Peace in the imperfect
Without knowing what your plans are for this holiday, I can tell you that whatever you do, wherever you go, and with whomever you spend it, your Christmas will not be perfect. But the good news is, it can be peaceful.
Now that may sound like a negative way to begin an article on peace, but let’s be honest. The most wonderful time of the year is also the most stressful time of the year.
We have hope in a Savior who came for us. We have love through a Savior who died for us. We have joy in a Savior who won eternal life for us. But what about the ever elusive peace He promised us?
"I am leaving you with a gift - peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27).
It’s a bit like the story of The Three Little Pigs. We try to keep the Big Bad Holiday Wolf away, yet despite our best intentions, it still seems to catch up with us.
“Little pigs, little pigs, let me come in,” said the holiday wolf dressed in tinsel and bells.
“Not by the hair of our chinny chin chin, we will not let you in,” said the well-intentioned pigs as they lit their Advent candle.
“Then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your peace away,” said the relentless holiday wolf.
And so it usually goes as the holiday comes, and it huffs and it puffs with its whirlwind of parties, presents and planning, and it blows our peace away.
The gift of peace can only come through Jesus
Jesus came into the world giving us the gift of Himself. He died on the cross giving us the gift of a right relationship with His Father. He ascended to heaven leaving us with the gift of peace.
Yet, whether at Christmas or any other time of the year, we all struggle to take hold of that peace. We try our best to fortify ourselves from the madness that comes with the holidays. But we still have moments, days or maybe the whole dang season, where our pulse races, our list looms large and instead of rejoicing to the Giver, we feel and act more like the Grinch.
“One more present to give?!” may slip from your lips with exasperation.
“One more party to attend?!” may enter your thoughts with irritation.
“One more house to visit?!” may drive your attitude with exhaustion
Why is it so hard to receive His gift of peace, especially during a time that is supposed to be all about Him? We could answer in a dozen different ways – death, divorce, depression or just the sheer duty of all the extra things to do this time of year can be daunting.
How do we enter into His peace?
So how do we enter into this promised peace when it feels more like a holiday hurricane?
First, realize that peace is not synonymous with perfection.
Something will go wrong. Maybe it’s just burning dinner or lighting your hair on fire at the Christmas Eve service or surviving the marathon of family gatherings with grace. Or maybe it’s something much harder, like getting through this season while missing a loved one, having lost a job or enduring an illness.
Whatever it is, your Christmas will not be perfect. You will not be perfect. Your family will not be perfect. The circumstances will not be perfect. But Christ was, is and always will be perfect (Hebrews 4:15, I Peter 2:22, I John 3:5, Revelation 1:8).
Before we can have peace on earth, we must first have peace with God. Our sin put us at war with God – made us enemies of God in fact (Romans 5:10). We can do nothing to restore this peace on our own.
Our peace with God only comes through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
While we were totally imperfect and unacceptable before God, Jesus came as an innocent infant, lived the perfect life we could not live, died the gruesome death we should have died, and rose again victorious over our sin and shame (Romans 5:8, I Corinthians 15:57).
“For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The first gift of peace God offers to us is through His Son, so that one day all things will be made perfect when we enter into glory with Him (Revelation 21:4).
The perfect Christmas story has been written; we don’t have to try to write it. The perfect gift has been given; we don’t have to try to give it. All we have to do is receive it.
God has made it inconceivably easy to accept His gift, and thereby, obtain His eternal peace.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).
If you have not confessed Christ as your Lord and Savior, do so now and receive peace with God. If you have received Christ, share Him and His Gospel with others. We will never have peace apart from Christ.
Peace in Greek means one, wholeness, joining all the essential parts together. Similarly, peace in Hebrew (shalom) means completeness. The origins of the word peace are all pointing to a relationship with Christ.
Peace is God’s gift of wholeness to us, eternally and daily, through Jesus.
Second, realize that peace is not synonymous with relaxation.
Peace is not the absence of stress or suffering. It is the fruit of righteousness through Christ and the gift of His Holy Spirit within you (Isaiah 32:17, Galatians 5:22). While we can attempt to create our own tranquility on earth, it will not be a divine peace.
Peace that we purchase may offer relief, but it will not last or satisfy in the long term. Peace that God purchased with the blood of Christ is unlimited and all-satisfying in both the everyday and the eternal (Galatians 3:13, I Corinthians 6:20).
So when you receive hard news, or old family wounds have been opened up, or your heart feels like it might break from the wake of a disappointment, know that you can still have peace through the Holy Spirit who lives in you if you have received Christ.
The presence of God presents the peace of Christ
Peace comes not through perfection or pleasantries but through the presence of God.
“The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:5-7).
God is near in any situation you are facing (Psalm 34:18, 46:1, 145:18, 119:151). If you open your heart to God through prayer – short, blunt requests or long, guttural cries - He will guard your heart and your mind so that you can experience an illogical and God-glorifying peace.
This peace doesn’t come from being on vacation or away from your kids or in a Hallmark movie or a worry-free life. It comes by putting yourself in the presence of God - being prayed up and filled up by His Word and His Holy Spirit.
This peace doesn’t give as the world gives but in spite of what the world is giving (John 16:33).
This peace doesn’t fit into the confines of our comprehension but outside of anything we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20, Philippians 4:13).
This peace doesn't wait for you to be fixed but holds you and heals you when you're falling to pieces (Psalm 147:3).
Maybe you know all of this but finding the time to still yourself before the Lord in the busiest season of the year seems impossible. What then?
Peace without God is impossible
Third, realize peace is not synonymous with a lack of distractions.
Reliance on God isn’t optional but essential during the holidays and every other day. Admit that peace without God is impossible.
“You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace …” (Isaiah 26:3).
Receiving and unwrapping the perfect gift of peace means keeping our minds fixed on Jesus, despite the many distractions around us. We will stumble at times, we will take our eyes off the Author and Perfecter of our faith, but by the grace of God we can begin fresh with just a word of repentance.
When you feel your peace fleeing, quickly reset your course with a prayer, inviting Him back into the situation and stepping back into His presence.
While peace is not synonymous with perfection or relaxation or a lack of distractions, peace is synonymous with being in right relationship with God and others. This means walking in God’s will, being free of guilt and shame, and promoting peace on earth.
“The Lord blesses His people with peace” (Psalm 29:11).
Know that His peace isn’t just for your benefit. Like all things with God, we are blessed to be a blessing, called to reflect Him and bring Him glory. We are called to be peacemakers and to live at peace with everyone as far as it depends on us (Mathew 5:9, Romans 12:18).
Just as we are to be a people marked by hope in God, love for God and others, and joy through God, we are to be a people marked by peace with God and others.
Just as we only enter into peace when we keep our minds completely on Jesus, peace will only enter into us when our utmost priority is to bring Him glory (Luke 2:14).
Peace is the blessed result of communing with the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).
Abide in Jesus and let “the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him” (Romans 15:13).