“Peace on earth; good will towards men.” A proclamation and a promise.
But so many things threaten to undo our peace.
Intermittently, circumstances and the pace of life chip it away. Sometimes it is sin committed against us; while at other times, our own sin unconfessed. Sometimes we grieve loss of various kinds in a world turned upside down. And sometimes we watch or are the prodigal sprinting to a supposed “safe place,” a place of assumed comfort, only to find it is anything but calm for neither addictions, denials, nor hidden places where we seek to bury our shame offer the peace for which we long.
Sometimes it’s obedience in a long direction. But, though that “delayed obedience” may take a winding path, when it ultimately returns to the Truth, the enemy of our soul cringes. The light of Truth dispels the shadows of the dark places and we find grace!
And sometimes it is loving unbelievers bent on denying the reality of Christ or reaching out to believers who confess the name of Jesus but think and live like it makes no difference. Yet, we do not compromise our words or actions to appease in order to make another “feel” false comfort or misplaced confidence. Rather, unashamed, we speak what is true out of a great love for them and for our Savior so they will “know the hope!” Boldly, we approach the throne of grace on their behalf.
And a tremble can be felt.
We are setting holiness in motion; allowing God to reign and work. The enemy of our souls can wound our spirit, make us uncomfortable, insert sadness, stoke discouragement, or prompt tears.
But He cannot destroy us.
We can have rest.
“The weary world rejoices” and so can we as we set our minds on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy!” We choose, in faith, to reject the lies (and sometimes even what is reality) that pierce our soul; all because of the our God penetrating the darkness and coming in flesh on that holy night! Pain is real but so is the Savior who has promised peace for the brokenhearted, a way of return for the runner, rest for the weary.
Even sin does not have to separate any further. No, we don’t always follow perfectly, but we are in this world to be Christ’s image bearers, pursuers of His excellent way, and we have been given the power to overcome and to grow in that likeness. When we fail (and we will), we can run to the Savior and humbly go to those we have wounded or sinned against and make it right. We can admit to those who have witnessed our failure and cynically thought, “Well, there you go – I see there’s really no difference in a follower of Christ” that we have failed and so need the Redeemer. But we do not live in the expectation nor resignation of failure! We live as one redeemed and being continually changed by the transforming grace of God. For the difference is not in us; it’s in the Savior, born that silent night who would die and be raised by the same divine power that “…has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence!” (2 Peter 1:3)
We have not only the obligation but the privilege of laying whatever entangles us at the cross, reminding those who watch that our hope is in Jesus and our desire is to become more like Him daily, to increasingly want His will not ours, and to understand and live out the beauty of His holiness a little more with each passing day and year. And by His grace, we have that One who forgives us, picks us up, embraces us, brushes us off, then sends us out to “go and sin no more.” We are great sinners, but we have a greater Savior! (paraphrased from John Newton)
And so, in the moments, there are times we will have a settledness in our souls and others when restlessness will haunt us. But, for the follower of Jesus Christ, we are at peace with God through the finished work of His Son, who came as babe in that sleepy town, crashing through the barrier between those who bear His image and our three times holy God, devastating death there on the cross with “Tetelestai” – “It Is Finished!” The condemnation of our sin is paid for, defeat by discouragement has been decimated, and we, who long for the Savior’s return, keep “working out our salvation with fear and trembling” so that we are growing deeper in His truth and in His love, able to enter that respite and “shake off our fears.”
And it all began on that not so silent night!
We long for His return even when we feel too attached to this world.
“Peace on earth; good will towards men.” A proclamation and a promise. The now and the not yet! Gazing on the babe in the manger, we remember what was to come – His finished work on the cross and His resurrection to life! And we await our soon and coming King once more!
This is Christmas! The longing for Jesus to break through darkness and discouragement, hold us near to His heart, and equip us to rest even when circumstances cause our spirits to sometimes faint, even falter!
Christopher West says it well, reminding us of the reality of hope we find even in our weariness: “This is the Christmas story in a nutshell: The Infinite One has wed himself to our finite humanity. This is what we’re preparing ourselves for during Advent. And this is why Advent is a time of desire: The bride is longing to be filled with the eternal life of her bridegroom. And so she cries in union with the Spirit of God: “O come, O come, Emmanuel.”
And Emmanuel has come. It is finished!