I have a longstanding tradition of picking a Christmas song that defined my advent season and framing my Christmas reflection around that. This year, I was stuck between two songs: O Come All Ye Unfaithful by Sovereign Grace Music and Here Comes Heaven from Elevation Worship. As I tested each of them, the Spirit sat quite silent. I thought there must be something else I’m supposed to do. In keeping attentive to what the Spirit might be leading towards, I realized one of Jesus’ title as foretold in Isaiah 9 kept sticking out to me: Prince of Peace.
The more I thought about this title, the more it made sense. We are a people desperately in need of peace. Our advent series, Weary World, touched on this topic: We are weary of the pious and need a sense of peace in the Church and a deepening of Shalom between our siblings. We are deeply desperate for peace in our need for control. We need to facilitate peace in how we love, and we need to cultivate peace amid difficult callings for our life. Focusing a Christmas reflection on our need for peace was easy and needed. But even this didn’t feel quite right.
We are a people who do need peace, and yet just saying this falls a little flat. All people need peace and, as a researcher who studies coping, all people are capable of finding and making peace. There’s nothing inherently Christian about peace itself. We might be able to argue that Jesus is the one that brings true, deep, and lasting peace, but to say that he is the only source of any peace would be inauthentic. I realized this even more so when getting coffee with a friend recently who had recounted her own journey for peace, utilizing what I would call both discernment and repentance, though not through a theological lens.
What, then, is special about Jesus as the Prince of Peace?
Jesus as the authority on peace is quite interesting given the trajectory of his life.
Before he is born, Jesus’ arrival is a disruption into Mary and Joseph’s life. Pregnancy with Jesus may have marked Mary with favor from God, but it burned her with shame in her community. Her marriage to Joseph began with an extraordinary leap of faith in something beyond them. The pregnancy itself and the eventual labor, particularly in a dirty stable at a time before pain pills, was excruciating and uncomfortable and horrific. Jesus’ story did not start with peace.
After his birth, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus flee the genocide of King Herod. Refugees of authoritarian governments, the Holy Family hardly knows peace in their early years. The only glimpse of Jesus’ early life finds Mary frantically trying to find him after losing him in the temple. Being the mother of God incarnate is exceptionally chaotic.
As Jesus begins and expands his ministry, he brings peace to the marginalized and stigmatized, but only a few of them. His miracles are impactful yet few, his preaching deep but regionally limited. Jesus changed the lives of the people he met, but he only met a fraction of who was alive at the time. Jesus brings peace, but not a lot of it. At every step, the religious leaders and politicians of his day try to trip him up, begin plotting his death.
And then, even as we begin the Christmastide season, it is an inescapable truth that Christ has only really been born to die. Ash Wednesday and Lent are coming. Jesus gets no peaceful rest. He is beaten, bloody, and stained with human waste when he dies.
Jesus is an odd choice as the authority on peace.
As we begin Christmastide, and celebrate the birth of the Christ child, consider what it might mean to trust your life to the Prince of Peace, who is wholly and deeply acquainted with its opposite. “Peace” in Jesus’ title does not simply mean what our Western eyes read it as – an absence of war or strife. Peace, or Shalom, in the Bible refers to a restoration of oneness with God and each other, not present on earth since the origin myth of Adam and Eve in the garden. The peace that Jesus resides over is a deep and a lasting peace, yes, but it is also wholeness. It is the restoration of a broken marriage and the wiping of the widow’s tears. This peace is a shining beacon in a desolate, suffocating darkness. It is beyond our comprehension.
Jesus’ life of isolation and suffering proves, not negates, his authority. He came so that he might experience the mundane of our dusty existence. He came so that he might know the depths of war and disease in order to bring about real and genuine peace. He suffered at the hands of division so that he could appreciate the depths of unity.
If I’m honest, entrusting my life to the Prince of Peace is my perpetual Mark 9:24 moment. I believe that Jesus is capable of peace. I believe that he came to bring it. I believe that I have accepted the gift of it in my salvation. I believe in entrusting my life and my world and my future to the Prince of Peace.
And I believe also in the deep cuts of war. I have bled from the illnesses in my family and been pierced by deep fear of the future. I am shackled to the weight of my past and amputated by the depths of my iniquity. I have witnessed my entire life the evils of the Church and of humanity. Oh, the depths of my unbelief.
In the tech booth of a Christmas Eve service rehearsal, I heard the Spirit whisper again, “Come and see what God has done.” In the midst of the hustle and bustle, despite the anxiety and the addictions and the relational brokenness, God extends us this Christmastide invitation: Come and See.
Just come and see.
Come and meet God in a body your brain can comprehend. See the blood-soaked manger. Come and see what the Prince of Peace has to offer you. No need to make a decision right now. No need to leave the future in those tiny, adorable baby hands. Just come. Just see. Marvel for a minute at what the Lord has done.
Merry Christmas, my dear friends. The Prince of Peace that Passes All Understanding has come.
Hallelujah again and again and again.
Come and see what the Lord has done.
See the places he has destroyed on the earth.
He makes wars stop from one end of the earth to the other.
He breaks every bow. He snaps every spear.
He burns every shield with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be honored among the nations.
I will be honored in the earth.”
11The Lord who rules over all is with us.
The God of Jacob is like a fort to us.Psalm 46:8-11 NIRV
Bryce Van Vleet is the #1 selling author of Tired Pages and Before We All Die Let’s Have One Last Chat by the Fireside. He also hosts the podcast Death in Dakota and sells poetry art here. You can support him by clicking through blog posts or donating (scroll to the bottom of the page).
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