“And his name will be the hope of all the world.” Matthew 12:21 NLT
A bizarre, World War 1 ceasefire on Christmas Day 1914 remains one of the great oddities of modern military history. Mythical in some part due to exaggeration, yet authentic in large part due to reputable eye witnesses, the bloody trench warfare on France’s western Front between British and German troops came to a brief halt on Christmas Day 1914.
Unshouldering their weapons and easing out of protective trenches, soldiers from both sides of this grim conflict traded cigarettes, sang carols, kicked soccer balls, and took photos. And in a rare display of mutual compassion, the impromptu ceasefire provided precious time for attending to the wounded and supplied a somewhat sacred space for the dead to be buried.
It’s unbelievable and inconceivable that trained killers could arrive at such a moment, that war and violence could be forgotten and good will toward sworn enemies be a reality!
Though the bloodshed resumed with a vengeance shortly afterward, the strange agreement between bitter combatants to cease hostilities and experience the calm of a Christmas Day speaks volumes to the innate desire of fellow image bearers to experience peace, no matter how elusive or short term that peace may be. To halt a deadly war, not at the sign of victory or defeat, but at the mere impulse of humanity’s hunger for peace (even when that peace is certain to be fleeting and futile), signifies at least, conceptually, the possibility of the whole of creation at rest.
Though human quests for a cosmos without strife and tension exist, the eerie pallor of discontent, hate, war and violence have marred creation’s symphony since Cain murdered his brother, Abel. From the first family’s dysfunction to the present, remedies for peace have been extensive, varied, and costly. The goals have undoubtedly been noble, and the “ought to” civility taught among differing civilizations is honorable, but any consistent peace among the nations of the world has been woefully scant.
Some thought harmony among the brotherhood of man was possible through religious practice; others deemed the answer to be through advanced political process; while others felt a just and peaceable world was available through military might. At the other end of the human effort spectrum others chose philosophies of passive, non-violence as a means to restoration; others promised togetherness among the nations through economic strategies and expanded educational pursuits. Some have believed wise legislation and virtuous statesmanship possessed the ingredients for equitable and just societies. Historically, all have proven to be ineffective and unsustainable in quelling the turmoil that infests mankind.
Had there been other means whereby nations could reside in peace, and had there been a place where wolves and lambs lay down together, and if a land existed where snakes didn’t strike at the legs of passers-by, then Bethlehem would not have supplied the manger where the Hope of the world was born! But those efforts were proven time again fruitless and vain, nothing more than mere strivings born from troubled, unknown, and ungoverned hearts.
But the God of peace could no longer remain aloof and distant from His creation’s dilemma! It was from the Father’s heart and from the beginning of time that the Hope of the world would be found in Jesus and the realization of that Hope would be fulfilled the day the Lord Jesus Christ was born!
Merry Christmas, then, to all the world! Hope for a restored creation is no longer a mystical, distant thought, for peace and harmony have come in the form of a baby boy! The Messiah, the One prophesied by all the prophets- Immanuel, God with us, the Savior, has arrived! He lived, died, was buried and has risen from the grave, and He accomplished all His Father assigned Him to do! And equally gloriously, He now resides in the souls of those who trust Him!
No longer is peace confined to a temporary stay formed by unstable minds. No longer are we disillusioned by the fickle, unreliable promises of men to halt harsh words and end bitter strife. No longer are truces of peace enacted upon conditions concocted by human standards, nor is unity determined by mere behavior modification!
There is a peace that begins in the heart, from a heart that’s forgiven and a mind that’s cleared! There is a place where wars no longer exist, and there is a place where joy, peace and goodwill towards all mankind spring as naturally as mountain streams flow southward! That place is personal, powerful and productive- a glorious experience and possession possible only through faith in the Prince of Peace!
Will the nations of the world ever experience peace? Will the peoples and tribes of the earth ever live in harmony, be free from injustice, be loosed from envy, or be delivered from discontent? Will governments and rulers of the world ever lay down their arms and despise violence as a means of control? Will manipulation and emotional coercion forever be banned? Will equality among the diverse image bearers of God ever be realized and enjoyed? Will the masses of humanity ever experience economic freedom- content and confident, free from fear and lack?
Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes to all of this!
How then is this indescribable reality possible? How will these conditions be fulfilled? It seems so beyond hope! Well, the answer dwells in the hope gurgling from the souls of those born of Peace! One person at a time, one human heart opened to the Gospel, one friend telling another friend of this grace – that’s how “as it is in heaven so shall it be on earth” arrives! Quietly, unadorned, and oft unexpectedly, the King of glory takes His place in human hearts, and with His glorious redeemed Church, promises to rule the earth with righteousness! There will be no end to His peace, His government, and His provision! A concept of this sort is not of this world, but rather originates from God and revives, filling in entirety the emptiness of fallen creation!
And with that hope springing now from purified and enthused hearts, we celebrate forever the very Incarnation of God! Peace was made possible through the birth of the Son, and the entrance of that light has given eternal hope to all that believe!
Are all things He promised now fulfilled and readily visible? No. Not yet. But surely goodness and mercy shall follow all those who’ve received Him! With hope being shed abroad now in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, we boldly declare with joy – Merry Christmas to all!