“Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people he favors!'” (CSB – Read the chapter)
When are you the most at peace? I’ll give you a hint: It’s probably not when it feels like everything is flying apart in midair on you. We’re generally the most at peace when everything is going well; when it’s all happening according to our plan. Having the ability to make certain things are going according to our plan, though, is not a universal thing. It tends to be a thing directly connected to the amount of resources a person controls. In other words, it’s easy to be at peace when you’re rich. When you’re poor? Well, life’s just harder then. The peace Jesus came bringing with Him, though, is for everyone no matter what their resource level may be.
Every television show has a formula. All of them. The trick to any successful media content is to find a formula that works (i.e. generates consistently good content and loyal viewers) and stick with it. If you have any doubts about this theory, consider the cultural behemoth that is the Hallmark movie. Their formula is so successful that every made-for-television romantic comedy copies it no matter which network is producing it. All of them. They’re all the same. I can predict what will happen next in any entry in the genre based on which commercial break you’ve reached. The other night, when we were watching one we had started the night before, our spot hadn’t been saved. (I know, how inconvenient to have to actually fast forward to your last viewing point!) I found our spot quickly based on how many commercial breaks we were from the end.
Before this becomes its own rant about something completely unrelated to Advent, let me get to my point. When it comes to home improvement and remodeling real estate shows, the formula is that at about the halfway point, some element of drama enters the picture. The contractor suddenly discovers the project is going to have to go way over budget because of some unforeseen complication; an order of some critical element is going to be delayed; one of the homeowners or home buyers changes their minds; or any one of a number of other possibilities. In short: something goes wrong. The happy, smooth, easy, peaceful process is critically derailed.
And what the audience is being groomed to think and feel when this turn of events unfolds is: Those poor people. It must be awful having to deal with something like that. But then you think about it for a minute and realize: These people are all upset, their peace is shattered, because their home remodeling project isn’t going according to plan. You know what those are? Rich people problems. Poor people don’t remodel their homes. They get them good enough to live in safely…or mostly safely…and make do with what they’ve got. Fretting over a home renovation encountering setbacks is not on the same level as worrying about putting food on the table or even just having a home in the first place.
Yet in our culture, we are told to worry more about the one than the other. The stories we are told are more concerned with the one than the other. The sum total of our media environment communicates to us that peace is something for the rich to obtain. After all, if you’ve got enough money, you can solve any problems that come your way. In the chaotic and conflicted season we are in, it is the wealthiest people who are able to still travel to exotic places (understanding that sometimes the next county over may be as exotic as it gets right now) and have parties and send their children to private schools that have stayed open and so on and so forth, while the poorer among us have just had to make do. If you’ve got the resources, you can have the peace. If you don’t, too bad for you. That’s just the way the world works.
It is not, however, the way the kingdom of God works. When the Prince of Peace was born into this world, the peace He came bringing with Him was not something that just those who could afford it could experience. It was for everybody. No one was left out. And the reason was simple. Like we talked about yesterday, this peace isn’t something you or I can obtain by any amount of effort. Resources don’t matter. Instead, it is the result of pursuing the life of Christ in the whole of our lives.
This kind of thing, though, is not how we normally think and operate. We prioritize the haves over the have-nots every chance we get. The haves do that naturally, but the have-nots join in the sorting because it allows them to either live vicariously through someone else or to have a convenient target for their hard feelings over not being among this other group. Because of this, when Jesus arrived and the Father announced the birth like any proud dad would do, the first people who got the news were not the ones we would have ushered to the front of the line. The rich and powerful never even got a notice. Instead, the heavenly host made a grand appearance for a group of smelly shepherds on the outskirts of town. The sky glowed with their glory as they proclaimed the joyous news that heaven had come to earth and the result would be peace for all people.
Here’s the truth in this for us to lay hold of: We are included in “all people.” You are included in “all people.” The peace of God is something that you can experience. No matter what may be going on in your life, how great your circumstances may be or how horrible they are, God’s peace can be yours. His coming in Christ was for that very purpose. All it takes is a willingness to trust in Him and live life His way. Would you do it?