Yesterday I wrote about Shalom – the Old Testament word for “peace,” which also means restoration and completeness and “how things are meant to be.” I think this is what our world longs for…we all know that something is broken in our world. It must be, because children get sick and die in our world, seemingly healthy people get diagnosed with cancer in our world, people commit suicide in our world. These things happen daily, and they tell us that something is terribly wrong, something is broken here.
Faced with these realities, we might find ourselves overwhelmed. We might want to give in to despair. We might want to stop believing that the Biblical idea of Shalom, peace, is possible in our world. While I certainly understand that temptation, I also think it is a bit of a cop-out. Because if we say that peace is not possible, it gives us an out…we don’t have to strive for peace because it isn’t really possible.
But we are called to be agents of peace in this world. We are called to be those who live the ways of peace, of Shalom, of how-it-is-supposed-to-be-ness. That is part of what it means to follow Jesus – to work towards those things that may seem impossible to us, but that are for the good of us all.
The prophet Isaiah writes:
Lord, you will grant us peace;
all we have accomplished is really from you.
O Lord our God, others have ruled us,
but you alone are the one we worship.
Isaiah 26:12-13 NLT
I think peace has to begin with faith. With the trust that says that God will bring about what seems impossible to us. That God is big enough to bring about what seems impossible to us, and that all the other things we might put our trust or our faith in are not big enough to accomplish peace.
When Jesus was born, it was not into a peaceful time and place. He came into the midst of our broken, messed up world. (Remember, after his birth, a whole bunch of babies were killed as Herod tried to protect the power that he held as King.) He came to show us what Shalom looks like in bodily form, in a life lived out, in choices made and in lessons taught. And ultimately, eternally, in a life laid down in sacrifice.
Often at Christmas we like to focus on the little baby Jesus, but one of the things those of us who preach regularly strive for is to keep the whole story of Jesus in mind at Christmas. To remember the messy bits as well as the pretty bits. To remember the sacrifice and betrayal as well as the birth and Resurrection. Because it is only in the complete story of Jesus (which begins with creation, according to John) that Shalom, peace, the-way-it-is-meant-to-be is found.