Isn’t it strange how sometimes you hear something over and over again, but then when you hear it one day, you understand it in an entirely different or more profound way? The Elder helping our congregation prepare for Communion this morning made a key point that struck me in just such a way.
Peace, he said, only exists in the presence of Jesus.
We humans have a difficult time with abstract concepts. Peace is one of them. We have a tendency to equate peace with ideas like happiness, easy times, successful times, smooth waters on a sunny day. But, those who truly walk with Christ know peace even in the midst of great trouble.
Peace isn’t happiness or smooth sailing. Peace is a state of mind gained through an honest relationship with God that keeps one calm and centered no matter how many winds of change or trouble swirl around. At Christmas, when we celebrate the birth of God-made-man, the Christ who died for our sins and rose again, we hear more often than at other times of the year the phrase, The Prince of Peace.
I don’t usually think too much about that title for our Lord, but today’s comment in church made me pause to think about it. Usually, royal titles such as Prince are important for the things of this world. In fact, when Christ came to this Earth, He was rejected by many Jews because He did not create a Kingdom they could see and control. Instead of throwing off the chains of Roman oppression, the Messiah told His followers to turn the other cheek!
So, what’s so important about understanding what it means to call Jesus the Prince of Peace?
Before I give my answer to that question, let me point out another concept (for want of a better word) I’ve found useful lately. When I start to feel really stressed, I repeat to myself until I feel better, I know what calm feels like. As silly as that may sound to those of you who don’t often feel anxious, it actually works quite well. For one thing, I do know what calm feels like. The more I say the statement, the more I get flashbacks of times when I felt strong and able, the more I am reminded of problems I have conquered in the past that are much more serious than what is making me nervous now.
But what is really happening as I remind myself what calm feels like? What I am really doing is reminding myself of the times when I really leaned into what FAITH means–believing that God will keep His promises, including the ones where He says that He cares for me, where He tells me not to be afraid. After all, if I really believe that God has a plan for my life, shouldn’t I also believe that what happens in my life will eventually be revealed to my good?
Christ Himself emphasizes His role in knowing peace in this life:
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)
Truly accepting Christ as your Prince of Peace means facing the good and the bad in this world with a steadiness that will be hard for others to ignore. It means truly shining the light of Christ in a dark world.
Just in time for a wintry world squinting skyward for a bright and shining star.