“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; broken relationships, financial stress, or death that takes one we love far from us. 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.
At times 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 souls cringes at redemption coming to fruition. And now and again it is unbelievers bent on denying the reality of Christ or 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 one “feel” better. Unashamed, we speak truth out of a great love for them and for our Savior so they will “know the hope!”
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, press in on us with 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”* and not let the lies penetrate our soul; our God came in the flesh, penetrating the darkness 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, reconciliation with Himself.
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, light shining in this generation, 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 don’t exalt in our sin or demand a “right” to it. Rather, we set our eyes on that One who came to set us free from those things that threaten to undo us.
We can honestly 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; that we do live as one being changed by the transforming grace of God…a little more each day. For the difference is not in us; it’s in our Savior.
We have not only the obligation but the privilege of laying it down and reminding the watching ones 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 by the power of the Holy Spirit. 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)
We can reach out to the weary, the hurting, the brokenhearted over life circumstances and loss, to be the hands and feet of Jesus; we can listen and we can love.
At various times we will have a settledness in our souls and there will be 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, 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 the 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!