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.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.
I’ve always understood peace to be the absence of conflict, pain, or struggle. When someone passes away, we say that person is at peace because they’re not experiencing the pain of a sickness any longer. When war breaks out around the world, we use social media to ask others to pray for peace and for the conflict to stop. When someone needs to make a difficult decision, we ask if they feel peace in the choice they made. Peace is often framed as a desirable state without tension, discomfort, or change. This definition of peace sounds tranquil and calm. I don’t know about you, but my experience in this world feels chaotic most of the time; the idea of experiencing this kind of peace sounds like a daydream, not something that can actually happen in my life.
Recently, I was having a conversation with my pastor about what peace is and how Biblical peace is significantly more than just an absence of conflict. She explained to me that at its most basic level, the Hebrew word for peace (Shalom) means complete or whole. But when we explore the Old Testament and the uses of the word Shalom, we discover its richer meaning. True peace requires taking what is broken and restoring it to its original intention or purpose; it is wholeness that comes from something or someone being exactly what they were created to be. Peace is the state of completion; the idea that when all the pieces of a whole are in their correct place, the entire whole is as it should be: restored to fullness. While I loved this definition, I had a question for my pastor: isn’t making something whole or right the same thing as justice? How are peace and justice different?
After researching a bit more, I discovered that justice is when we work to eliminate the things that bring about brokenness in our world. Justice is advocating for the vulnerable, changing social structures that perpetuate violation, and standing up for what will bring about wholeness in the lives of other people. Justice is about a radical, selfless way of life; a way of life that fights against what is wrong or unjust. In a way, fighting injustice is fighting for peace in the lives of those around us. I now understand that justice is what creates space for peace to exist, and lasting peace is unattainable without the real work of justice. Justice is the fight for restoration, and peace is the wholeness brought about by that restoration.
So… what does this have to do with Christmas?
The prophet Isaiah gave many names to the coming Messiah, Prince of Peace being the final name on the list in Isaiah chapter 9. It is almost as if Jesus, being the Prince of Peace, is the culmination of his other titles. Isaiah goes on to say that his peace will have no end; in other words, Jesus’s kingdom will exist in a consistent state of wholeness, with nothing out of order. And, thanks to our new understanding of the relationship between justice and peace, when Isaiah says he will “uphold the kingdom with justice,” we recognize this as the work of eliminating things that are broken or complicit with harming the vulnerable.
Jesus is not just a teacher or a prophet. Jesus is a prince with the ability and power to bring peace to the world because he is the one who created it. He knows how to bring us into wholeness because he is our creator, and he has the authority to do it because he is our king! Jesus, being the Prince of Peace highlights his unique position to enact justice and bring peace at the same time.
This week, as we make final preparations for the arrival of Christmas, remember that we’re celebrating more than a baby coming to take away the sins of the world. That is true, but we are also preparing for our Prince of Peace—the one who takes away the sins of the world because of his justice and offers peace and wholeness in his presence and in his kingdom. We anticipate the arrival of our Prince of Peace, not so that we experience a lack of conflict or pain, but so that we can experience the world and ourselves as we should be, made whole, cleansed of all wrongs, and operating as we were created.
This fourth week of Advent, we light the Angel Candle that symbolizes peace. Just as the angels sang on the day of Jesus’s birth, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” We, too, acknowledge and celebrate the peace that only comes from God.
God, we praise you for providing us your peace through your son, Jesus. Thank you for your presence with us and the peace you allow us access to. As we light this candle, we ask for your peace to be felt among us, and we ask that you use us to be agents of peace in the world around us. Help us to see how justice and peace work together to bring the world back into alignment with your design. Amen.
The lone white candle of the Advent wreathe is the Christ Candle and represents the purity of our sinless Savior and the victory we have in Him. This candle is lit on Christmas day. For this candle, we encourage you and all in your household to take turns praying together as you light the candle sharing what you are grateful for on this day of Jesus’s birth.
“Suddenly a great company of heavenly hosts 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
God, in this moment, we turn our attention toward you and join all those who praise you! You deserve all the praise and adoration we can bring to you. We desire to live in a way that brings glory to you, for you deserve all the glory we can bring to your name. May you shape within us hearts that long for your name to be honored and praised. We ask that you use us to be bringers of your peace, even as we experience it in your presence. We honor you. We praise you. And we thank you for using us to bring glory to your name. We love you. Amen.
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26
God, we praise you for giving us access to your peace through your presence. You have done so many things for us; you have blessed us, provided for us, and put your attention on us. Thank you for being kind and gentle in your correction to us and always acting for our good. God, you are goodness itself, and we are in awe that you choose to pursue and love us. We thank you for turning your face towards us, for being mindful of us, and for thinking about us; what have we done to deserve such attention? Your peace is a blessing, and we can’t imagine navigating this life without it. Amen.
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3
God, we focus our attention on you right now. Thank you for always being there for us, for being present with us even when we are not present with you. God, we repent of the times when our minds have not been steadfast toward you; when our lives and hearts have not been in alignment with your heart. But we thank you that you are gracious to us and always bring our focus back to you. We trust in you, we trust your goodness toward us, and we claim the peace you offer to us through your presence. Keep our hearts focused on you today, and allow us to access your peace. Amen.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
God, we sit today with the knowledge that your presence is what grants us the ability to experience true peace. Thank you for giving us yourself and gifting us your peace. We recognize that you did not come to remove all the pain and suffering from our lives; you created a way for us to experience your presence and your peace even in the midst of our trouble. We praise you for overcoming all hardship, even death itself, to give us a way out of the trouble we encounter. Even now, God, allow us to become more aware of your presence and how you are granting us peace and hope for continued peace through your resurrection. We love you, Amen.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
God, so often we seek comfort and “peace” that the world offers us. Money, power, relationships, status, and access are all traps that offer a stale, temporary peace we must continue to chase in order to experience more of it. But you God, you offer us your peace; a peace that we must do nothing to earn or experience. Remind us that your peace is better and sufficient for us. Teach our hearts to desire your peace over the temporary peace this world gives. Keep our hearts focused on you. Amen.
Heading to a friend or family member’s house on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve? Try this salsa and chips idea to bring as a gift for the host or hostess. You can use leftover cellophane bags and ribbon from your cookie-making adventures and you can get mason jars at your local grocery store or order them online here.