Summary: At Christmas time we may dare to dream about peace on earth, but it doesn't last long. In Jesus, God showed us the way to true peace and it is not cheap.
“In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see-- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!" When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” Luke 2:8-20.
Christmas is a time that we long for peace on earth. We just heard the announcement of the angels, that peace would be one of the results of the birth of Jesus. In the Old Testament, one of the titles that was used by the prophet, Isaiah, for the coming Jesus was, Prince of Peace. Peace is one of main motifs at Christmas. Our village hall has the big sign, “Peace on Earth.” It’s one of the main motifs for Christmas cards, if not in word, then at least in the pictures of peaceful winter nature scenes and pictures of Bethlehem.
But we know Bethlehem is not peaceful tonight. In fact, things are so tense that there will be very little public celebration there at all. And, as I read the Chicago Tribune and ‘peace’ isn’t the word that describes most of the stories. We have so many stories of conflicts, between nations, within nations, and here in our state politics.
And you don’t read it about it in the papers unless it really boils over, but probably there are many families sweating it out a bit right now wondering what it’s going to be like getting everybody under the same roof tonight or tomorrow. Will the old tensions break out and spoil the day?
And yet the Christmas story keeps calling us back to this dream. Can we dare to accept it as a real possibility? Can we dare to hope for peace on earth? Can we at least dare to hope that some of the conflicts can be turned to peace? Can some families be healed? Some workplaces? Some churches? Some nations?
How much would it be reasonable to pay for peace? What would be a reasonable price for peace? What would you pay?
There are different ways you can try to get peace. These days a lot of people are wishing for peace. It doesn’t cost you anything to just wish. But wishing alone doesn’t accomplish anything.
Maybe some people grumble about how things used to be different at Christmas time years ago and how bad the world is turning. But those who experienced Christmas during the depression or one of the large wars would probably agree with me that we ought to be very thankful for what we have now. Grumbling doesn’t accomplish anything. That’s a substitute for accomplishing something. So you don’t have to pay much of a price for grumbling, but it doesn’t deliver any peace, either.
There’s a strong movement in our country today that a sociologist might call cocooning. Fill your house up with private entertainment electronics. Keep away from people you don’t understand. Order out for pizza. Do your shopping online. Double lock the door. Install a security system. Maybe even keep a loaded gun under your pillow. Just don’t have anything to do with anybody outside your family.
But often those people who work the hardest to keep the world’s problems out are the ones who are most afraid because they have pushed out the world and they have no contact with real people, so their imaginations start to run wild about what is happening out there. So cocooning doesn’t seem to cost much, but if it leaves you more afraid than when you started, whatever you pay is too much.