“Peace on earth, goodwill to men”
I don’t know what your year has held. Perhaps like mine it has had its hard days amongst the good. But as we during these final few days of Advent look towards Christmas we get to celebrate that amongst the messy, the hard and the difficult, God is with us.
No matter what is going on in your life, no matter the hard times or the heart breaking. No matter the injustices or the wrongs, we can let the truth of Christmas resonate in our hearts – that God is with us. You see even in the midst of the sometimes not so merry circumstances Jesus – Prince of Peace, the Wonderful Counsellor is there with us. The promise of peace on earth, goodwill to men is an invitation for us today, a reality for us today.
We celebrate at Christmas not only that Christ was born but that He lived and lives today!
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
Life is busy and often all go. But several times a day, I have an “enforced” rest. A time when I sit, holding my little baby in my arms for his bottle. It is in these precious times that we will look into each other’s eyes. I’ll whisper words of love to him, share dreams and hopes. It’s an intimate moment.
It reminds me in some ways of the traditional Maori greeting, the Hongi. This is the pressing of one’s nose and forehead to another person at an encounter, a time of greeting. The Hongi is the exchange of the ha, the breath of life. A sacred ritual that from its action causes two people to share breath.
For us Christians, this breath of life is the promise of Christ. That in our hardest times, in our times of weariness or waiting, in our times when we are acutely aware of our weakness, God is there with us. Sharing our breath, sharing our pain. But also bringing His Light, bringing His strength, bringing His Spirit.
This Christmas may we know the breath of Heaven anew. That God would bring His light to our darkness and would be forever near.
Breath of heaven
Hold me together
Be forever near me
Breath of heaven
Breath of heaven
Lighten my darkness
Pour over me your holiness
For you are holy
Breath of heaven
“Just then, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. For behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today in the City of David a Saviour has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord!” (Luke 2:9-11)
Great joy! That’s what the birth of Jesus brings! It is the unfolding of God’s plan for our redemption. For all people. Not just the wise, not just the nobility or the rich. All people. The hardworking shepherds on the outskirts of Bethlehem. It included them. The Wisemen from different lands, it included them. It includes all of us.
As we sing in our Kiwi carol Te Harinui, this is the great and glorious word! That God would come to earth to make a way for us to call Heaven home. To entrust us with the gift of His Son.
Te Harinui translates from Maori as “The Big Happy”. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate translation! Christmas is a time to celebrate, to remember with great joy God’s gift to us. This is definitely big Happy news!
‘Once in our world a stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world.’ (C.S. Lewis)
I love words. If I could collect words as much as I apparently collect handbags I would! But sometimes our English language lets us down. It just doesn’t do justice to what we’re trying to convey.
In this second week of Advent I find that to be very much the case with the word peace. When we read that Jesus is the Prince of Peace, that the angels proclaimed at His birth “Peace on Earth” we can be forgiven for thinking of hippies doing the peace sign and assume it only means an end to war, an end to disturbance.
But it goes much deeper than that. The Hebrew word for peace is Shalom. And Shalom also means harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquillity.
I don’t know about you but I think I need quite a lot of that in my life! Yes to peace! Yes to wholeness! Yes to prosperity! And as my boys are soon to finish school for the summer, yes to some times of tranquillity in the weeks ahead!
So my friends, Shalom, Shalom to you and your household!
O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight
I’m sure all of us hold many hopes for the future. Dreams for what we hope it holds. Hopes and desires for our families, for work, for our passions. We can also carry fears for the future. Of what could happen, fears of what we think lies ahead. It’s like a coin – two sides – hopes on one side, fears on the other.
It’s why I love the line in the carol “O little town of Bethlehem” which says
“The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” A baby, born in the little town of Bethlehem, is the answer to all our hopes and fears. We can trust our thoughts of the future – whether they are hopes or fears to Jesus.
And when we entrust our hopes and fears to Him, we will find rest. We will find peace.
“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him.” (Psalm 62:5)
The Christmas Season is upon us. Most of the season will be spent in preparation for the celebration of Christmas day. The purchasing of presents, the gathering of food, the decorating of our homes. Today in my household the furniture is being rearranged to make room for the Christmas tree to be put up.
As I prepare my home for Christmas, I can’t help but think how much this part of Christmas echoes the Israelites as they awaiting their Messiah. The waiting, the expectation, the hope.
Even though I am busy with my preparations, I feel the peace, the anticipation for Christmas Day and all its wonderful celebrations. I feel my heart begin to fill again with the joy of Christmas. The carols playing in the background begin the call to focus and remember the birth of Jesus.
This season may be frantic as our calendars fill up with events, but as we prepare our homes for Christmas let’s not forget that once a people waited too. Let’s remember also that this waiting foreshadows another day still to come, when Jesus comes again.
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.