“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6 NIV)
I was safely working in my office when I received a text from my wife that there had been a shooter at Ohio State University. Thankfully she also let me know that our middle daughter, who lives only a few blocks from the shooting was safe at home, but on lock down. Over the last few hours I kept my phone on the live feed watching the events unfold. Thankfully, it was brought to a quick conclusion.
The reports were as they always are, full of conflicting information as people began to tell their stories. I’m not faulting anyone that’s just how we deal with events like this. It’s difficult to be factual when one’s life is threatened or routine disturbed. I watched tearful interviews with students and employees. I watched with some bemusement some of those who weren’t in the middle of the crises speak with bravado how they would have handled the assailants (Again, no judgment I was 19 myself long ago). I prayed and gave thanks each time someone I knew posted that they were safe.
But I also couldn’t help but be struck by the irony of the work I continued to do as I listened. I was working on our Christmas eve services (which actually begin on the 23rd) and our service for Christmas day. I plugged in the Scripture above praising Jesus as the Prince of Peace. I double checked and made sure we will sing familiar Christmas carols, many built around, either lyrically or musically the concept of peace. I envisioned our rising our candles as we sing of the Messiah sleeping in heavenly peace. I even preached about the peace Jesus brings during this busy season yesterday.
How is it we can even think of peace, let alone speak it with any conviction, into a world so full of random and unexpected violence? Is it a pipe dream? Are we singing and reading about a fantasy of peace when the reality is our world is full of violence, hated intolerance and loss? Where is the peace in an unpeaceful world?
One of the places where we struggle with this is we often confuse peace with peaceful situations. In other words, if Jesus is real and the Prince of peace, we should never have moments of evil or discord in our lives. It’s a nice thought, but it’s an unbiblical one. Scripture speaks plainly about a difficult and broken world that is in need of redemption. The peace Jesus brings, the peace we long and hope for in this world isn’t about peaceful situations and circumstances, but something far greater.
First it’s the peace of His presence. In this Christmas season, as we celebrate the incarnation of God in man, we also celebrate the presence of God, His incarnation of His spirit within us. We know that even when violence disrupts our world Jesus is with us. We can reach out and hold onto HIm. HIs presence gives us peace, even when the world isn’t peaceful around us.
As the Prince of Peace we recognize Jesus as the ruler of all things. Eternally God. he is God and on the throne even when life doesn’t make sense. I derive much peace in life knowing that while things may seem in chaos, God has us in his hand. And He is working His plan of redemption in the world. Knowing God is in control brings me peace.
In this time of year we look to the future of peace. No, we don’t ignore the violence around us. But we hold onto the truth that the world will not be as it is right now. God’s work of redemption, begun with the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus will work to it’s conclusion. War violence and hatred will one day need. Days like this may cause me to long deeper for that great day, but I don’t doubt it’s reality. Knowing that the world will not always be as it is, gives me peace.
His peace gives us compassion. When we experience that peace, it manifests itself in compassion for others. When we pray for a situation such as what happened on campus, we don’t simply pray for the victims, families and first responders. We find ourselves praying for the guilty. We pray for God to have compassion ad mercy on them. we pray for the tragedy of their broken lives and hardened hearts. We ray that somehow the love of God will break into the evil that has consumed them. We pray for their families. Not because we are weak or ignore what they have done. We pray because we have a peace they do not. And in that peace there is no room for bitterness or revenge.
In days like this we should not quiet our song of peace and joy at the coming of Jesus. We should read the Scriptures louder, sing the songs at the top of our voice, and proclaim the greater truth that there is peace but it can only be found in Jesus. I pray you will celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace and that His reign of peace will be in your hearts.
Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><