"Peace on Earth, Goodwill to men!" Whether spoken or sung, this is a phrase we hear a lot of during the Christmas season. All the ills and evils of the rest of the year are laid to rest while the whole world seems to open their hearts to this collective wish. It reminds me of the beauty pageants, when every prospective Miss America or Miss Universe expresses her deep, heartfelt desire for "world peace." Don't get me wrong, I believe she actually means it, just as I believe that at Christmastime, the hearts of men and women truly long for peace as well. But it got me to thinking, recently, about what peace really is.
When we look in the scriptures, at the time the angels announced Christ's birth to the shepherds, they did, in fact, speak of peace. "Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:13-14) In reflecting on this, it occurs to me that there is a great difference between the "world peace" that is coveted by bejeweled contestants in evening gowns, or even Christmas carolers on a snowy night, and the peace that is promised for those who believe in Jesus.
The fact of the matter is that the peace that the world seeks typically refers to the absence of conflict. We want countries to get along, races to get along, and families to get along. Can't everybody just get along? If we could just do that, then we can have peace. World peace. Peace on earth, right? The sad part, however, is that the world has sold themselves short. In seeking peace that just removes conflict, they are missing out on something so much more precious.
Jesus tells His followers in John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives." The peace given in knowing Christ goes far deeper than what the world seeks, or what the world gives. Jesus states it directly that what He offers is definitively not what the world has to offer. It is true peace. It is a peace that is a rock solid foundation of stability in your heart, mind and life, no matter what comes your way. Even in the face of great conflict, in Christ, there is peace. That is why He goes on to say, "Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid," because He gives a peace that will take us through anything we face.
I have experienced this peace, and continue to every day. That does not mean that there are not days that are hard, or that life does not have its ups and downs. I face struggle, discouragement, fear and insecurity. I fight with my husband, get angry at family members, and yell at my children. Sometimes the cares of this world keep me awake at night, deep in thought, trying to keep anxiety at bay. And yet, there is peace. There is always peace. It is hard to explain it, how both can exist at one time, and yet it is so true. Deep in my heart, coursing through my soul, is this certainty and security in knowing that God is truly in control. He's got it, no matter what it is, and in that is peace. There is peace in knowing who He is and that He loves me, no matter what. My life is in His hands and because of that there is peace. Sweet Peace.
This peace is something that is available to every soul on this earth, but there is a catch. That again is where the "peace on earth" perspective misses the mark. When we go back to that scripture in Luke, we see that the angels did not announce, "Peace on earth and goodwill to all men". No, what they said was, "on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests." In other words, there is peace available, but to those on whom God's favor rests. And on whom does His favor rest? Those who belong to His Son, Jesus. That is why Jesus, when He spoke of the peace "I leave to you, my peace I give to you," it was not to just anyone he was talking. He was talking to His followers, believers in Christ. That precious peace He offers is for those who belong to Him.
So where does that leave us? Do these thoughts mean that I am against Christmas carols, beauty pageants, and peace for all men? No, absolutely not. In fact, my desire is exactly opposite. I wish for "peace on earth," but I am not looking for a superficial, sugar coated kind of peace. I am not satisfied with just the absence of conflict. What I want is for everyone on this earth, and everyone I know, to experience the only true, deep, lasting peace that exists--that is, peace in Christ. He is the prince of Peace. There may never be "world peace" as we think of it, but Jesus did come to give the world peace, peace in knowing Him. And I hope that Miss America and every Christmas caroler on earth comes to know it!