Peace Me Together
DECEMBER 23, 2020
We need the peace of God in our hearts, but it seems like so often our lives are fragmented.
We’re falling to pieces rather than experiencing peace. The very last thing we feel is peace. Only the peace of God—the peace that the Prince of Peace came to give us—can piece, keep, and hold us together.
Real life. The peace we want, but the life we have. Can we really have peace? At Christmas, the Prince of Peace came.
Joseph had a real dilemma. He was a man who was anything but at peace. He was in a trial situation and his life was falling apart. Joseph was a righteous man. He was a good Jewish man and a descendant of David. He wanted to live a righteous and upright life. He believed that there was a God who was perfect and gracious, and he wanted to follow this God.
But Joseph was also a righteous man who just found out that his fiancée was pregnant. In Jewish culture in the first century that meant he had to deal with it because they were legally bound together. Here was his dilemma: Joseph wanted to be a righteous man toward God; but according to the Old Testament, if he married Mary, he would then be an adulterer. Joseph was in turmoil: How does he live righteously before God and how does he deal with Mary? Joseph decided that the only way out of this dilemma was to divorce Mary quietly on the side so that she saved face. In doing so, Joseph could be both righteous toward God and righteous in his relationships with other people—Mary.
Then God showed up. “An angel of the Lord appeared to him…” (Matthew 1:20). The angel revealed to Joseph two things he desperately needed to know—Mary was not an adulteress and God wanted him to marry her. Why? Because this child is of the Holy Spirit. In other words, “This is a supernatural thing, Joseph. You can’t understand this, but the reality is that this child will be the Savior of the world.” In the middle of a trial, Joseph got what he desperately needed—the why. When he heard from God the why, he could then carry on with the what of his regular life.
A lot of times, though, we don’t get the why. You go through a trial, your life falls apart, and God doesn’t show up through an angel and tell you why. You desperately want to know the why: Why me? Why did I lose my job? Why did it take a year for me to get another job? Why did this happen? Why is my health falling apart? Why did my child die? Why did I lose my loved one at Christmas time? Why, God, why?
Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.”
Like you, I don’t know the why. I do know that as a parent, I’ve had to say to my kids, “This is what we’re going to do.” They ask, “Why?” So I explain it to them. They still don’t get it or they don’t want to get it. Finally, I end up saying (I suspect you’ve said it too), “Because I said so. When you’re older, you’ll understand. You can’t understand the why now, but trust me. This is the way it’s going to be right now.”
This is a true story. Grace was a missionary and her life dream was to tell people about Jesus Christ, to take the gospel of peace to people overseas. This was years ago and a time in history when the only way to get overseas was to take a ship. The day before Grace was about to embark on the ship, her father became very ill. So she stayed home to care for him. She missed her ship and those ships didn’t come often back then. Grace asked, “God, why? I was doing this for you. I was living for you. Why?” In three days, her father got better. In five days, she heard that the ship went down. Grace got her why. Her bitterness turned into thankfulness and her thankfulness turned into peace.
But frankly, we don’t always get the why. At those times, what is more important than the why is the Who. Not: Why did this tragedy happen? But: Who came to redeem the tragedy and to bring eventual wholeness? The Prince of Peace, Jesus, came. Great was Joseph’s obedience, but greater still was Jesus’ obedience when in the counsel of the Trinity, he said, “Yes, I’ll go.” Jesus came to die and rise again so that we could have peace with God.
Mary was just a teenage girl. Mary was so young and a nobody. She, like Joseph, gained peace by simply obeying God. Mary must have really realized at some point, I think, the truth that God makes big things out of little things.
In the first century, who was everybody talking about? They were talking about Rome. They were talking about Caesar Augustus, the leader of one third of the world’s population. They were talking about Quirinius, the governor of Syria. Luke just throws those names out there (in Luke 2). Today, no one’s talking much about Rome and we’re certainly not talking about Caesar Augustus or Quirinius. They don’t matter. But today, we’re still talking about Mary, Joseph, Jesus and—what’s that little town?—Bethlehem.
This little, insignificant girl got peace because the living God had planned to do something big in her life. How do you feel at Christmas? Do you feel insignificant? Have you been hurt so badly that you feel like you don’t matter? You do matter because the Son of God came for you. Mary, as insignificant as she was, got peace because she knew that she was important to God.
The shepherds were not nice people. In fact, they were at the very bottom of the totem pole of the society of Israel. They were thieves. They were so untrustworthy that they couldn’t stand in testimony in the courts of the Jewish court system. They were also used to being outside. They were used to cold weather and wild animals. The shepherds were hard-boiled guys.
The shepherds were skeptics and unbelievers. They had heard the story of Israel, Israel’s God and the coming Messiah. They didn’t want anything to do with being righteous. They didn’t want to be Jewish; they just wanted to get by. But then God showed up with the truth.
And it drove them to their knees. The angels spoke to them: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:11-12). The baby is the sign. You don’t think any of this is true, but it is. Go to town and look for the baby. Go check it out. They did. And these hard-boiled shepherds came to believe.
You may be a Joseph. If you’re in the midst of a trial, Christmas is the time to remember that, even if you don’t have the why, the Who came to redeem the difficulty of your situation. All you need to know is the Who. Jesus came.
You may be a Mary who felt so insignificant. You are significant. You may feel like you don’t matter. Remember Jesus came because you do matter.
You may be a shepherd—a skeptic and a cynic. You’re not sure you believe any of this stuff. It’s time to look at Jesus, not as a baby, but in his totality as the risen Savior. The sign really happened historically, but when Jesus grew up, what did he say? What did he teach? The truth he taught changed the world with the gospel still spreading today. How did he act? He healed the lame and the blind. He raised people from the dead. Then he himself went to the cross in our place and rose again. This Christmas, start the journey. Jesus is the sign, the way, the truth, and the life.
Somebody said, “Lives lived frantically are more intensely forgotten than lives lived slowly.” I live too frantically. So often I don’t think about what’s important. Christmas is an invitation to think about the things that really matter. Find the peace of the living God, peace in your heart, and peace with others.
Adapted from Pete and Steve’s Advent series, Peace Me Together.