Christmas is celebrated as a season of peace. The reality for so many is the experience of war, conflict, stress, unhappiness. Many families and relationships suffer from the pain of seeking perfect peace and yet having to acknowledge the presence of tensions and problems.
In more extreme forms, we are coming to the end of a year which has seen the “triumph” of strong views, through processes which have highlighted the reality of deep divisions – in Europe, in the USA. Those who have an “answer” for peace proceed by creating further stresses and differences. The “radicalisation” of solutions, paradoxically, seems to produce a greater preponderance of problems.The original Christmas story may have some lessons and pointers for us. The “Prince of Peace” arrives as a helpless baby born to a homeless couple. There was no room at the inn – ie within the normal safe answers to the human need for shelter and security.
Soon, this child who is a sign of salvation to the nations (gentiles) is part of a family fleeing from political and religious persecution. They became refugees taking shelter amidst the generous care of a “foreign” nation.
The one who is trumpeted as a sign of peace seems to be continually in the eye of the storm – disputes, persecution, arrest and torture, public execution.
So, how in this story can we celebrate something about peace, when all the evidence, then and now, seems to point to the opposite?
Our imperfections as human beings keep coming to the fore – in personal, political and religious situations. Yet, deep down, we know we are made for something better. Whatever the darkness, something in us seeks the light.
It is in this life – from stable to cross to glory – that this instinct, which courses through the veins of every human being, finds a taste of reality, both the persistence of darkness and the yearning for light.
He is called the Prince of Peace because this light is indestructible through crises of faith, politics or conflict and warfare. That indestructible spirit in each of us is a manifestation of an eternal spirit in Him.
A spirit that can join us in genuine celebration of peace in this season. A spirit that can encourage us to join together seeking more light in the darkness as we step into another year. And a spirit which is a genuine taste of the triumph of peace into eternity. The destination for which every baby is created – whatever the evidence may look like from our tiny human perspective.
The Prince of Peace invites us to trust the spirit, and keep faith for the future. Celebrate the sign He offers, and strive to take it seriously.