The General's Christmas Message 2020 - A People of Peace
THE year 2020 has been unique, interesting and challenging. We have lived through a global pandemic, the ramifications of which continue to impact our lives.
We have witnessed the best of humanity as communities came together and helped to care for the vulnerable and those who needed to shield. We have seen the worst of humanity as racism cost lives and led to violent protests by demonstrators from varying viewpoints. All of this has combined to both exhilarate and exhaust us throughout this year.
It is into our messed-up, complex, ever-changing, uncertain and perplexing world that Jesus comes as the Prince of Peace. Jesus was familiar with prejudice, oppressive political regimes, institutionalised religion and suffering. So, although the man Jesus lived 2,000 years ago, his words still have relevance because he, as the Son of God, has an eternal perspective.
So, what did Jesus teach us about peace? In the Sermon on the Mount, as he began his teaching ministry, Jesus said: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God’ (Matthew 5:9). Then, in preparing his disciples for his departure and the arrival of the promised Holy Spirit, Jesus says: ‘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).
This is the same Jesus who spoke to the wind and waves, saying, ‘Peace, be still!’ (Mark 4:39 King James Version). To the woman who anointed his feet at Simon’s house, Jesus said, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace’ (Luke 7:50). After explaining many things to his disciples, Jesus said, ‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33).
Peace distinguishes the earthly existence of Jesus. In announcing his birth, the angels declared, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests’ (Luke 2:14). As Jesus appeared to his followers after the Resurrection he would declare: ‘Peace be with you!’ (John 20:21).
If Jesus was so intent on sharing the peace of God with others, we must do the same, but we cannot share with others what we do not first have for ourselves. Consequently, we need to ensure we are living in relationship with God and receive his peace that is beyond our understanding, yet which keeps our hearts and minds secure in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7). It is from this position of peace, of keeping our focus upon God (Isaiah 26:3), that we are able to experience the peace of God in the storms of life and share that peace with others. We are called children of God when we are peacemakers, peace-bringers and peacebuilders because we share the very essence and nature of God with others.
So, in this Advent season and beyond, let us be people of peace. May our very presence bring peace into rooms, situations and lives because we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. May our words be words of peace because we share the words of God. Wherever you are and whatever situation you find yourself in, may you experience the peace of God today.