Abiding Peace Sung Over You
Written by Stephen Cole
When I think of the timeless Christmas carols “Away in a Manger” and “Silent night,” I remember how my mom always gently rolls her eyes whenever the lines “no crying he makes” and “all is calm” are sung. I am one of five siblings so I understand where she is coming from. I imagine “peaceful” is not the first word she would use to describe the holiday season. However, growing up in a home that celebrated the birth of Christ with parents who intentionally slowed things down to cherish the story of Christ’s birth, I am thankful they taught us various Christmas traditions from the Church that have highlighted the momentous story of the incarnation for generations that gave me a sense of peace rooted in the reminder of the reality of the advent of Christ our King. I see now that my mom and dad were more concerned about having their children understand the deep peace found in Christ rather than just merely appreciating idyllic symbols, songs, and practices. They consistently emphasized deep peace that is found in the sacrificial, humble, and submissive act of the King who came as a helpless infant so that helpless and peace-less humanity could enter a new reality where peace is prince, calm is cultivated, and all tears are wiped away.
As I enter the Advent season this year in my own home, celebrating Christmas with my wife, and looking towards a future of many more together, I am caught in reflective affectionate hopes that Christmas in my home would also be a reminder of this deep transformative peace that sustains the hope found in the King who made himself nothing so that he could save me from a peace-less reality. This is my hope, but I find that with each year that goes by peace seems to be more and more threatened by change, fear, and division. I want to take the time this year to not only remind myself, but hopefully to also remind our Church family that deep peace is a reality in Christ because of what he has done for us. The incarnation marks a move in history that both gently and subversively sweetens change, falters fear, and heals division.
So much change has happened in my third decade of life. I feel as if every few months another big milestone is passed, and though exciting and often unavoidable, change is disruptive and makes peace feel fleeting. From new life that I have witnessed with my two new nephews that joyfully jumped into the world this year, to the sadness of mortality I have been reminded of this year with news of grandparents hospitalized--- knowing their bodies are finding it harder to make it through each day. Amidst the fears of good and bad change; it is hard to find peace. Maybe it is hard for you to find peace this year too? If so, I encourage you to rest in the truth of Christ as King. A King that came so that deep peace can beautifully dance in the midst of change. For each decision and for all the changes to be made in your life this year, remember that you DO have a Wonderful Counselor who is also Prince of Peace. Remember the good news of Christmas:
“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal father, and Prince of Peace.”-Isaiah 9:6
Whatever fear is in your life it is but a speck compared to the Mightiness of God who is FOR you. There is a short story that helps remind me of the simple but powerful truth that whatever fear may be paralyzing us from participating in peace this year cannot stand if we remember that we have a Mighty God who is OUR Father; our Eternal Father:
“There was once a wise teacher who asked his young pupil “do you think a hyena could hurt a lion?” and the boy answered, “I think he would lose in a fight but he might be able to hurt the lion.” The teacher then asked, “could the hyena hurt the lion if the lion was the size of your house?” The boy answered, “not very easily but he could probably bite him and still hurt him a little.” This kind of back and forth happened for a while and then the teacher finally asked, “what if the lion was the size of the universe?” and the boy answered, “I don’t think so.” The teacher than proceeded to tell the boy “the hyena is like all that threatens us in life, chiefly fear, and the lion is like God. The lion cannot be hurt or threatened by the hyena. Does that make sense?” The boy nodded. Then the teacher said, “God is our Father and he protects us. So, the lion who is the size of the universe, is our protector from the hyena, so just as he cannot be threated and hurt so also we cannot be because he stands in the hyena’s way as our protector. In this way, you are safe from fear, and all that threatens, because mighty God the Father is on your side always.”
The holiday season often reminds families and churches of division and brokenness. Maybe something is keeping you from reading the Christmas story again this year or going to Church that just seems so full of division, or even going to see family because it is just too hard. Maybe you feel robbed of peace this year because of disunity in your family or Church. I also feel that division and hurt in family and the church. BUT. I also know that the Prince of Peace came into this divided world as an infant to live and die so that sin, fear, hurt, and death no longer have the final say in how we feel and celebrate this year. Because of the incarnation, brokenness can be made new, division can be reconciled, and amidst change, fear, and division is a God who comes near and breathes peace into conversations, celebrations, hard decisions, hurt, and loss.
We do have a Prince of Peace that does make the words “all is calm, all is bright” make sense despite the darkness and chaos of this life. We do have a Mighty and Eternal Father who is with us in this life and promises an eternity of peace with Him if we but trust Him. And we do have a Wonderful Counselor who is the Holy Spirit that makes His home in our hearts so that the turmoil of this world is made bearable and so that hope grows as we celebrate the life and light that entered the darkness of this world on Christmas that we might have calm in our souls. That we would have deep abiding Peace.
I hope your reflection on Christ this Advent helps to grow your view of the Prince of Peace who is near even amid change, fear, and division.
One last thought: I want to leave you with a practical way that I have found helpful to spend more time in the true and peace giving story of Christmas. Each Christmas season, listening to Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God Christmas album is a way for me to soak in the story of Christ. Andrew Peterson masterfully wrote a collection of Christmas songs that tells the FULL story of Jesus from the Old Testament to Christ’s birth in a deep, real, creative, and lively way.
If you are interested more in this album here is a blog on Andrew Peterson’s website detailing the collection of songs that he created about 20 years ago.
The reason I end with sharing this is because Christ’s peace is in some ways like good gospel-centered Christmas music. It is playing over and during the craziness of the Christmas season singing abiding, comforting, and transformative truth over our lives whether we are sitting on the couch enjoying some hot chocolate or going through something very hard due to change, fear, or division.
Whether it is from timeless Christmas carols (that my mom may not totally agree with) like “Silent Night”, or singing corporately during a Waypoint Advent worship service, I encourage you to let the story of Christmas be sung over your life this year by a God who deeply loves YOU. Let His deep abiding peace change your life.
Happy Advent and Merry Christmas!