, that’s a good place to begin. Carve out some quiet time with God and ask for His help in searching out the areas of your life where you’ve been afraid to trust His Lordship, where you’ve been afraid to relinquish control. Peace reigns in us when we quite playing tug of war with the reins of our life and come to a place of relinquishment and surrender to the One Who loves us more than life itself.
Peace within our own heart is the next place to focus. I find it interesting that the Bible says that we are to let the peace of God rule in our heart and mind. Let is a a word of permission, a word of choice. I can either let fear and anxiety and worry and stress rule my mind and heart, or I can give them an eviction notice and invite God’s peace to move in instead. Like a persistent squatter, those negative emotions will constantly try to move back in. With the help of God’s Word and God’s Spirit, we have the power to stand guard against letting our negative emotions do that.
To have peace on earth be our reality during this holiday season we also need to pursue peace with others. I love that God was gracious enough to include these words, “as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone”. We all know someone who it is impossible to live at peace with, and no effort on our part will change that. The only thing that we can do is to keep our own heart clean from unforgiveness and bitterness and leave them in God’s hands. But, we also know plenty of others, usually those living under our own roof or visiting for the holidays, that we can lose our peace with during the busy holiday chaos. It’s then that it becomes helpful to for us to remember to be generous with gracious apologies and quick to let go of any offense.
Peace and quiet may not be a physical possibility as our homes and holidays fill up with activity and people, but the peace of God within is readily available and accessible even in the middle of all of the holiday hullabaloo. Jesus Christ came so that we might have His peace within. Glory to God!