Peace the world cannot give
December 6 2015 ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.’ John 14:27.
Jesus’ words to his disciples have a very measured tone to them, inviting the disciples to weigh seriously what a gift and legacy of peace Jesus had given to them. He wanted his words to have a lasting effect on them – ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled.’ I hope that you know this deep peace of our Lord with you at Christmas.
People readily use language about peace and joy in their cards and greetings but often use these words without expecting them to have any force. Jesus used them with a very clear expectation that his words were forceful and effected the promise he spoke. ‘Don’t let your hearts be troubled, don’t let them be afraid’ is his continued promise to us just as when first given to the disciples.
Jesus knew about a world without peace, he wasn’t merely speaking from a position of ease. The holy family’s escape to Egypt would undoubtedly have framed the retelling of the stories of his birth that he learned in that family home. He grew up in a world where violence and the public display of brutality was a measured instrument of the Roman authorities to subdue the colonised peoples of the Empire. Undoubtedly he would have witnessed crucifixions of the kind that claimed his own life. Jesus was born into and lived in a world of turmoil. He knew the longing of the human heart for peace and what a transitory promise the Pax Romana or other worldly constructions of peace really were. As the Christmas hymn, It came upon a midnight clear goes, Yet with the woes of sin and strife the world has suffered long.
I won’t catalogue the atrocities of our present era, they are abundantly clear for all of us to see. No wonder the longing for peace burns within the human heart. No wonder too that the world’s constructions of peace seem as fragile as they ever have. I am sure that our contemporary world is in as great a need of a saviour, a prince of peace as at any time past. The good news is of course that Jesus is present with us today and his promise of peace is effective for us.
Please reflect deeply on Jesus’ promise of peace when you receive and give greetings of peace this Christmas. Remind yourself in the times when the distress of the world seems heavy on your heart of his admonition to reject fear. ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled’ remains a profound challenge to us but it is a necessary challenge as we respond to Jesus gift and command so that we might in our turn be peacemakers in a broken world.
May you have a blessed, joyous and peace-filled Christmas.