For many at this time of year, the message of “peace among men” seems to ring hollow. It may trigger mild Grinchism or unleash full-blown skepticism. “Is peace for real,” some ask, or merely just an illusion?
To the observer of current events it may seem as if “Peace” has been battered around the ring. Outwardly, it lost a bout with Armed Conflict. By some estimates, a string of over 35 “wars” rage around the globe. According to World Vision, the fighting has displaced over 68 million people, turning almost half of them into trans-national refugees without adequate food or permanent shelter.
Pummeled by mass shootings which surpassed the 300 mark this year, Peace apparently didn’t fare much better in our own backyard. A further thrashing from months of political incivility and lingering racial unrest kept Peace reeling. Peace barely managed to survive another fusillade from the immigration crisis and rising individual stress levels. Whence the question, where is peace?
But what happens on center stage is often not the full story. It’s not always a case of what you see is what you get. Many theologians assert that further digging into the context surrounding the “Peace” phrase uncovers a timely and hopeful answer. According to St. Matthew, hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, prophets foretold that the child would be called Immanuel; translation — “God with us.”
As the reasoning goes, the enigma of peace is closely tied to the concept that God, in all his greatness promises a personal intimacy with every believer. God’s spiritual presence with his followers becomes the foundation for peace. Fulfilling that prophecy, Jesus promised at the end of his earthly ministry, “I am with you always ...” He also added, “My peace I give to you.”
The Biblical writers never sugar-coat life. In fact Jesus himself warned that life would be a tough fight. Yet, in an unseen way, Jesus gently touches his followers with the gift of peace he brought at Christmas. He helps overcome fear and pain in the midst of the most egregious circumstances. And that makes for a pretty fine celebration.