"Silent Night" and "O Holy Night" hearing these songs again this Advent Season brings mysterious peace to my soul. The image of Jesus as a newborn baby born in a country town, living in a stable, sleeping in a manger, is in itself soothing and calming.
The angels announced the reign of peace that first Christmas Eve when they said: "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests" (Luke 2:14). The reign of our Messiah Jesus has brought peace to our souls. Though we can look around and find many examples of the absence of peace—war, you don’t have to look far to find a soul with great peace in the midst of awful circumstances. That’s when you see the peace of God reigning on earth.
Last week we saw Jesus reigning from the cross. This is our great hope. If a crucifixion (one of the ugliest forms of execution), can be transformed to one of the most glorious symbols of hope; then a baby King, who was born to poor parents and worshipped by shepherds, reveals the beginning of His reign of peace. When a newborn baby is the center of worship, there is peace.
Peace does not depend on circumstances. Peace is not achieved through getting the comforts this world has to offer. In fact, the comforts of the world often take away peace because they create anxiety trying to maintain them. What if all you owned were the clothes on your back and the few bundles you were carrying? This King Jesus and His family cuddled in this rustic nativity scene is a picture of peace.
As the King grew into His public ministry, He lived out this peace in all circumstances and invited us to live a similar life energized by peace. The words Jesus spoke to the disciples in Matthew 11:28-30 have always registered with my soul:
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Rather than peaceful, I often find myself feeling weary and burdened, and in need of rest, but the last place I go is to Jesus to take on His yoke until rest reigns in my soul. I stubbornly resist His offer of rest, and my soul remains hopelessly depleted of peace.
That is probably part of the reason He has allowed me to experience some physical limitations in my life this Advent Season. Due to some injuries, I have been forced to enter into rest. It has helped open my eyes to the fury I often live in. My body is not well enough for me to do more than one event at a time. I have to ask myself: "Why do I say yes to most of the invitations I am offered?" Why don’t I slow down and enjoy one event at a time before pushing on to the next? I watch my colleagues and others rushing around—I usually walk very fast, too—but what value does it add to my life to be in a flurry of activity? What do I miss by not pausing to look into the eyes of someone I’m passing by? What am I missing because I walk too fast?
I look to my King Jesus and learn how to live and reign with Him in peace. It’s about taking on His work in the knowledge that I’m holding His hand, and He is blessing me with the opportunity to work with Him. This union with Jesus is what brings peace to my soul. Peace reigns in my soul when I keep my spirit centered in Him and not in my own self-inflicted duties. I’m grateful for this picture of the King Jesus reigning from a manger just as masterfully as He does from the throne of heaven.