The top 3 articles this morning in my feed for world news had to do with Israel/Gaza, Pakistan/India, and Afghanistan. It’s obvious that the “Peace on Earth” we just celebrated as heralded at Christ’s birth doesn’t mean that all wars have ceased. So what does it mean?
Since we’re still pretty close to the Christmas holiday (my Christmas decorations are still up, after all) it seems like fair game to ask this question of you all:
Given what’s going on in your life right now (could be your personal life, your church or your community), what does the Christmas message of Peace on Earth mean to you?
Add your own thoughts in the comments if you like. We asked this question of several friends around the world (including our own International Division), and here’s what they had to say:
What’s most on my mind during this Christmas season is that it is my first Christmas as a married woman! How does that intersect with peacemaking? Our wedding in August was a celebration of new beginnings, made possible by Christ’s power, and a celebration of his grace to sustain our relationship through the difficult times that will inevitably come. So this special time of our first Christmas together is a time to continue celebrating the joy and wonder of the ongoing newness and peace that Christ makes possible in our relationship with him as well as with those around us.
United States of America
In this world full of terror, human tragedies and death, generated in the name of peace and religion, we once again see the shortcomings of the best human intentions. This brings the realization that the only way for shalom is to accept God’s gracious gift of the Prince of Peace — Jesus Christ — to be reconciled to God, oneself and the neighbor. His ambassadors have this task through the way of the cross, constrained by Christ’s love to bring this shalom to our suffering humanity.
The birth of our Saviour gave Earth hope to acquire peace with our creator, our Father in Heaven. His life set an example of how our lives should be lived in peace, harmony, and love towards others, not just a seasonal style of living. His death satisfied the Father’s anger because of our sinful behaviour, teaching us the ministry of reconciliation. Let us be ambassadors of peace through Jesus Christ. Let us announce the need to be reconciled with God. It should be the desire of our lives, families, churches and communities to be at peace with God in the midst of the world’s crises.
I live in Mexico and work as the director of a small theological school in Puebla. Crime is up here: corruption, fraud, auto theft, kidnapping and murder. Someone tried to scam me out of money on the phone the other day and our little male Pug dog, Napo, was stolen from our yard. The recession is hitting us hard and we don’t know how we are going to meet the seminary’s payroll at the end of the month. At this moment, peace on earth for me is Psalm 4:8, “I will lie down and sleep peacefully, for you, Lord, make me safe and secure.”
“Peace on Earth.” What a wonderful topic to reflect on! I understand it as “God on Earth.” My definition for peace is “God dwelling on the Earth.” As the Apostle Paul says, our God creates “the bonds of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
Peace is the nature of God. Without God in their hearts, people fight and destroy each other (please view the World Wars). Living in a season of God’s grace we should always recall that God has written through apostle John, that he will “take the peace from the Earth” (his Spirit of peace) and then the man will come not only to contemporary, but to complete destruction.
Christ is risen and dwells on Heaven and on Earth! Thanks to God and Alleluia for this season! He has granted it to us free, and we have had the sacred privilege to celebrate it for the last 2,000 years!
To me, the phrase “peace on earth” means living out in the present what is a certain future reality. In doing so, we announce the kingdom of God and demonstrate its reality in our everyday lives.
United States of America
Our family loves to put up Christmas lights at this special time of the year. I went searching for the words ‘Peace on Earth’ in lights, but no shop sold it — they wouldn’t have enough customers! At a recent Christmas lunch I went to for a non-Christian organisation, the wisdom expressed at the table was that the “real meaning of Christmas — if you leave aside the religious stuff — is the children.” So at a time when the phrase “Peace on Earth” has lost its commercial appeal, and people would rather have Christmas mean anything but what it really does, the words “Peace on Earth” are nevertheless still offered by people like TV hosts at televised carol events as some kind of vague unachievable goal of what they’d like the world to be like if only…
So for me personally, I always see Christmas time as a special opportunity to try to weave into my conversation references to my being a Christian and what Christmas means — not “the religious stuff” or some kind of vague peace panacea — but rather the promise of true peace between God and humanity and even, between people, more loving, forgiving, just and gracious relationships. And all made possible by the gift of God through his Son, the one and only Prince of Peace.
“Peace on Earth” represents a mandate to me more than anything else. As a Christian Palestinian living in a country tormented by war and division, the words of the angels remind me of the urgent need to remind my people that a better kingdom, a better reality, is making its way through in the birth of Jesus. It is a kingdom of peace and justice. When I lead my choir this Christmas in various Palestinian villages and towns, we will be continuing this 2,000-year-old tradition of singing “Peace on Earth” in the same land where this song was first sung. Though this time sung in the voices of humans, I pray that through it, we can help the worshipers imagine a better reality by embodying, living and promoting this peace on earth.