As I sit to write this month’s article it is just three weeks to Christmas and as I prepare for this season I have been reminded that at the heart of the Christmas story is the promise of peace.
How our world needs it! I read somewhere that in the last 3500 years the world has known only 286 years of peace! It’s been a rare year when there hasn’t been a war raging somewhere! Add to that the growing threat of terrorism across the globe, the mass movement of people fleeing the horrors of barbaric brutality … then peace seems a welcome but unachievable goal.
But God doesn’t see it like that. Shortly before his death Jesus turns to his disciples and says Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. Within hours Jesus was crucified, the disciples scattered, everything in their world came crashing down! Peace! How could they know peace in the midst of such pain and chaos? How indeed?
I have shared this with you before but I believe it might prove helpful to share it again.
‘A visitor to an art gallery found that two exhibits shared the same title. The paintings were entitled ‘Peace’ but were totally different. The first was a rural landscape in which the artist had captured a perfect summer’s day. The picture oozed tranquillity and invitingly beckoned the viewer to feel the warm sun and hear the gentle sounds of nature. The second was a seascape with dark clouds and lashing rain. The picture showed a cliff-face standing proud against an angry sea. Everywhere was violent movement but in the cleft of the rock the artist had painted a bird on its nest. In the middle of a raging storm, the bird was resting in complete safety. Those two interpretations of peace offer us a parable in troubled times. For some, peace is like a tranquil summer’s day when nothing appears to disturb the picture. It is all about cloudless skies and endless sunshine. Thank God, such times do come. But in reality, life is not always like that. Whichever scale we use to measure – global or personal, macro or micro – life produces storms from time to time. Interestingly, the second picture, of the bird resting in the middle of a howling gale, is closer to the Bible’s teaching about God’s gift of peace. Peace is not so much the absence of trouble but the relaxation of heart and mind that comes in the midst of trouble.’
As one writer of a previous generation expressed it, ‘If God be our God, he will give us peace in trouble. When there is a storm without, he will make peace within. The world can create trouble in peace, but God can create peace in trouble.’
As we begin this New Year together let us pray that evil will be thwarted and that people would increasingly learn to value and respect people of different cultures and beliefs. I pray too that each of us would experience the peace God promises whatever life throws at us.
Happy New Year