Soaking up God’s shalom this Christmas season
“Grant us peace” is a phrase used in the “Agnus Dei” (Lamb of God) section of the Roman Catholic Mass. When I hear the phrase, “Dona Nobis Pacem,” my musical mind goes to the Mass written by Leonard Bernstein. The composer had the choir practically shout Dona Nobis Pacem! while the orchestra was playing in a very resolute—yet practically frantic—manner. The idea was that culture was out-of-control and that people demanded peace, although they were not receiving any. No peace, although the world was crying out for peace.
In 2020 we desperately need “peace.” We affirm with the New Testament church that in the Messiah, peace is available to anyone. Of course, Jesus stated that His coming would also bring “division.” Jesus is a two-edged sword. As individuals, and as communities walking in Christ, we know that being a “witness” (μάρτυρ, “martyr”) can often create conflict. This conflict is not necessarily a physical conflict; rather, it is a conflict of being, a conviction within a person that resists the transformative love of God in Christ. As in the case with the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the Sanhedrin, this conflict of being may result in outward violence and bloodshed. This witness “unto death” is what we would call martyrdom. Martyrdom is always an act of love.
Nevertheless, as believers, we can stop, adore, and soak up the “shalom”—the peace—of His presence. We can then allow that peace to flow from us into the lives around us. Peace, at its very heart, is the “sense of the presence of God.” Peace is experienced through the interaction of faith and grace, in the sensations of hope and love.
Remember, peace cannot be reduced simply to “the absence of conflict.” That’s only half of the picture. Peace is the presence of what God desires. When we say “peace be with you,” or my Jewish friends say “shalom,” we are asking that your life not only be free from conflict and violence, but also be filled with the very fullness of what God desires for you. Which desires do you need, or pick—grace? faith? hope? love? Wait, how about all of these things, because the peace of God is comprehensive. It is the state that is achieved when God is present in our lives. I desire and I need that peace. I need the peace of God, resonating through the presence of the Holy Spirit to fill my life and heart. I think you need that peace as well.
This Christmas, this New Year, just STOP…and pray. Not just for political goals or agendas, and not simply for the material necessities of life. Rather, pray for God’s peace to cover you and flow into your heart. Rest in Him, and allow that peace to shape everything you do in 2021.