“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”
–John 14:27 (NLT)
Christmastime is meant to be celebrated with peace and joy. After all, Jesus Christ is the prince of peace, isn’t He? But what does that really mean? Is that peace reflected in the example below, which occurred in 1914 during World War I?
During the week leading up to Christmas, a series of impromptu ceasefires were declared in honor of the holiday. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the battle trenches were crossed by German and British soldiers. Battle-hardened men mingled everywhere, and the sound of Christmas carols sung in both English and German often filled the air.
The soldiers took this opportunity to bury their dead and pay last respects to their fallen comrades. There were improvised meals and exchanges of alcohol and cigarettes. There were even some friendly soccer matches. In short, songs and good wishes were exchanged, instead of gunfire and hatred.
Today, the Christmas Truce is regarded as a symbol of peace in the midst of horrible violence. A cross has been erected at the truce site, and there are some annual re-enactments of the historic event, including a famous TV commercial.
Sadly, this peaceful gathering was only temporary. On some parts of the battlefield the fighting resumed once Christmas Day was over, while other soldiers kept the peace until the end of New Year’s Day. In any case, the horrors of war continued after the holidays.
While I’m sure this short time of peace was a welcome interlude, a manmade peace isn’t what God was talking about. Jesus told us in no uncertain terms that His peace wasn’t of this world.
I have a real concern especially around Christmastime, because while we may not be going through the same circumstances as those soldiers, we often settle for the opposite of God’s best–perhaps without realizing it.
When He spoke about the peace He was going to leave, it was not just a seasonal commodity, but a gift which His followers could count on. The idea of a seasonal peace is what we usually buy into, or worse yet, we settle for having no peace at all. We get all stressed out buying presents, or cooking that delicious but time-consuming Christmas meal, and the real meaning of Christmas is lost. But God’s peace is far from elusive.
I believe the King James Bible is misleading when it translates the angels’ words to the shepherds as, “peace on earth and good will toward men.” I believe that looking at peace in this way offers a man-centered approach. I prefer the New International Version here, because it creates a more accurate rendering. It puts the same verse this way: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.”
The peace that we are talking about is contingent upon finding the favor of God by finding favor with God. This is done by inviting His Son Jesus Christ into your life.
Now I can hear somebody out there say, “I did that a long time ago, and I still don’t feel any of that peace.”
God’s peace is lavished upon those who attempt to rest in Him. Just as you would love to hang out with that special person you want to get to know, you come to a deeper knowledge of God by drawing closer to Him. He loves you, and He has a burning desire to spend more time with you. So while you might have to adjust your schedule, it is definitely worth it. You will find a friend in Jesus like you have never known, and a new kind of peace will come into your life. While this will not happen overnight, the Holy Spirit will begin to change you from the inside out.
Sadly, after the initial high of starting your walk with Christ, many people lose the overall sense of well-being and quit. I said “overall” because I don’t want to sound unrealistic. But I do believe God wants to bless us with His peace, more than we want to receive it. Three things that can keep us from experiencing God’s peace more often are unconfessed sin, grieving the Holy Spirit, and focusing on our problems rather than focusing on God.
There are sins which I commit willingly, and sins that I commit knowing perfectly well that I shouldn’t. But in either case, when God puts His finger on one of those sins, I need to be responsive.
Our sin is like the static on a radio, which makes it impossible to enjoy a clear signal. But once you have confessed your sin, you can know that it has been cast into the sea of God’s forgiveness.
Just as you can grieve a person by ignoring and disobeying them, God can be grieved in the same way. We all do this, but we can take steps to lessen this tendency.
You and I ignore God when He is not our first priority. We get so busy with other things that we think are essential. We soon fill our schedules with them, and soon we have no time for God. This is easy to do. I know because I have been there pleyty of times.
In order to have a peaceful life, though, I have found, that I need to have an ordered lifestyle. Jesus put it this way when He told us, “Seek first the kingdom of God.” So to recap, the two P’s we need in our lives , are priority and persistance.
You and I also ignore Him when we aren’t allowing His Word to guide us. All through the scriptures, God speaks of how dear those He loves are to Him, and how He has scouted out our paths. One of my favorite verses is Psalm 119:11. It shows how God’s Word is both a lamp to lighten our everyday situations, and a light which shines on the path before us as we go about our duties.
In other words, if you were to walk into a dark room full of furniture, wouldn’t you turn on the light? So, why do we walk through life in the dark? You can’t have peace when you’re constantly stubbing your toes.
Therefore, let the light of God’s word shine in your heart, by making it the first thing in your life. Learn to read and enjoy the Bible, as it will become a source of strength, support, and so much more.
Lastly (for today, anyway), another way you and I block the path to peace is by giving our problems control, instead of letting God be the driver of our lives. We tend to let our problems become giants, and we try to take care of them in our own strength. To keep our sanity and have some semblence of peace, then, a wise person will learn to make God their focus before trouble comes.
Here is a song that was popular in the circles I hung out in as a kid. It expresses what I want to say much better than I can–and yes, there were some good things that came out of the Stone Age. Here are some of the lyrics to “Front Seat, Back Seat” by Tommy Coomes and Chuck Girard:
“I was sitin’ in the front seat
Tryin’ really hard to be the driver,
Thinkin’ I was makin’ real good time,
But always windin’ up the late arriver.
But now I’ve been tryin’ out the back seat
And I find it is a very great relief.
Now I’m ridin’ in the back seat
And I’m leavin’ all the drivin’ to the Chief.”
Following the path of peace means letting the Prince of Peace rule in your heart. This applies not just on Christmas, but all year long.
Or you might think of it this way. By letting Christ be the driver, you’ll have fewer accidents and more peace on the road of life.
Thank you for reading this, and may the Lord give you a wonderful week! We are trying to reach people who are hurting, so if God lays it on your heart, please consider becoming a partner with us. If you would like to make a donation, please visit www.hcmachaplains.org and click on the Donate Now link. You can also send donations by mail to HCMA (Healthcare Chaplains Ministry Association). Our ID number is 560. The address is 101 S Kraemer BLVD, Suite 123A, Placentia, CA 92870.
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