'Tis the season for "peace on earth, goodwill toward men." A green wreath graces my front door, and the sweet smell of cookies fills my home, even this early in December. My kids have located the station that plays continuous Christmas music, so there are carols streaming from our radio in the background. I love the warmth and joy the holiday season brings. It feels peaceful and comforting, like a favorite blanket.
One sunny day last week, I stepped out of my cheery home to go pick up my kids at school. Almost instantly, the illusion of peace crumbled before my eyes. My neighbor was in the driveway, distraught. Two of our neighbors were sick, she said, one with cancer. Another young mother had just kicked her drunken husband out of the house the night before. And a third set of neighbors (I am not making this up) split and were moving out within days.
Stunned, I drove to school to get my children. As I pulled in, I noticed the school flag flying at half staff - again. I quickly checked the news on my phone. Fourteen people had been killed in San Bernardino, with 17 more injured, in a terrorist attack.
It's hard to stay in the Spirit when people close to you are so dispirited. It's hard to maintain peace when the world around you is coming to a slow boil.
I felt the Lord nudge me to dig a little deeper into His perspective on peace, as found in the Bible. While it didn't seem like the traditional "advent devotional," it certainly seemed relevant in the midst of all that was happening. Here's what He showed me.
Jesus is Our Peace
The very idea of peace points directly to Jesus, whose title even before birth was "Prince of Peace." Numerous scriptures refer to Jesus as the One who IS our peace. He is the peace that has "broken down every wall" between divided people. (Ephesians 2:14). He is the One who encourages us to live at peace with each other because He has made peace for us with God. He is the restorer of peace between Jew and Gentile. In short, there is no peace apart from a life lived with Him.
Peace is a Gift
One of the "Christmas gifts" God gives us is the gift of peace. And peace is a gift that keeps on giving. In fact, as far as gifts go, peace is a popular one, both to give and receive. In the Bible, every single member of the Trinity chooses peace as one of their gifts to mankind.
With great celebration in the heavens, God the Father announces through angelic hosts that He is sending peace to man in the form of the baby Jesus. (Luke 2:8-20).
Later, Jesus leaves a parting gift with the disciples: the gift of His peace. (John 14:27).
And the Holy Spirit is now tasked with the job of producing the peace of Christ in us; peace is one of the nine fruits of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:20).
So peace is a favored gift to give: a pricey present which our Creator has chosen above myriad other gifts He created and could have given us instead.
Peace is a coveted gift to receive, too. At this moment, millions of people worldwide are seeking a peace that seems elusive to them. My troubled neighbors are a case in point. The sad thing is that peace can be just as elusive to a Christian as it is to an Atheist. The reason is that we're looking for peace in the wrong places; shopping in stores, so to speak, that don't carry peace, or carry a cheap knock-off.
Real peace - biblical peace - is a peace of soul and spirit. It's a peace that flows from the inside out, like the waters of the Spirit in Ezekiel's temple. According to Philippians, the two places you're most likely to lose your peace are in your mind and your heart. (See Philippians 4:7). God's peace guards both heart and mind as we pray and keep our minds focused on Him. (Isaiah 26:3).
Yet when we shop for peace, we inadvertently look for solutions that claim to give peace from the outside in, starting with the body. Examples of cheap imitations include yoga, mind-body relaxation, decluttering and simplifying techniques, Reiki and other New Age forms of massage, an excessive focus on health, alcohol, and even addiction.
Good health or an occasional glass of wine is not a sin. (Please don't think I'm knocking these things!). But these "lesser" things we seek provide only a temporary peace, while the peace God extends is both lasting and transforming. Peace in our surroundings can be a beneficial tool to help us calm down. But ultimately, we need the kind of peace that affects spirit, soul, and body. The real indicator of peace is the condition of our hearts, not just our bodies or our circumstances.
Jesus promises that in the world, we will have tribulation. Troubled friends can steal your peace just as quickly as watching the nightly news. But we are not to let our hearts be troubled. (John 14:1). This means there's something we need to do to unwrap and use this gift of peace in our lives.
If Peace is a Gift, Where's Mine?
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.