There’s something peaceful about Christmas.
That can be hard to remember in the bustle of our preparations. Days of shopping, baking, and traffic can become more stressful than peaceful. Yet amid all we are doing, we sense that things should be quieter and slower.
We try to hold onto glimpses of stillness: a moment in front of the tree while decorating, the solitude of the drive home from the late Christmas Eve service, or a quiet cup of coffee after the kids have opened their gifts early Christmas morning.
Peace, however, is elusive—not just at Christmas, but all through the year. Weary from discord in our nations, communities, relationships, and church, we welcome the words of the angels as they announce Jesus’ birth.
“Glory to God in heaven,” they say to the shepherds, “and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”Luke 2:14 (CEB)
A song of peace
Charles Wesley wrote about the peace of Christmas in the final song of his collection Hymns for the Nativity of our Lord. The song opens with an echo of the angels’ words,
All glory to God in the sky,
And peace upon earth be restor’d!
O Jesus, exalted on high,
Appear our omnipotent Lord.
For Wesley, the peace of Christmas is not something only for a day in the past or sometime in the future. It is something we can experience in our lives every day.
Peace begins in our hearts
We sometimes think peace is outside of our control. We long for our national leaders to work toward world peace. We hope our bosses will be good at managing conflict in our workplaces. We pray for those in power to treat us, and others, fairly. We think when peace is achieved out there, then we will find peace in our lives.
In this hymn, Wesley teaches that peace flows in the opposite direction. Rather than waiting for peace, he invites us to pray for Jesus, “The Prince and author of peace,” to set up “Thy quiet and peaceable reign” in each of our hearts and lives. As we surrender control of our lives and allow the love of Christ to rule in our hearts, peace is born in us. Wesley writes,
All sorrow before thee shall fly,
And anger and hatred be o’er,
And envy and malice shall die,
And discord afflict us no more.
We then become ambassadors of peace in our relationships, our work, and our world.
Living the song
One can see why Charles’ brother, John Wesley called this song, “the very best hymn of the collection.” These few verses not only express our longing for the peace of Christmas, but also invite us to participate in it today.
Experiencing peace is not in the hands of the authorities in our world. Nor will we attain it through purchase, promotion, or change in relationship status.
When we allow “The Prince and author of peace” to set up his “quiet and peaceable reign” in our hearts and lives, we will find peace.
As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, may the peace of Christ be born in us, and may we share it with all the world. In the words of Charles Wesley,
Appeas’d by the charms of thy grace
We all shall in amity join,
And kindly each other embrace,
And love with a passion like thine.
Peace be with you this Christmas.