We just celebrated the second Sunday of Advent at church. The service began with a touching scene of a young girl doing an admirable job of reading a verse from Isaiah and then lighting the Peace candle with a little help from her dad and brother. It warmed the hearts of all present to see this young family celebrating Christmas together.
“…On earth peace to those on whom [God’s] favor rests” proclaims the angel in Luke’s gospel.
“And he will be called… Prince of Peace” Isaiah predicts.
But when the Man Himself picks up the mic, He says something we would not expect: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
The discourse goes on to tell how the name of Jesus will divide families and turn family members one against another. This not a license to parents to disown family members who decide not to follow Christ (they are still called to love); it is a warning that the Good News of Jesus will not be universally well received. The reality is that Jesus is not interested in preserving our traditional family values, a veneer of affluent ease, culture and comfort. He came to stir the pot.
And when you think about that reality, it casts a different light on the kind of peace that Jesus does bring.
It may not be the Hallmark picture of Mother, Father and 2.2 children gathered around the fireplace at Christmas. It may look very different. There may be some tears shed, for those not present. It may be a bit lonely. But there is still a kind of peace on offer.
Near the end of Jesus’ commission to His disciples in Matthew chapter ten he promises them this:
“Whoever finds their life will lose it and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”
Lord, I am looking for my life and it is hidden with you. Reveal it to me this Christmas.