There is an old greeting throughout the history of the church that echoes the words of Jesus: “peace be with you!” The greeting is then responded with an imitation of goodwill: “and also with you!”
But what does this greeting mean? What merit do these words have?
We live in a world that makes promises of peace. Politicians promise peace in our land, diets
promise peace with our bodies, consumerism promises peace with our life, self-help books promise peace in our relationships — one more drink or one more piece of cake will bring a peace of mind.
All of these promises, however, are empty and allude to the words of the prophet Jeremiah when he said, “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. They say ‘Peace, peace’ when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14).
Our culture wants us to believe that our situation is not that bad…we just need a little more
money, to lose a little more weight, to have a better system, a better house, a better job — once we get to that place in life, then we will have peace.
But that is not our story. That is not God’s story. The truth is, that since the dawn of the age, we have rebelled against our God. We chose to worship the things he created rather than the Creator himself (Romans 1:25). Scripture tells us we were God’s enemies and a people living in darkness (Romans 5:10). More than that, we were the walking dead – zombies, if you will – without purpose or life. The promises of peace within the world are merely band aids attempting to cover the reality of our gaping wound.
During the season of Advent we recognize our impossible and horrific situation before God. But then we look to Jesus and we rejoice that God did not leave us in our mess. You see, Jesus did not come to earth to make our life completely pleasant without difficulty (actually he promises otherwise in John 16), nor did he come to earth to deliver a 10-step-plan of how to have a more peaceful life. No, Jesus Christ, God himself, came to earth through the avenue of a not-so-peaceful birth canal, to humble himself in a human form, for the purpose of living a perfect life, in order to die a gruesome death to meet our greatest need: peace with God. Jesus’ incarnation inaugurated true peace, and all who are in Christ are now
God’s own children, and can finally be at peace with their Creator. During the Advent season we celebrate that Christ Jesus our Lord came, and that if you are in Christ, your greatest need can be met! You can have peace with God.
Not only do we celebrate, but we also anticipate. We recognize that although we are in the standing of God’s blessing and peace, things in life are still frustrated. Life is chaotic and difficult, relationships are broken, and even our walk with God seems distant sometimes. But Advent is a season to not only celebrate the reality of present peace with God but to also anticipate that when Jesus comes back, that Peace will be fully realized in every aspect of life. We don’t even have the imagination to comprehend that all-encompassing peace, but we look forward to its coming.
And because we have Peace with God, we can also, in Christ, have peace with one another. So when we say, “peace be with you” we can say it with confidence knowing that we have full access to that reality in Jesus, through his life, death and resurrection. Amen!