There are approximately 34 major wars and conflicts taking place around the world today. These conflicts contribute to homelessness, a deluge refuges fleeing to nearby countries, and many deaths. In twelve of the thirty four conflicts more than 1,000 people die every year. These wars include: the Afghan Civil War, Somali Civil War, Iraq War, North West Pakistan War, Arab-Israeli Conflict, Niger Delta Conflict, and the Côte d’Ivoire Crisis, and many more
During troublesome times, peace may appear to be a distant dream. Yet, God’s Word to us at all times, but especially in times of trouble, is a word of hope, reminding us of His promise of peace.
When I think about peace at Christmas time, I am reminded of the story behind one of our most cherished Christmas carols. In December 1864, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem entitled, Christmas Bells, which later became the text to the Christmas carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” When Longfellow penned these words, America was still several months away from Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9th 1865. This poem reflected the despair and hopelessness of most Americans at that time.
And in despair I bowed my head: “There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song, of peace on earth, good will to men.”
However, the following stanza revealed Longfellow’s faith in a God who was still on His throne, and who never abandoned His people. With great confidence, he wrote the final four lines of his poem:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.
Till ringing, singing, on its way, the world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime, of peace on earth good will to men.
Although peace on earth doesn’t seem to be a reality at the moment, God has not forgotten His people, or His promise. My prayer for us as individuals, and as a nation, is for God to grant us the same faith that enabled Longfellow to see beyond the hate and evil of the day, and embrace God’s gift of eternal peace. In addition, I pray we would discover and experience the fullness of God’s peace, and as a result of that discovery, become what Jesus called, “the peacemakers.”
The Hebrew word for peace is shalom. The meaning of the word goes far beyond what we typically understand as peace. It is derived from the Hebrew root shalam – meaning to be safe, to be complete, and to be whole. Shalom as a word, and as a message, seems to encapsulate a reality and hope of wholeness and security.
Wholeness and security are the heart of the message Jesus brought to the world in His first Advent. He said, “Do not think I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17) He also said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”(John 10:10) Just as Jesus brings the law to its completion, He brings men and women into the wholeness and security God designed for us from the beginning of creation.
The shalom of God is far more than a state of mind or a social condition. As Paul explained, the peace of God, “passes all understanding,” and “keeps our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”(Philippians 4:7)
I wish you true peace in your Savior this Christmas season!