By CRAIG HARRIS
Luke 2: 8-14 (NIV): 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
We think of peace as the absence of conflict or the absence of stress. We say our country is at peace if we are not at war. We think of being at peace if all is well and we are not stressed. How has your Christmas season been so far? Stress free? How could Jesus bring us peace if the holiday celebrating his birth brings so much stress, strife and conflict?
There must be more to peace than just the absence of conflict. Jesus said (Matthew 10:34) “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” This sounds like a contradiction. Jesus was proclaimed the "Prince of Peace" and he said he was bringing a sword instead. What gives?
Peace means more than the absence of conflict or stress, it means wholeness. It means we have found what we are looking for. It means we are now complete because we have found God and are no longer in conflict with him. We each have a "God shaped hole" in our hearts and we have now filled it. Our search for meaning and purpose is over and that gives us a peace that the world cannot give. Even when we are in conflict; even when we are stressed, we are satisfied because we have found rest for our souls.
But there's more: We couldn't have peace with God without Jesus because Jesus satisfied God's wrath toward our sinful rebellion (Ephesians 2: 3-5). We will still experience conflict, stress and yes, even war, but because of the Prince of Peace, we are at peace with God, we are at peace within our souls, and we can have peace with one another.
Autographed copies of Craig's fiction novel “The Dead Peasants File” are for sale at Blaser's Books in downtown Palestine. Harris is the pastor at Brushy Creek and Mt. Vernon United Methodist churches.