There is much talk of peace this time of year. I believe Stevie Wonder was the first artist to sing his hopes that “someday at Christmas men won’t be boys playing with bombs like kids play with toys.” Since the song’s initial release, several popular recording artists have reiterated the hope that “someday at Christmas there’ll be no wars, when we have learned what Christmas is for, when we have found what life’s really worth, there’ll be peace on earth.” Peace on earth . . . now there’s a thought. In the song, peace is identified as the absence of war. It’s also equated with the absence of hunger, the absence of fear, and the absence of hate. When the world speaks of peace, the world speaks of absence, for that is the only peace the world understands. But even in the absence of war and hate and hunger, the world will not know true peace. For the world is selfish. We are selfish. Typically when we think of peace, we want peace for ourselves regardless of what that means for others. We live in a world where people are constantly clamoring for their own rights, crying out at perceived injustice. Christians are quick to object when they are portrayed as if they are trying to force religion on someone by wishing them a Merry Christmas as they exit the check-out line. Non-Christians are quick to cry foul at the suggestion of setting up a nativity on the front lawn at city hall. Everyone wants everyone else to stop what they are doing so that we might finally have peace. The world seeks peace through the removal of all annoyances, but in order to pursue such a course of action one must first seek out all the annoyances. And so we find ourselves in the midst of a culture looking for all the times that we have been wronged, searching high and low to find the ways that the government, our neighbors, our employers, or some guy from Duck Dynasty have treated us unjustly. This, dear friends, is not the peace of Christmas.
The peace of Christmas is the peace that passes all understanding. It is not found by removing annoyances, but by looking past them to the greater reality. As the prophet Isaiah says, it is not one that can be judged with the eyes or the ears. It is the peace that comes from the knowledge of the Lord. And the knowledge of the Lord, the knowledge that the Lord gives is this: God showed his love of us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. The babe in the manger is the savior of the world. To put it quite simply, with my salvation firmly secured, what can this world do me? It’s almost comical how frustrated I get watching live sports on TV, especially football. I am a Michigan fan and a Lions fan, so I have had my share of frustration over the last few years as I helplessly watched my teams commit stupid penalties, give the ball away as if they were playing hot potato, and regularly stumble all over themselves in the biggest games. But a funny thing happens when I watch the classic games on the Big Ten Network. When I watch an old game that I already know my team is going to win, the penalties and turnovers and missed opportunities don’t bother me in the same way, because I know how the game will end. They’re still irritating, but I have an easier time looking past them because I know what the final score will be. That, dear friends, is the peace of Christmas – the peace of knowing the final outcome even in the midst of trial and frustration. It is not the absence of frustration or trial, as if we will ever be free of it in this life. No, it’s the knowledge that for all of this world’s headaches, the life that awaits us is one in which the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, the predator with the prey, at peace with each other. It is one in which the nursing child will play safely with the cobra, and there shall be peace between them. It is the life that awaits all the baptized, so let the world rant and rave and foam at the mouth all the perceived injustice around us. We will be at peace, for we have an eye on eternity. We will be at peace, for a little child leads us. We will be at peace, for we belong to the Prince of Peace. We will be at peace, for we know the rest of the story.