Ah, Christmas is upon us. There are a myriad of desires during the Christmas season, are there not? At the most shallow level, people desire material goods and a reason to hold celebratory gatherings or revisit family traditions. But if we are to be honest, even after fulfilling all those desires, we often still feel unsettled and, dare I say, unpeaceful. For a season where the concept of peace is a pivotal component of marketing material goods and memorable experiences for fulfillment, without the presence of the Prince of Peace, it leaves us wanting more than being fulfilled. The lack of peace is even more apparent when the festivities are over and we realize the grind of January is right ahead of us – only a mere week away.
And, if we reflect deeper still and past our very own lives, we cannot help but reel at the very apparent lack of peace in the world around us.
Indeed, the cry for peace in this season is easily summed up in the chorus of the popular secular song, “My Grown Up Christmas List.” Here, the singer asks Santa, who is figurative for a higher power of sorts, for “no more lives torn apart” and “that wars would never start” amongst many other cries for justice and fulfillment. Sadly, year after year, this song is sung by well meaning individuals who long for peace but have no actual means to experience, realize and perpetuate true peace. In actuality, even any semblance of peace this world has to offer often comes with begrudging compromise and is temporary and fickle.
For myself, more than previous seasons, this Advent has been marked with a sober recognition of the division and unrest in our world and the futility of the world’s version of peace to suffice and soothe the cry for peace in every human soul. Personal relational conflicts come to mind as well as suffering of all kinds - physical, mental or emotional.
Looking more broadly, there are very apparent deep divisions in our culture and sadly, even within the church. A reflection on this year’s natural disasters recounts the catastrophic damages and lives lost by forest fires, floods and earthquakes. On a global level, this is the first time in my own lifetime to be witness to not one but two ongoing wars and the devastating realities lived by the victims left in the wake of such brutality.
With our culture’s tendency towards escapism into online fantasies or entertainment and consumables, it’s easy to soothe the recoil of our souls to such sad and discordant realities. But the effects from the salve of escape do not last for long. Very soon, we are faced with the truth again and again that all is not right in this world. Specifically, Christians do a disservice to the world when we try to gloss over our own uneasiness of suffering with escapism or with only mere conceptual assent that peace is desirable while doing nothing to make it a reality. Yet, before we get discouraged into a state of idealistic apathy, I want to direct your gaze towards Jesus, our Prince of Peace, who ushered in a “kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).
Ironically, the Bible tells us that the way to peace is through war – but a kind of war that is nothing like the wars we are currently witness to. No matter how noble and defensible each warring faction claims to be, the underlying problem driving all conflict still has its claim over the human heart. Without absolute annihilation and disarmament of sin in the human heart, there will never be true peace.
It follows then, that without the incarnation of Christ and His work on the cross to free us from sin and the kingdom of darkness’ influence into our lives, peace would ever only be a lofty ideal. But Jesus came. And it is this very reality – the incarnation of Christ and the peace He brings with His rule – that we celebrate during Christmas (Isaiah 9:6-7).
As mentioned, the way to peace is through war – war in the spiritual realm between the “kingdom of darkness” and the “kingdom of the Son” (Colossians 1:13). Jesus’ incarnation was the very first assault on that kingdom of darkness and with it, the angels sang to the shepherds: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests” (Luke 2:14).
In his book Deliverance, Jon Thompson writes, “Jesus did not just enter Satan’s kingdom; He invaded. He freed captives. He reclaimed territory … Christmas, then, is an invasion. The Prince of Peace was born to challenge the Prince of the Air [Satan].” As Christians with fleshly tendencies to give into a discouraged apathy for seeing real peace in our world, let us not move too quickly from the wonderful reality that Jesus’ incarnation is an invasion of the kingdom of darkness. Think upon and believe, brothers and sisters, what power and peace this truth affords to those who are part of His kingdom.
To those who belong to King Jesus, this is what He says of you and to you:
- Because “the punishment [for sin] that brought us peace” was laid upon Jesus, you have peace with God Himself (Isaiah 53:5). You are “justified” no longer condemned to hell for any of your own sin (Romans 5:1). In Colossians 1:19-20, Paul makes the direct connection between incarnation and justification: “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell [incarnation], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” The incarnation of Jesus accomplished for us vertical peace.
- You are then made an ambassador of the kingdom, and with peace given to us, we then become “peacemakers” and break down the “wall of hostility” between one another no matter how deep the division. We proclaim peace through the gospel and invade the kingdom of darkness with King Jesus at the helm of the campaign (Matthew 5:9, Ephesians 2:14, Isaiah 52:7). Jesus, incarnated, accomplished for us horizontal peace.
- You are also a soldier in His kingdom engaging in spiritual warfare where He guaranteed trials and tribulations. But when faced with trials of any kind, He says to you, beloved child, “Have peace in me [for] I have overcome the world” and “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled” (John 16:33, John 14:27). The Prince of Peace, the one who is the source of true and lasting peace and holds the very power to bring peace amidst turbulence gives you Himself. The very quality of the peace is not the kind you find in this world; it is ethereal yet so real and abiding. The apostle Paul very much trusted in the power given us to be conquerors of the darkness for Jesus. He prayed, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13). By incarnating, Christ accomplished for us abiding, effectual and liberating personal peace.
As I witness the realities and struggles of the current two wars being fought in the flesh, I cannot help but think of the ongoing daily warfare being waged in the spiritual realm. Every moment and in every life, there is a cosmic battle in the spiritual realm and the victor of that battle, the Prince of Peace or the Prince of the Air, claims the very soul of that life.
My prayer for the church during this Advent season is that we would be awakened to the reality of these warring kingdoms in our lives and in the lives around us. More than that, this season, I pray that we not only move from tendencies of escapism and discouraged apathy towards the ideal of peace but seek to realize it in the lives around us.
I pray that we would live into the reality of the certain victory won by Jesus at the cross and our eternal security and peace with God the Father. I pray that we would be strengthened amidst any trial and tribulation and be granted the supernatural peace that “surpasses understanding” (Philippians 4:7).
This Advent, let us remember His incarnation and that He took the lead on assaulting the kingdom of darkness, even in infanthood. Let us then also look to the advent to come – the coronation of King Jesus as the ultimate victor over the kingdom of darkness bringing true and lasting peace for all eternity.
Until then, let us not become apathetic in the battle against the kingdom of darkness. We shall fight and not lose hope for, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet,” and indeed, may the “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” (Romans 16:20).