It is called by many names: paz, shalom, pax, salaam, shanty, eirene, phyongh/wa. In English, we call it “peace”. Whatever the name people give to it, it is that same priceless, inestimable treasure for which all hearts so desperately long. More than we want any thing, any experience, any possession, or pleasure, we yearn for the tranquility, the serenity, the sense of well-being that is peace.
There is something about the Season of Advent that stirs our longings for peace. The lights, decorations, carols, and memories, make us want to know more about the peace that Jesus, the Prince of Peace, brings.
We are fortunate that the Bible is rich in its exposition of peace and in how people can experience peace in daily life. The Bible actually speaks of two dimensions of peace that can be ours through the Prince of Peace: there is peace with God, and the peace of God.
Advent is a time when we celebrate God entering into time and space, to clothe himself in our humanity, to take up our cause, so that we might have peace with God. But more than bringing us peace with God, the Prince of Peace also brings us his very own peace, the peace of God.
On the night before Jesus gave his life, he promised his own peace to all who would believe in him: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid” (John 14:27). Jesus is the Prince of Peace who provides peace with God and the peace of God.
Several years ago I heard a story that has helped me to better understand the Prince of Peace and the peace he affords. I learned this story as I had the privilege to host the missionary Don Richardson. Don had written a book that had been made into a movie, titled, “The Peace Child.”
It was a compelling story Don told of how in 1961, he and his wife, and seven month old baby, had gone to minister to the Sawi people in what was then Dutch New Guinea. The Sawi had been cannibals and headhunters who lived in isolation from the outside world, and were ravaged by dysentery, malaria, hepatitis, and tribal warfare.
Don and his wife worked hard to communicate to the Sawi the love of Jesus. Don learned to speak fluently the difficult, yet unwritten language of Sawi, but it seemed as though their cultural differences were insurmountable.
But most disturbing was when Don told them the story about Jesus’ death they thought Judas was the hero and Jesus the dupe to be laughed at. In a culture that valued treachery and cruelty they cheered Judas for setting up Jesus for the kill. All the while Don was trying to tell them about Jesus’ love the warfare among the Sawi villages threatened their very existence. But it was in that tragic situation that Don happened upon a way to most effectively communicate the truth Good News of Jesus Christ.
As the Sawi tried to somehow bring the fighting and killing to an end, Don watched one day as people from different villages come together for a Sawi peace summit. Don saw fathers take their young sons and hand them over to the enemy. With the handing over of their sons to the enemy the fighting was stopped, and peace was secured. The Sawi called the child handed over to the enemy to win peace, the “Peace Child.”
Don Richardson saw in the handing over of the Peace Child the truth of God’s own Peace Child, Jesus Christ. As Don then told the Sawi about God giving his only begotten Son as the Peace Child to secure peace, many of the Sawi believed in Jesus. Eventually the New Testament was translated into the Sawi language and today there is a thriving Sawi Church among people who had been headhunters and cannibals.
The Apostle Paul had once been at war with God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but came to believe and rejoice in God’s Peace Child. Paul wrote to the Roman Christians about the peace that Jesus Christ brings: “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). During this Season of Advent and Christmas we too rejoice and celebrate the peace that Jesus Christ brings. This booklet of daily devotions has been prepared with a prayer for God’s peace to you in this season and the coming year. May you experience the peace of which the angels sang: “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth!”