Looking around the world sometimes, peace seems scarce. When we turn on the news or log onto any social media platform, we’re greeted with the numbing aggression of an outrage-fueled society. Visceral pundits fill our ears and eyes. Friends and acquaintances eagerly distribute shame and blame as arguments abound. Even many ministers who preach love on Sunday morning are on Twitter spewing malice by Sunday afternoon.
Hate is popular.
Fury is trending.
One-liners are mistaken for wisdom.
And our only satisfactions lie in snark and sarcasm and schadenfreude.
The culture is toxic, but really, is this anything new?

Jesus was born into a time of great unrest. Various factions of Jews fought for political control, while Roman governors kept an uneasy peace in the region. Dagger-wielding assassins and insurrectionists sought to take the land by force, while others fled to the desert to fast and pray and wait. The synagogues and temple were places of fierce debate as scholars and religious leaders and politicians sought to answer the burning question: Who should we be as a people? And in the midst of this, an insecure puppet ruler sought to hold his throne amid rumors of the coming messiah.

During all this political and religious turmoil in Roman-controlled Palestine, a young mother gave birth to a son in a stable, and we’re told that a strange peace surrounded this whole event. As shepherds tended their flocks nearby, choirs of angels declared glory to God and peace on earth.

In that tumultuous time, the proclamation was “peace on earth.”

With Christmas Eve falling on the last Sunday of Advent this year, peace kind of got shortchanged, and yet, it’s among our most needed virtues:

We crave peace around the world.
As we watch the latest childish exchange between world leaders,
each of whom command arsenals and armies,
as we watch politicians feud over policies
that will affect the way we live our lives,
it’s hard not to feel nervous or angry.
We need cooperation and healthy communication,
and yet these feel so far away.
So we pray for peace.

We need peace in our communities and families.
In our daily interactions with people we know and care about,
whether these be our closest family members
or just those we pass in the office on a daily basis,
so many tensions go unaddressed and unnamed.
Perhaps the larger political issues create rifts,
or maybe more personal disputes fester under the surface.
Sometimes, what passes for “peace”
is really just resentment smoothed over too quickly.
So we pray for peace.

We need peace within ourselves.
The theme of mental health has been popping up
again and again these past few months.
Just as we must take care of our physical bodies,
we have the same responsibility to our hearts, minds, and souls,
and this maintenance of the spirit isn’t something we can do alone.
Peace within feels elusive,
and yet, we crave it so deeply.
So we pray for peace.

It’s hard not to get a little cynical when talking about peace and our difficulty in attaining it, but there’s a reason Jesus is called the “Prince of Peace.” Around this time of year, we reflect on the state of our world, our communities, our families, and our own spirits, and we invite the peace of God, knowing full well we can’t achieve peace on our own. Perhaps that’s the real miracle of Christmas:

A King is born,
but He doesn’t bring yet another political struggle;
He brings a heavenly peace,
an otherworldly peace,
a peace we deeply need.

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