The much lauded peace of this season actually comes without the help of holiday props.
On Christmas Eve, 1818, “Silent Night” was first publicly performed. Since that time, it has become an indelible part of our holiday consciousness:
Silent night, holy night!
All is calm, and all is bright
Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace
You can almost feel the tranquility that Joseph Mohr wrote into the song.
Peace is inexorably linked to Christ. You’ve probably heard the glib “Know Jesus, Know Peace; No Jesus, No Peace.” Well, it’s true. The actual peace the human soul craves, that is, peace with God, peace with other people, peace with self, cannot be had while opposing Christ, or while nicely holding Him at bay.
Yet even peace has its subtle counterfeits. For instance, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you” (John 14:27). By saying this, He showed that more than one kind of peace exists, and that the world is able to give its own weak variations of it. Peace has also been associated with venting lusts and moods, tempers, and desires. By giving in to these drives, it is believed that relief will come, but Romans 3:17 says of these people, “The way of peace they have not known.” One day the world will celebrate the political and military savvy of the antichrist, saying, peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them” (1 Thes. 5:3).
Apart from Christ, peace is an elusive quantity, something we have a word for, but not a meaning. We don’t know what it is. Not until Christ.
In fact, at His second coming, the whole world will feel the peace of His rule:
“He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isa. 2:4).
But before this peace and calm spreads throughout the globe, it has to start in you. Colossians 3:15 says, “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”
Peace does not begin from the outside. As A.B. Simpson wrote in another famous hymn, “Though Christ a thousand times in Bethlehem be born, If He’s not born in thee, Thy soul is still forlorn.” That’s a critical addition to the more sentimental peace of “Silent Night.”
I celebrated the birth of Christ twenty-one times before He was born in me. That means twenty-one times I celebrated something that wasn’t mine, something that had yet to benefit me at all. And when at last it happened, when the birth in Bethlehem became a birth in my spirit, there were no trees or stockings present, no lights strung on buildings, no one singing carols.
It was the most spartan “Christmas” I’ve ever had. Plus, it wasn’t even in December. But it counted for more than any holiday celebration in my life before or after, combined.
Make sure the Lord in the manger becomes the Lord in your heart.