False Peace

Christmas cactusThe other night I watched the last half of a made-for-TV Christmas movie, a romance between a guy who couldn’t stand Christmas and a widow with a nine-year-old son who saw Christmas as EVERYTHING. As their individual motives unfold, we learn that the woman’s husband had been in the military and was killed three years earlier, four days before Christmas. She decided she didn’t want to spoil her son’s Christmas by giving him the news about his father, so she pretended everything was fine and went about creating the most perfect Christmas possible.

Ever since, she has tried even harder to make Christmas like a story-book holiday so her son won’t miss his father too much. The thing is, the boy confides in the I-hate-Christmas boyfriend that he feels sad but doesn’t let on because his mom has gone to so much work to make a magical Christmas. But all the lights, garland, decorations, cookies and candy, presents, and trees can not substitute for the boy’s dad.

That part of the movie defines false peace, I think. The idea is that peace consists of externals—just the right decorations, just the right presents, just the right dinner menu, just the right people, just the right met-expectations.

But if just one thing slips—one person changes plans, one ornament breaks, one string of lights doesn’t work, one pot boils over, or one sink clogs, then peace is shattered.

Interestingly, I experienced a little of this shattering today. I’d gone shopping for a gift for our church Angel Tree venture—a very cool opportunity to buy a present for a child whose parent is in prison—had stopped to get a Christmas gift bag, then delivered it to church. On my way home, I’m feeling happy because I picked up a few other items I needed and because I love Angel Tree. I even volunteered to help deliver some of the presents.

I’m on my way home thinking about this blog and settle on writing about false peace. When I get my packages out of the car and walk to the door of my apartment, I notice something is amiss with my flowers on the porch. Again.

In October someone had taken my Christmas cactus, the last plant of my mom’s that I had. At Thanksgiving my sister had given me clippings from her Christmas cactus—the one she’d gotten from mom. Now that plant, pot and all, was gone.

I have no idea why anyone would take that plant. It makes no sense to me—it certainly would not be of any value to anyone else. But because it’s something from my mom, it matters to me.

Yet when I came inside after looking around to see if perhaps whoever took it had put it in the backyard or in the trash, I realized I had a choice. I thought about skipping blog writing. Who wanted to write about peace?

Well, of course that hit me between the eyes. Was my peace dependent upon a plant? Upon a sentimental connection with my mom? That’s false peace, as much as the Christmas folderol the character in that movie clung to.

My memory of my mom is not tied to that plant. It’s a thing—not one I wanted to lose, but not one that defines my life as peace-filled or despairing.

I can try again, if my sister will give me more cuttings. I’ll buy a new pot and put this one inside. And this one will not only remind me of my mom; it will remind me that my peace does not depend on that plant that can be here today and gone tomorrow.

In fact, my peace doesn’t depend on any of the temporal stuff of this life. Peace is first and foremost reconciliation with God, and that is dependent only on my relationship with Jesus Christ. Because He loves me, gave His life for me, sent His Spirit to be with me, what more can I want?

A plant?

I have the hope of heaven and the joyful anticipation of spending eternity with Christ my Savior and with all the saints who have gone on before me—my parents, my grandparents, several uncles and aunts, even some friends, as well as a host of faithful followers of God whom I have yet to meet.

I love flowers. But Scripture says more than once that the flowers fade. Their glory is a passing thing. The Christmas cactus is a perfect example of that. It blooms once a year, and is glorious, but those flowers fade and fall off. They don’t last.

True peace, not the false kind, is rooted in the permanence of the everlasting relationship we can have with God through Jesus Christ.

Published in: on December 9, 2014 at 6:09 pm  Comments Off on False Peace  
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Peace On Earth

Red_Christmas_candlesWeek two of the Advent season, and my church is focusing on Peace.

When Jesus was born, an angel appeared to a group of shepherds and announced that a Savior, Christ the Lord had been born that night. A host of angels then joined him saying, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth, peace among men with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14).

The KJV skewed the angelic praise by translating it, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will to men.” The logical conclusion was that Jesus would bring an end to conflict on earth, that God would treat humankind with good will. And of course, history is filled with war and any number of “not good will” kinds of circumstances.

The hope of the Jewish people at the time was that the Messiah would set up an earthly kingdom and rule as David had during the golden age of Israel’s history. He conquered their enemies and brought peace. He brought the ark of the covenant to his city, Jerusalem, and set in motion the construction of the great temple, the house of God. He instituted sacrifices and the appointed feasts before the LORD, in accordance with the law, blessed his subjects, and gave them each a gift.

When David had finished offering the burnt offering and the peace offering, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts. Further, he distributed to all the people, to all the multitude of Israel, both to men and women, a cake of bread and one of dates and one of raisins to each one. Then all the people departed each to his house (2 Samuel 6:18-19).

This was the kind of Messiah the Jews were looking for.

People in more recent times haven’t done much to change the false idea perceived about the angels’ blessing. Granted, we recognize that Jesus didn’t come to establish His kingdom in the here and now. Instead we either ascribe His peace to the future or to an internal peace each person can achieve in the midst of the turmoil around us.

I do think God wants us to have peace in our hearts regardless of the circumstances that can throw life into confusion, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the peace to which the angels referred.

The peace inside us depends to a degree on us, as we’ll see later in the week, but the peace the angels announced came as a result of the birth of this Messiah. So what peace did Jesus bring, what peace does He give?

The peace of Jesus is the result of reconciliation with God. Without Jesus, a person is in rebellion to God. But Jesus rescues us from the dominion of darkness. He makes possible peace with God—not just a truce, but full-blown peace. We are no longer at enmity with Him if we have become those with whom He is well pleased.

Yikes! What do we have to do to please God? Well, nothing.

This well-pleased position is also something that comes to us from Jesus. In fact, the word used in Matthew 3:17 translated “well-pleased” which God declared about Jesus at His baptism is the same word used here for those God will favor with peace.

It is Jesus with whom the Father is well-pleased. Through Jesus we are reconciled to God—brought into relationship with Him, afforded peace with Him.

That above all else is the peace of Christmas. Yes, there’s more, but without that life-changing peace that ends our determination to go our own way and puts us in right standing with God, there is no peace, only temporary truces.

Published in: on December 8, 2014 at 6:24 pm  Comments (1)  
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