Where is the Peace? Where is the Joy?
Anyone remember ‘Silent Night’ sung by Simon and Garfunkel? It was the final track on their album, ‘Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme’. The harmonies were beautiful, but then in the background the 7o’clock news was being read, louder and louder outweighing the Christmas message. The year was 1964 and soon reports on the Vietnam war and America’s race riots were threatening the sweetness of the song. Christmas 2022 in the UK would carry news of Ukraine and the cost of living crisis. Two thousand years ago in Bethlehem it would probably have been about the Roman occupation and the paranoid King Herod who killed his wife and three of his sons!
We sing about ‘Joy to the World’ and ‘Peace on Earth’ but near and far there seems to be much more sorrow and suffering. As Jesus predicted, wars, famines, earthquakes and pestilence or maybe pandemics will continue till the end of time (Luke 21:10-11). In our current crisis of climate change and environmental degradation Nature seems to be groaning not singing (Romans 8:22).
Good News of Great Joy
Yet, that first Christmas night when the angel came to shepherds on the hillside of Bethlehem he announced Good News of a Great Joy for All the People – a baby, a saviour had been born and the sign was a manger! The Angel Gabriel had told Mary he was the Son of God, yet he was born in an outhouse. He would reign over a kingdom without end, yet he was laid in a feeding trough! You would think something had gone wrong, but according to the angel, the manger was part of the sovereign plan.
God came very low to be our Saviour, and this news was so amazing that Heaven exploded with an army of angels – myriads and myriads praising God!
‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace for those on whom his favour rests.’
God’s rescue mission had begun in a manger, and so it would continue. Later in Luke’s Gospel we read Jesus had nowhere to lay his head (Luke 9:58). He would humble himself to a feeding trough, then taking the form of a servant he would die for our sins, a shameful death on the Cross (Phil 2: 6-8). This is where we find real peace – peace with God. God and sinners reconciled. That’s the real peace on which all other expressions of lasting peace depend.
Almost 50 years ago – I became aware of the holy presence of God and like the shepherds I was afraid. My lostness felt very dark, yet God’s love drew me close. I gave him my ugly secrets and he gave me his peace. It felt like Christmas – Jesus had been born in my heart and I was filled with unspeakable joy. Peace with God, peace with myself and a deep desire to have peace with others.
Global Peace and Joy
There is a global aspect to this peace. We mustn’t stop at chapter 2 of Luke’s Gospel! Jesus tells us that wars will continue till the end of time, but then Jesus will return to judge the nations and put everything right. His kingdom will fully come bringing peace on earth, joy to the world and a new creation delivered with us from decay and death.
Make room for him now, join the angels in glorifying God and his favour of peace and joy will fill our hearts as we enter 2023. Join the shepherds in spreading the good news that lasting peace and joy are only found in the Saviour, Christ the Lord!