“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” [Luke 2:14]
It's a good time of year to rest, right now. Add to this natural ebb in the year the restrictions we are currently observing because COVID-19 has flared up recently, and we can take a moment to stop.
But how do we do that? How do we do rest, well?
I'm certainly no expert
I know how to switch off. But to rest...
The angels are quoted above in Luke's Gospel record declaring that Jesus is the bringer of peace "to those on whom [God's] favor rests."
Peace is personal. A personal gift. For those God gives His favor to. Upon whom His favor rests.
What kind of peace?
Ps Richard, in the Christmas Day online service, explained what this peace meant that the angels declared Jesus was bringing (you can watch the service HERE). Known in Hebrew as "shalom", this peace meant not only inner or spiritual calm, but wholeness and completeness throughout all creation. It meant the end of injustice. It meant the rich would no longer devour the poor. It meant all brokenness would be set right and healed. It meant that people would love one another. Shalom would flow deep and broad, embracing all of creation, including plants, animals, and the earth itself.
Now that evokes a sense of rest in your soul, right? It does in mine.
Ps Richard explained further that throughout the narrative of the Bible, God drops clues that awaken our hearts to long for better days - days of such peace. The hope of "shalom" was wrapped up in a person. Someone coming who will open the door to peace. The question was who. The prophet Isaiah declared:
"To us a child is born, to us a son is given … and He will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." [Isaiah 9:7]
The child he was referring to was Jesus, born of the virgin Mary, to grow up, live a miraculous and sinless life, demonstrating himself to be the Son of God, ultimately dying a sacrificial death in our place for forgiveness and new life to be granted us upon His resurrection from the dead three days later.
The question is - how do we get to this kind of peace, this "shalom"? In other words...
...how do we be a resting place for this peace?
It starts with making and having peace with God. Unless I'm at peace with God, I'm not part of the solution, but rather still part of the problem. But in Jesus, I can become a peacemaker in this world. I can be an instrument of God's peace. Following Jesus is not simply a matter of enjoying peace in my heart or in my relationship with God. Jesus calls us to join His revolutionary movement of bringing shalom to a broken world.
And then, from a real peace with God, in and through Jesus, we begin this peacemaking journey in our homes and neighborhoods and families. Peace does not mean the absence of conflict; it means working through the conflict to bring peace into our relationships. We stand up for those who are treated with injustice. We ask Jesus to bring his peace into our community, our city.
Peace with God settles our hearts.
Starts to bring wholeness to our lives.
And then, from this place of growing inner mending...we rest.
We become more settled in areas where we were tense, anxious, insecure. We become more able to bring peace and new unity in relationships and situations that were previously tense, anxious and troubled. And most powerfully of all, we see those around us, inspired and encouraged by our example and our way of life, becoming likewise.
This is a move of peace. A movement that brings rest into the world.
I for one want desperately to be a part of such a movement. Let's join together not only this Christmas, but on into 2021, on such an adventure and high calling.
This Christmas, take time to find and renew your sense of peace with, and in, God. And then practice the ways peace inspires in all your relationships.
Happy New year, and see you in 2021!
Written by Ps. Rob.