Peace on Earth

Peace on Earth

(From the Manger to the Cross)

As I write at this time of the year, near Christmas, 2011, I am reminded of words often heard around this time each year….

Luke 2:8-15

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

NIV

We see angels announcing the Peace God wants to bring to us, to all the earth, to all people on the earth through this birth of Jesus. Paul, also in another place, speaks of this desire of God to bring peace to people groups, and by extension, all people groups:

Eph 2:14-18

14 For he himself is our peace , who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace , 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

NIV

We see a major mission of Jesus is to bring us forgiveness of sins and Peace with God, and each other, bringing people groups who were estranged in the past together to live in peace and love with one another. In fact, Jesus claims to be our peace, the source of this peace, the same source the Angels sang about when they sang at the manger.

We can see that one of Jesus’ principle concerns throughout his life on earth was this peace. If one is going to share the important things he wants to pass along to as his heritage to others, it is often done just preceding one’s death… Jesus is no different:

John 14:25-27

25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

NIV

Soon we find Jesus coming to do what he was born to do, to bleed and die for our sins. We see eyes of peace in Jesus nonviolent, (on his part) practices in the Garden of Gethsemane…

Matt 26:48-56

49 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.

50 Jesus replied, “Friend, do what you came for.”

Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. 51 With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

52 “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”

55 At that time Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56 But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

NIV

Jesus, advises his followers to put the sword back, that he has legions of angels he can call on if he wishes to use violent means to accomplish peace. And, it would have worked, but only temporarily, for that time and place only. Nothing would have been solved in defeating Evil permanently. Maybe some of these waiting angels were the same angels who sang “Peace of Earth” at the Manger…. Maybe they were actually on call, waiting for God’s beaconing, to see how God would bring peace to this world, through his own bloody death, burial, and resurrection, or perhaps they would be called upon to put down earthly political forces and bring about a temporal kingdom on earth now… Maybe they did not actually know what God was doing… Maybe some of us who are Christians now do not know fully how this is being done either, not yet…

I read an article in the most recent Sojourner’s magazine recently, entitled, “The Way of Peace and Grace”, (http://www.sojo.net/magazine)written by Derek Flood, p. 46, who states:

“Paul’s conversion from religious violence to the way of grace in Christ became the interpretive lens through which he sub-sequentially read all of scripture. This enabled him to sort through the Hebrew Bible’s competing narratives, rejecting the way of violence he had formerly held, and zeroing in on the scriptures that pointed to God’s grace revealed in Christ.

If we wish as Christians to adopt Paul’s way of interpreting scripture, then we need to learn to read our Bibles with that same grace-shaped focus. This is not a matter of picking and choosing which verses one likes, but rather of coming to have the mind of Christ – spending time with Jesus, and growing to care about the things he cares about. Through this relational formation – not only by studying the words of Jesus, but living them – we learn to recognize what reflects Christ and Jesus’ way of cruciform love.”

Cruciform love is the way to Peace on Earth, the lens of Grace toward us, given by the suffering, loving, dying, bleeding, and now living God in Jesus. This is the way of cruciform love.

Maybe the angels who came to sing “Peace on Earth” at the Nativity Scene, and returned to heaven, were in the legions of angels watching from heaven through giant lens of Grace when the sword was put away… Maybe the angels thought, “We have swords, like the ones we used at the Garden of Eden, we can use them in this garden also, (or that they could use the same swords used in the book of Judges,) Let’s be ready, we can be there in an instant, but, Jesus said “”put away the sword””, He said “No More” Let us just wait, and see how this Peace on earth is to be brought to the earth by Jesus”

They may have been watching to see if they might be called to defeat Evil finally and for all at that time, but I think they found Evil was to be defeated finally, once and for all on the cross, that Evil was to be defeated by Good, that all people groups were to be brought to peace through good, by good, by suffering love, by cruciform love….

So, when we sing “Peace on Earth”, or when we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, or for peace in our individual lives, and peace for our children, for our families, for our nation, for our world, let us remember who brought it, how it was brought, how much it cost, and look at scripture, at other beautiful human beings who are fellow travelers with us, from all people groups, through these same eyes of Grace and Peace that must be the eyes of Jesus, still peering down to us from the cross, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”

Oh, them?? That is me… Them is us…

Love, Grace, and Peace,

John Cooper

http://tuscaloosacirclesofpeace.blogspot.com/

About jcooperforpeace
Peacemaker in Fellowship Engaged in Active Nonviolence and Social Justice

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