Christmas is fast approaching! And the joy that often comes with this time of year hopefully fills everyone's home.
It is a time of year often filled with special moments with loved ones; it is also a time when we create moments to remember the significance of this holiday season. It is a time when we remember the significance of the story of Jesus Christ’s birth.
Christmas provides an opportunity for us to pause and reflect on the significance of this event. We take time to remember a moment when God broke into history, an event that revealed (and continues to reveal) God’s character. It marks God’s initiation to be with us. It also marks the continuation of God’s story in which people are invited to participate in what God is doing in the world.
This self-revelatory, invitational act tells us a lot about the character of God and God’s kingdom. Central to this is the understanding of peace that emerges from this event. It is, after all, the birth story of the Prince of Peace.
And yet, the ever-present, and seemingly increasing tensions and conflicts around the world make it challenging to believe that the peace of Christ is present or even possible. The ongoing violence around the world can cause a sense of hopelessness. Such realities make it difficult to believe in peace let alone the ways of peace.
But Jesus’ birth — the Christmas event — is a hopeful event precisely in the way it reveals God’s peace — shalom. It reveals characteristics that allow for the possibility to live rightly with one another, creation and God.
God works through vulnerability.
Jesus’ birth, God’s self-revealing act, came in the form of a baby who was born dependent on others. Peace, therefore, is made possible when we recognize the humanity in and our dependency on others. This includes those with whom we differ. It includes those who are neighbors as well as those who some may describe as enemies.
God works through invitation.
God’s story is one of invitation. We are invited to participate in what God is doing in the world. Israel was a nation called and invited to be a royal priesthood amid other empires. Mary was called and invited to be the mother that bore God’s son. Disciples, including us, are invited to follow Jesus and his ways. Jesus’ birth is a radically new invitation to how to relate to one another and to God. Peace, therefore, is not something that comes about through force. It comes about through invitation.
God is concerned with those who are on the margins, with those who are suffering, and with those who are left out.
The social location of Jesus’ birth provides a hint as to where the life of God is found. Jesus’ birth defied the status quo, and introduced meaning in unexpected places. Instead of born in a palace, Jesus, the proclaimed king, Christ, and Lord, was born in a stable. Instead of born in Jerusalem, the center of political, economic, and religious power, he was born in Bethlehem. Soon after his birth, Jesus and his family became refugees, fleeing persecution and becoming aliens in a different country.
If we want to know whether there is peace, we need to pay attention to and be present with those who are suffering and oppressed. In this way we may understand why the proclamation of God’s kingdom is perceived to be “good news” for those who are left out and suffering.
Put another way, the peace of Christ came about when the usual assumptions and expectations were flipped upside-down. A small, seemingly insignificant nation became God’s chosen people. Bethlehem, not Jerusalem, became key to God’s self-revelation. A carpenter and his betrothed, not royalty or a religiously elite family, became the carriers of God’s lineage and story. That which was weak became strong. That which was vulnerable became the key to security. The way God was revealed also demonstrated the way peace and God’s kingdom project came about.
And so, even amid what seems like chaos, insecurity, and violence in our world, we are, through the Christmas event, confronted with and reminded of the hope that is found in unexpected places and people.
May you have a wonderful and blessed Christmas, and may we allow ourselves to be open to the new possibilities that make for peace in our world.