Throughout the season of Advent, we light a new candle each week that symbolizes a particular theme. The final candle we light this week represents peace. The Hebrew word “shalom” best captures the meaning of this candle. English has no real direct equivalent because the term contains the ideas of wholeness, harmony and completeness all wrapped into one. This beautiful word embodies God’s original design of creation and the fulfillment of His promises.
At the beginning of time, God formed order out of chaos, brought light into darkness, filled emptiness with life and shaped a formless creation into a beautiful master piece. The Creator brought shalom or wholeness to the universe. When the first human couple rebelled against their Father, it fractured that shalom within the universe. Now the brokenness of life engulfs all we know and experience.
Like an ornament that has fallen from the tree and cracked, no matter how much glue we might use, the fissures from the fall remain. Sometimes we notice it in the moments when we are overwhelmed by all we need to do; sometimes we see it in the circumstances we find ourselves in; and sometimes it is evident in the chaos of a cluttered life that we have cleaned so many times only to find that entropy always seems to win. We feel it deep within us, this sense of emptiness, futility, even sorrow. We all know in moments of vivid clarity that something is not right with the world.
Here is the good and the bad news: when we feel like something is wrong, when we hurt, when we are confused, when the world does not make sense, we are not crazy, and we are not just pessimists because what we are feeling is real. This is the good and bad news. The good news: we are not crazy. The bad news: there really is something wrong.
Yet, the good news gets infinitely better when we consider the truth of Christmas that the angel proclaims: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord … Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:11, 14). In Jesus, God brings peace back into this fractured world. But peace is not only the absence of war or a good feeling inside of us or a right relationship with God. It is those things, but it is more. Remember, it is shalom, and this contains the idea of wholeness. The peace or shalom of God through the savior infiltrates all areas of life to the point that God will even restore the universe itself in Christ.
The peace of Christmas is a restoration of wholeness, mending the fractured world. All of this is the Christmas peace:
All the brokenness in the world, God is working through and overcoming
All the mess of life, God is organizing and bringing about meaning
All the darkness of the world, God is shining light upon and bringing to an end
All the chaos surrounding us, God is shaping and forging order
And not only in the world, but in our personal lives also:
All that we have done that we feel so much guilt for, God forgives completely
All the decisions we have made — those we regret and those we do not — God is using for purpose in our lives and in the lives of others
All the circumstances we have no control over that threaten to overtake us, God cares about and is working in
All the moments we feel alone and wonder the value of our lives, God is with us and has our future completely secured
In this season we can know this hope. In Jesus, God did not immediately take away all the brokenness, but neither did he ignore it and leave us to cope alone. In Jesus we can know beyond all doubt that we are loved eternally by God without exception. In Jesus we are offered the wholeness of God’s love, God’s forgiveness, God’s working of purpose in our lives and God’s eternal future with Him as our destiny. Our past is forgiven, our present filled with divine purpose and our future eternally secure. This is the great gift we have all been given. This is the peace of Advent.
Merry Christmas and Shalom.