How Do You Spell Peace?

Four weeks of Advent – four names of the Christ-child from the prophet Isaiah.

“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).

Isaiah called the child Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father. The final name for the One who would restore sinful humanity’s relationship with our holy God is Prince of Peace.

How do you spell peace? What is peace, exactly? Is it the absence of noise? The absence of hostility? The presence of quiet? How much peace does one need? A lot? A little? Do you ever find yourself wishing for more peace?

The problem with wishing for more peace is that it implies peace is a commodity – something we receive in measured amounts. But peace is not a product to be purchased or an item packaged in a bag or box.

Peace is a Person. More than 2,700 years ago, Isaiah wrote of the coming of the Prince of Peace. The Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, entered this world of sin and discord for one purpose. He came to reconcile us to God – to restore a relationship broken by sin. The Prince of Peace came so we might have peace with God, with ourselves, and with others.

It’s not a matter of having more peace. Either we have it – Him – or we don’t. There’s no continuum moving from little to more to much. So when we find ourselves wishing for more peace, perhaps we should ask ourselves a few questions:

Am I at peace with God?
Have you ever known the peace of being reconciled to God? If not, then celebrate this Christmas by giving yourself the best gift possible – the assurance that you belong to your heavenly Father through the gift of the Prince of Peace.

Am I at peace with myself?
If peace with ourselves is something that’s dependent on our circumstances, then even though we’ve been reconciled to God, we may not be fully benefiting from His peace. Anxiousness, fear, and discouragement are indications that we are viewing God from the perspective of our circumstances instead of viewing our circumstances from God’s perspective.

Am I at peace with others?
Even while we were enemies of God, He gave His Son for us. We probably won’t ever be asked to sacrifice our children for our enemies (aren’t you glad of that?). However, God does ask us to extend mercy to others, to look beyond our own hurts to be His hands and feet and heart to a world that needs to know Him.

Peace – it’s a gift that can only come from the One who is peace. Anything else is a poor imitation. Don’t settle for a piece of peace. This Christmas – and every day of the year – enjoy God’s precious gift of the Prince of Peace.

How do I spell peace? J-E-S-U-S.

Enjoy this final week leading up to the birth of the Prince of Peace!

Two Types of Hope

If there’s one thing in short supply these days, it’s hope. Politicians promise, but fail to deliver on their promises. Family members make commitments, but disappoint us. Terrorists strike with seeming impunity. Jobs are scarce, money is tight, and the more we wish for change, the less probable it appears to be.

Sort of like what the nation of Israel must have been feeling 2,000 years ago. The glory days of King David and King Solomon had passed 1,000 years earlier. The Israelites – God’s chosen people – didn’t feel very special anymore. They had lived as a conquered people for more than 700 years, first under the Assyrians, then the Babylonians, the Medes-Persians, the Greeks, and finally the Romans. It had been 400 years since any prophet had spoken the words, “Thus says the Lord.” The peoples’ hope had been sapped, little by little and year by year.

But the very nature of hope is that it hangs on in the most dire circumstances. When everything looks most bleak, a spark inside us burns – perhaps tenuously, but it burns nonetheless.

Israel still hoped. They hoped for freedom from their oppressors. They hoped to hear from their God once again. Yet when God did speak, most of them did not recognize his voice. When God sent them the Savior they needed, they were too busy looking for the military leader they wanted.

Fast-forward 2,000 years. Some of us are holding on by our fingernails, clinging to hope because there’s nothing else to cling to. And along comes the Christmas season. Four weeks of stress added to already stressful lives. Decorate, write cards (personalized), cook (like the banquets pictured in the magazines), bake (perfectly shaped cut-out cookies), wrap presents (with color-coordinated bows)…and for what? To celebrate the birth of Someone who much of the world deems to be a myth.

This week is the first week of Advent. The beginning of a time of anticipation, a time of hope. Christmas is coming, a day when we celebrate the birth of the One who has saved us from sin and from ourselves. A day when God became man – Emmanuel – God with us. So what does this have to do with hope?

Jesus came to earth the first time in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. His coming proved that hope in God’s Word was not misplaced. His first coming proves something else. It proves that when God’s Word speaks of His second coming, we can rely on this yet-to-happen event as much as if it has already occurred. It’s not a question of if it will happen, just when it will happen.

That’s biblical hope. Biblical hope is different from how we usually use the word hope today. Today we say things such has, “I hope it won’t rain,” but we have no idea whether it will or it won’t. Biblical hope is a certain anticipation, a knowledge that the only uncertainty is in the timing, not in the promise.

It’s the hope Israel had 2,000 years ago as they waited for the Messiah to come. It’s the hope we have today as we wait for the Messiah – our Savior – to come again.

As we wrap the presents (or not), and bake the cookies (or not), let’s rejoice that the hope for a coming Savior has already been fulfilled. And He’ll be back – because He promised.

Which type of hope do you have this Christmas?