Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
So where exactly is this peace that we were promised?
Maybe as a Christian – as a minister! – I’m not supposed to ask questions like that. If I’m honest, though, this is the way that I feel much of the time. That famous angelic proclamation sounds wonderful on a Christmas card, but it doesn’t seem to describe the world in which I live.
Everywhere I turn, it seems more like war than peace. Someone is criticizing my work. Or I’m dealing with the internal struggle to be a good person. There are arguments with loved ones and personal hardships that cause tension in my relationship with God.
And that doesn’t even touch on the amount of war and heartache that we see on the news every night. Our world is one that is filled with pain and conflict. Peace seems like a fleeting hope rather than a present reality.
If the angels were announcing protection from conflict or pain, then it was an empty promise. Even Jesus’ life was not free from this human condition. His life certainly wasn’t the model of peace, either. He faced opposition wherever he went. And when anyone’s life ends in murder, you cannot describe it as peaceful.
I think my expectations of what peace entails are off kilter a bit.
A few weeks ago I talked the 23rd Psalm – how Advent was like a banquet in the presence of our enemies. In another psalm, David describes peace this way:
O Lord, I have so many enemies;
so many are against me.
So many are saying,
“God will never rescue him!”
But you, O Lord, are a shield around me;
you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.
I cried out to the Lord,
and he answered me from his holy mountain.
I lay down and slept,
yet I woke up in safety,
for the Lord was watching over me.
I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies
who surround me on every side.
– Psalm 3:1-6
So just like the banquet table, peace is like being surrounded by enemies but being able to take a peaceful nap. Like sleeping peacefully in the back of a boat in a raging storm. It’s knowing that even in the midst of conflict, pain and war, God is our protection.
Because although not all is solved in our world, resolution is coming.
So where is the peace we were promised? It’s right in front of us. As Martin Luther King, Jr said, “Peace is not the absence of war but the presence of justice.” When we are following Jesus in helping the poor, we can rest easy at night. When we live lives of truth and honesty and love and kindness and joy – then peace becomes reality in a broken world.
So today may you experience peace in the midst of conflict. May you provide justice to a world that can be unfair and cruel. And may you lie your head down tonight and rest easy knowing that you follow the Prince of Peace.