Peace in place of Affliction, Storms, Despair

Reflection on “Peace” at Christmas (Isaiah 54 & 55)

At Christmas, there’s a lot of talk about “Peace,” but I think that very few people really have grasped the true meaning of Christmas Peace. And I think many of those who have not grasped its meaning are professed Christians.

We often talk about peace in individualistic terms (“Oh, I love to hear peaceful Christmas Carols and look at a peacefully-lit Christmas tree and sip on hot chocolate.”) While that is well and good, and the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping calls for those times of quiet and solitude, “Peace” means so much more.

Peace is the Hebrew word, “Shalom”—one of the most significant words in the Hebrew language.

The best definition of Shalom I’ve read came from Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.

“We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight…the webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.” (Plantinga, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: The Breviary of Sin, p. 10)

So, when Peace is announced at Christmas, it is a grand thing. It is a glorious thing. It is the very transformation of the world from the way it’s not supposed to be into “the way things ought to be.”

When God looks at us in our fallen world, he sees our storm-battered, afflicted state.

“O afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted.” (Isaiah 54:11)

Oh, how we are afflicted.
__Oh, how we are lashed by storms.
____Oh, how we lack comfort.

But, in the midst of this honest assessment, God offers us hope.

__I will build you with stones of turquoise,
__your foundations with sapphires.
I will make your battlements of rubies,
__your gates of sparkling jewels,
__and all your walls of precious stones.
All your sons will be taught by the LORD,
__and great will be your children’s peace.
In righteousness you will be established:
__Tyranny will be far from you;
__you will have nothing to fear.
Terror will be far removed;
__it will not come near you.
(Isaiah 54:11b-14)

God goes on to promise,

You will go out in joy
__and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
__will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
__will clap their hands.
(Isaiah 55:12)

So, when we hear, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14), we should listen with hopeful and expectant ears.

God is offering us Shalom!

The person of Jesus at Christmas brings the GOOD NEWS that The Prince of Shalom has tiumphed over affliction, storms, and despair. There is real hope in the here and now (this isn't all pie-in-the-sky, wait for the future stuff). While we await for the return of the King to bring ultimate Shalom, we can cooperate with His Spirit to bring Shalom into an afflicted and storm-battered world (more on this tomorrow).

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1 comment:

Erika Carney Haub said...

I was at an event last night where Len Sweet was talking about the four broken relationships in need of healing and restoration as a result of the fall: with God, with ourselves, with each other, and with creation. He made the point that we often overlook the ways the promise of salvation (reconciliation and restoration of these four broken relationships) is something holistic. Your post makes the same point by reminding us of the holistic vision of shalom. "The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight"--what an awesome hope we have been given.