Peace at Christmas

Christmas Eve is without a doubt my favorite night of the year. But probably not for the reasons you may be thinking. Ever since I can remember, the Christmas greeting of “Peace on Earth,” resonated with me. Early on, to me that meant a cessation of hostilities. A world without war. A world where people got along. Last year, I took a cruise and one of our stops was the island of Bonaire. I explored the small island. As we passed through one community, we were told the police department there was closed due to a lack of business. I thought, “How wonderful that they don’t need a police department.”  Obviously, if they had a problem, a department from another part of the island could respond. 

But as I grew and matured (some say that hasn’t happened yet) I realized that the world’s peace and God’s peace are two different things. In John 14:27 it is recorded “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (NASB).” Did you get that? Jesus’ peace is a different kind of peace, not the world’s peace. What is different about this peace that Jesus brings? I had a friend who once made a statement to me that God’s peace is the only thing that Satan cannot counterfeit. Some have described Satan as a counterfeit Jesus. He can seemingly replicate many of Jesus’ characteristics. But he cannot replicate the Peace of God. Remember, one of Jesus’ names is Prince of Peace.

But back to why this is my favorite night of the year. Several years ago, we lived near the Interstate highway. When it was quiet, we could go outside and hear the traffic. We also had a dog. And, he required a trip outside every night. It was my custom to take him out around 10:00 pm. When I did that on Christmas Eve. I was struck by the total silence and sense of peace in the air. No traffic was heard from the interstate. No cars drove down the street. It was blissfully quiet. I came to cherish this time every year, and now that I don’t have a dog, I still make it a habit to take a walk during the night. 

I realized that the silence was a tribute to the One whose birthday we were celebrating the next day. As an aside, my paternal grandmother’s birthday happened to be Christmas Day. I sort of got in trouble in Sunday School one year when the teacher asked us whose birthday we celebrated on Christmas. I enthusiastically responded “My grandmother!” That was not the answer she was looking for.  

It never ceases to amaze me that the silence, the lack of hustle and bustle outside, was a tribute to the greatness of God. It’s as if the whole world was stopping to acknowledge or worship the Prince of Peace, the King of Kings. And that this is unique. His birth occurred over 2,000 years ago and we still celebrate His life. Men (and women) have come and gone over those 2,000 years. Some of the greater ones we still remember – for good and bad reasons. But none have had the impact on this world equaling what Jesus did. 

If you’re still with me, you probably would not be surprised to know that my favorite Christmas Carol is “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” This song originated as a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He was a widowed 57-year old father of six and while dining alone of Christmas day he received word that one of his sons was killed in the Civil War. Out of his sorrow came this poem of Pain and Hope. (the story can be found here, along with the complete lyrics The True Story of Pain and Hope Behind “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”).

It concludes with this stanza:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail,The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

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