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Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 14:27

Peace is hard to come by. In our world, it is difficult to find a point of agreement on just about anything: politics, religion, philosophical beliefs on topics ranging from parenting to leadership to morality to social justice. We just can’t seem to find common ground, even on the fundamentals. The truth is, there has never been a time in history when we all agreed on every matter and every point of view. There have always been conflicting thoughts, opinions, and perspectives. That is life. However, never before has there been such animosity, hatred, and the absence of peace in the midst of our differences. It’s not that we can’t get along or find common ground. It’s that we won’t.

Interestingly, we all long for peace. And yet, in that longing, we create more and more of an atmosphere void of peace. We push so hard to get our point across – believing that peace will be attained by uniformity – that we sever relational strings that have long held us together.

I’ve often wondered what was it like during the four-hundred-year intertestamental time – that time between the Old Testament and the New Testament? What about it made Isaiah refer to it as a time of “darkness and fearful gloom”? What was happening?

The intertestamental time was a era fraught with conflict. The difference between this period following the Old Testament and the advent of Christ was that there was complete silence from God. There were no prophets speaking and warning, bringing God’s word to the people. There was no Jesus disrupting the status quo. There was nothing. No voice of conviction nor comfort. Just silence.

And in that silence was longing.

Judas Maccabeaus, the leader of the rebellion against the Seleucid king, Antiochus IV Epiphanes – who desecrated the Temple in order to impose Greek culture and religion onto the Jewish people – led the fight which eventually brought political freedom to the small nation of Israel. But this only lasted eighty years – the span of a life. The Roman empire, which was the ruling kingdom at the time of Christ’s birth, swiftly conquered the independent Judea.

The Hebrew word for peace, shalom (שׁלום) is derived from a root denoting wholeness or completeness, and its frame of reference throughout Jewish literature is bound up with the notion of shelemut, i.e. perfection.

Dr. Aviezer Ravitzky

From the final prophetic word to the time of Christ was around four-hundred-years. And even though Israel won their freedom for a short period of time within that long timeframe, there was still an emptiness.

The Maccabees attained a form of liberation, but even that was still considered, by the absence of documentation by the prophets, as a dark and fearful time. Why?

Because God was silent.

Imagine a world without God’s voice. Imagine no word from heaven. No Holy Spirit speaking and nudging hearts and minds.

Heaven was silent.

As much as man tried to restore peace, true peace had not yet come.

It wasn’t until Jesus Christ, the Messiah, entered into the story that peace – shalom (שׁלום) – illuminated the darkness and the gloom. Jesus was the embodiment of perfection, the heart of peace. And his peace brought wholeness and completeness.

Christ’s peace was not the manmade manufactured kind, and knowing that the disciples would encounter more gloom and darkness, He brought words of comfort:

My peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.

His peace is the assurance of his presence, his grace, his justice, and his truth. Christ wasn’t going to leave them in silence. He promised the Holy Spirit to them.

I do not give to you as the world gives.

He warned them that the peace the world will try to attain and put into practice will not suffice…it will leave them wanting. The world cannot give the kind of peace that aligns with perfection. Only God can.

Along with truth and justice, peace is among the most hallowed Jewish values.

Dr. Aviezer Ravitzky

In this season of “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” let us not confuse our earthly methods of creating and attaining peace to the kind of peace that Jesus promised to us. If we are looking to a political victory or a win in an argument, we are going to be sorely disappointed. That peace, the world’s peace, will never satisfy the longings of our hearts.

It is the assurance that Christ gives us, and we are reminded of every year as we anticipate the wonder of Christmas, of his presence, his voice, his coming again. We can hold on to that. In Christ’s kingdom, unlike all the ancient kingdoms come and gone, truth, justice and peace will reign. We can cling to that, and in the midst of this broken world, we can surely find peace.

In what, or in whom, are you looking for the promise of peace?

Christ promised us his peace, a peace that brings wholeness and completeness. As you anticipate the celebration of Christ’s birth, what facets of his character bring you peace?

What challenge are you facing that is causing anxiety for you today? How can Christ’s promise of peace bring a calm to your weary mind and heart? What hole in your life are you trying to fill yet failing to close the gap and achieve wholeness? What do you need to release to God today so that you can stand secure in his perfect peace?

Silent Night

Silent Night, Holy Night

All is calm, all is bright

Round yon virgin mother and child

Holy infant so tender and mild

Sleep in heavenly peace,

Sleep in heavenly peace.

Joseph Mohr

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