What does peace look like?
I would say peace looks like waking up at the cottage to a beautiful sunrise over a perfectly still lake. It’s the freshness of the air. It’s a quietness that restores.
What does peace look like for you? A quiet house, a good book, or a long walk? Maybe you and I are more likely to define it negatively, to define it by what is not there; peace is the absence of struggle, violence, conflict, suffering, and anxiety.
One of the themes we celebrate during advent and Christmas is peace. We read from Isaiah how ‘unto us a child is born whose name will be Prince of Peace.’ We read of shepherds being overwhelmed by a heavenly choir announcing ‘peace on earth.’ It’s a beautiful truth to celebrate. The Prince of Peace has come down to earth to bring us his peace.
But what does this Christmas peace look like? It is apparent that there is a certain lack of peace in the world. This has been a year of deep conflict and widespread struggle. Not only out there in the world, but I have often lacked peace in my own life. The stress and anxiety of isolation and a global pandemic have left me exhausted a number of times this year. Maybe it has been a similar experience for you. Maybe you have experienced job loss, health challenges, or a number of other conflicts. Does that mean that this peace we celebrate at Christmas has failed?
Matthew tells us that after Jesus is born his family flees from persecution, dwelling as refugees in Egypt. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, has to flee for his life. So maybe peace is not the immediate removal of conflict, suffering, or struggle. Maybe peace is the person who is present in the midst of them.
It’s been said many times and in many ways, but this Christmas let us see that peace is not the absence of struggle. Rather, it is the presence of the one who can carry us through that struggle. Let us see peace not as swift deliverance from the sorrow of losing a loved one, from a terrifying health challenge, or from the uncertainty of when life will go back to normal, but as the presence of the God who walks with us.
[Originally published December 24, 2019. Revised and updated December 24, 2020.]