Summary: God’s peace is granted to us through His Son
When I was a young boy growing up we had a family tradition of collecting all our Christmas cards and hanging them on the wall. Of course at that point in my life the most important Christmas tradition was the tree and the presents. But the second strongest childhood memory of Christmas was the hundreds of cards hung on our walls. These cards were filled with pictures and words of the Christmas story. The one phrase that stood out for me at that time was the title given to Jesus of “Prince of Peace.”
One big reason for this title striking me at the time, I believe, was the fact that it was the middle of the Vietnam conflict. Death tolls and were broadcast on the news every evening. News cameras brought the fighting into our living room. My greatest fear was that this war would continue into my 18th birthday. The celebration of Christmas seemed a contradiction to what was happening on the other side of the world. The phrase “Prince of Peace” seemed a contradiction to life as we knew it at the time.
Isaiah prophesied that Jesus was to be the Prince of Peace and Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Yet when Jesus came on the scene there were no political rulers who asked his permission to do anything. Jesus himself said to his disciples that there would continue to be “wars and rumors of wars” until he came again.
Well perhaps “Prince of Peace” was meant as a title to describe what Jesus would bring to our hearts. Yet the world struggles more than ever with anxiety, stress, and fear. If I were an investment counselor, I would have people invest in “anti-anxiety” medication more than Internet stocks. Yet Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Some would say this is a contradiction.
The Christmas cards and carols we sing each Christmas continue to portray the event as festive, peace filled time: silent nights, manger scenes, animal petting zoos near the baby, angels and shepherds rejoicing with trumpets sounding, elegantly dressed Kings with nicely wrapped presents. Last week we went to Bethlehem village at Simpsonwood and the atmosphere recreated in the manger scene was peaceful and joyful.
As a pastor my biggest concern about the celebration of Christmas isn’t the self-focus on gifts received or the commercialism. My concern is that we’ve focused so much on the positive aspects of the Christmas story, that we’ve neglected a very important truth the Bible teaches in these events: the coming of Jesus was an event that shook the nations and disturbed the peace.
A couple weeks ago I talked about the disturbance to Joseph, who had to deal with the disappointment and shame the community would bring over pregnancy before marriage. As I studied this passage this week, I read of events that were never portrayed on Christmas cards. The church has focused on the bravery, cunning, faith, and gifts of the Wise men (actually Eastern astrologers), but we also read that when Herod heard of the birth of Jesus, he was “disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.”
Herod plotted to have the wise men give away the location of Jesus, but his plans were foiled. He became so furious and determined to kill the baby that he had all the baby boys 2 or less put to death. That’s an event you’ll never see reproduced on Christmas cards or read at Candlelight services. Matthew ends the story of the birth of Jesus on a very negative note: “a voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”
Now I’m not trying to be an Ebenezer Scrooge or the Grinch who stole Christmas, but we have to realize that the Christmas story intentionally emphasizes the battle between good and evil, the battle between evil Kings like Herod who serve the prince of darkness, and God and all his angel armies.
When Jesus came to earth, Satan was ticked and furious. He tried to foil the plans of God, and thought brought great suffering to the people of God, especially the moms and dads in Bethlehem. Those moms who knew about the birth of Jesus had to be asking themselves if he was truly the Prince of Peace and King of Kings.
As you read through the Bible it is amazing how many references there is to battle. We are instructed to put on the “full armor of God.” We wouldn’t need armor is we weren’t getting attacked. We are encouraged again and again to “Stand firm,” “be strong and courageous,” and “fear not.” It’s all battle and conflict language. Jesus is the Prince of Peace, but that doesn’t mean the war is over yet.