Christmas Shalom

December 15, 2016

By Peter Amsterdam

Audio length: 9:43
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One of the portions of the story of the Nativity which I find most beautiful, exciting, and meaningful is when the angel appeared to the shepherds and announced Jesus’ birth, followed by a multitude of heavenly hosts praising God. It’s such a fitting entrance for the birth of the Son of God. Luke tells us what happened:

In the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.1

The angel announced the birth of the Savior, but that wasn’t the end. Luke goes on to tell us:

Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”2

This connection between the Savior and peace is seen in the Old Testament prophecies as well; for example, in the book of Isaiah where we are told: “To us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”3 “He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace.”4

In both the Old and New Testaments, the Messiah—the Savior—has a connection to peace. Yet as we look at the world today, or at almost any time in history, peace is often the last thing we see. Wars and civil strife are endemic to humanity. Sadly, lasting peace throughout the earth hasn’t happened, and it certainly doesn’t exist today. So why is Jesus called the Prince of Peace? Why did the angels, when praising God at Jesus’ birth, speak of peace?

The word used most often for peace in the Old Testament is shalom. While the word shalom is sometimes used in Scripture to define peace as the absence of war, it has other meanings as well. The root meaning of shalom refers to being whole or sound. It speaks of completeness, soundness, safety, health and prosperity, contentment, tranquility, harmony, peace of mind, the absence of anxiety and stress. It also refers to friendship between individuals, as well as peace and friendship between individuals and God.

The Greek word most often used in the New Testament for peace5 is sometimes used to mean a state of national tranquility and the exemption from the havoc of war. However, it is used more often to express security, safety, prosperity, harmony, and good will between individuals. It also refers to the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ.

While the world will one day know peace in the sense of an absence of war after Jesus’ second coming, the peace so often spoken of in God’s Word refers to the overall wholeness of individuals, both physically and spiritually. Scripture repeatedly states that such wholeness, tranquility, and shalom comes through having a right relationship with God, a relationship which is made possible through the Savior, whom the angels announced to the shepherds that night over two millennia ago.

Humanity has ever been in need of reconciliation with God. Because of our sin, we are separated from Him and unable to bridge the gap. The apostle Paul likened it to our being enemies of God. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection brought reconciliation between God and man. Through faith in Jesus, the Prince of Peace, we are able to be at peace with God. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”6

Through the Prince of Peace, harmony and relationship can be restored between God and all those who embrace Jesus as their Savior. Salvation results in righteousness before God as our sins are forgiven, and the righteousness of salvation brings us peace and joy. We can then possess the fullness of shalom: completeness, soundness, safety, contentment, tranquility, harmony, and peace of mind, which is the source of inner peace in the midst of the storms and challenges of life that we all face throughout our lives. It is this righteousness, through our salvation gained by Jesus’ sacrifice that brings peace with God, which in turn is the foundation for true peace within ourselves.

Jesus, the Lord of peace, brings us peace that exceeds anything we can understand. He has given His peace to us, and as we keep our mind on Him, as we trust in Him, He gives us perfect peace, or as it says in the original Hebrew, shalom shalom. Repeating a word was the Hebrew way of expressing a higher degree; in this case, not just peace but perfect peace. We find peace in the Savior, peace when we love God’s Word, peace when our ways please the Lord, peace through the presence of the Holy Spirit, peace in faith, and peace when Christ rules in our hearts.

The angels praising God on the night of Jesus’ birth were heralding the peace that God was making available through the birth of the Savior.—The peace with God that comes through salvation, the inner peace that comes from our connection with God, the peace we have from knowing that God loves us and has made a way for us to be with Him forever. This is the same peace He has commissioned us to take to others through sharing the message of God’s love. It’s the peace we bring when we share the message of reconciliation with God, the message of salvation, the message of eternal peace.

May we all do what we can to bring God’s peace into the lives of those who don’t know true peace, the peace only God can give. May we all share the message of the greatest gift of all, the Prince of Peace, with many this Christmas season.

When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with the flocks,
then the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal those broken in spirit,
to feed the hungry,
to release the oppressed,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among all peoples,
to make a little music with the heart…
And to radiate the Light of Christ,
every day, in every way, in all that we do and in all that we say.
Then the work of Christmas begins.
—Howard Thurman

Originally published December 2013. Excerpted and republished December 2016. Read by Jason Lawrence.

1 Luke 2:8–11.

2 Luke 2:13–14.

3 Isaiah 9:6.

4 Isaiah 53:5.

5 Eirēnē, pronounced eye ray nay.

6 Romans 5:8, 10.

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