The rush of a season meant for festivities often leaves us floundering in a wake of struggle and stress. Hustle shifts, becoming the hectic pace of hurry. Long lists begin to feel like imprisonment instead of empowerment. And plans for peace and joy get swallowed by panic and chaos.
Will I get it all done?
Will he like his gift?
Will they get along?
Will the money stretch?
Will the grief overtake me?
December has just begun, yet pressure already squeezes with its tight grip.
So. We pause.
We take a breath, and we refocus. We move our gaze off the waves that threaten to drown us and onto the Savior who is reaching for us. We let go of our worries that have overtaken our hearts and minds in order to look to the Sovereign One whose plans are perfect, whose burden is light, and whose peace is offered freely.
We look to Immanuel, God with us. Because He knew we would be here. Overwhelmed. Overworked. Over it all–as in, done. He knew we would have trouble (John 16:33). That’s why the Prince of Peace gives us His peace (John 14:27). Our Sovereign God has gone before us with an offering of peace because He knew we would need it.
God’s Brand of Peace
Jesus desires that we would discern the difference between what the world calls peace and what He provides, so it helps to know what God’s peace is–why Paul says it’s beyond our understanding (Philippians 4:7), and why Jesus says it helps us live unafraid (John 14:27).
The world’s version of peace often depends on absence. The absence of conflict, for instance. I remember teaching a unit on ‘war and peace’ to my seventh graders years ago. In all my materials, the only definition given for ‘peace’ was the absence of war. The thesaurus offered ‘tranquility’ as a synonym–a word that exudes calm and quiet. In other words, no battles raging.
A few years later, I saw a picture that stopped me in my tracks. A woman standing in the middle of a storm with the look of serenity. Something in me knew before I had done any sort of word study through the Bible that the ‘peace of Christ’ permeates us no matter what’s going on around us or even inside us.
Jesus gives, not as the world gives. His peace is perfect. It’s transcendent of our situations. It surpasses our ability to describe it, but when it fills us, we feel its power to push aside all the doubt and dread, angst and apathy. Maybe that’s why the first words Jesus speaks to His fearful disciples after His resurrection is “peace be with you” (John 20:19, 21, 26).
There’s nothing absent in God’s brand of peace–rather, it is full. Full of the power only His presence can bring.
Eirene and Shalom
In the Greek, Jesus’ ‘peace be with you’ carries with it “the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot” (Strong’s, Greek 1515). Tranquil. Assured. Fearless. Content.
Such is the peace from the Greek, eirḗnē, which derives from a root word meaning, “to join, tie together into a whole.” In the Hebrew, its sister word, shalom, also connotes a sense of completeness (Strong’s, Hebrew 7965). Isaiah paints a beautiful picture of this peace:
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”Isaiah 26:3, emphasis mine
“Perfect peace” is a translation of shalom shalom–Isaiah’s creative doublet, using shalom twice, back-to-back. Jesus, the One who lived as a man on earth, knows the impossibility of achieving such perfect peace on our own. And He sees how our lacking definitions fall short of His shalom–peace that not only gives us a feeling but does a work of completeness and wholeness within us.
So, with all that in mind, I read Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Philippians 4:6-7 with greater understanding and appreciation:
“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”Philippians 4:6-7 MSG, emphasis mine
Jesus knows we need His brand of peace. A peace that comes when all the “essential parts are joined together” (Strongs, Greek 1515)–something like:
Jesus dwelling in us + us dwelling with Him = perfect peace
Peace and Trust
Isaiah tells us that the only way to displace worry from the center of our lives is to trust God (Isaiah 26:3), yet it’s impossible to trust someone we don’t know. So. As we anticipate the coming of Jesus at Christmas, we can reflect on who He is as we move throughout our days. Our knowing Him will grow our trust in Him.
We can remember that He has been around since the beginning (Genesis 1:1, 26; John 1:1). He has ruled in heaven with all glory and power and honor for eternity yet gave all that up to come walk the earth in flesh. He left His throne in heaven to be a vulnerable baby, a tempted man, and the target of so many. For us.
We can remember that He accepted execution on a cross when He had the power to stop it. He chose to take on all our sins and die a criminal’s death. For us.
We can remember His love. His faithfulness. His joy. His peace. And that He extends all of these. To us.
We can remember that He is always near. That He never leaves us, never forsakes us. That all we need to do is look to Him, to call on Him–and He’s right there. With us.
We can remember that He sent His Spirit. To dwell IN us.
As our trust in Him flourishes, His perfect peace blossoms within us, making us whole and complete. His peace in us pushes aside all worries–because He is able. Jesus is sovereign. He’s been the plan for God’s redemption from the start. He knows the beginning to the end. And He invites us into all of it.
For all these reasons we can thank God for the incarnation because He “knew we didn’t just need someone to look up to but we needed someone to be with us, someone who brings peace and makes peace and is Peace.”**
Father God, we thank You for your sovereign plan of redeeming us to yourself. We’re so grateful that your Son willingly carried out that plan to perfection so that now we get to enter your presence anytime we want to. Lord Jesus–our Prince of Peace–the peace You offer lacks nothing. It covers us in the storms. It fills us when war wages around us and within us. Oh, that we would trust You enough to believe, really believe, that this peace can be ours. Holy Spirit, we need your help to know Jesus well. Prompt us to look for Him in His Word and throughout our days. Nudge us to remember all He has already done for us. Warm our hearts with a love for Him that is fierce and unwavering so our trust in Him keeps our minds steadfast on Him–all the time. Jesus, thank You that you bring peace. May we receive it. Thank You for making peace–in us, around us, and through us. Thank You that You. Are. Peace. Make us whole in You. It’s in your name we pray, amen.
(inspired by Isaiah 53:5-6, John 3:16, Isaiah 9:6-7, Hebrews 10:19-23, John 14:25-26, Ephesians 2:14, 1 Thessalonians 5:23 MSG, Emily P Freeman)
- Rhythms: The more I lean into the “unforced rhythms of grace” (Matthew 11:29, MSG), the more I desire to do them. In fact, over Thanksgiving week my rhythms all but disappeared, and I lamented their loss. So, this week I’ve loved getting back into the Word and spending time with God. But, as I suspect you know, December’s rhythms are so different than any other time of the year. My rhythms have to adjust accordingly for this season. I’m happy to say that an added rhythm has been spending time with good friends–such life-giving gifts they are!
- Another way to keep our focus on Jesus this Advent is tapping into what’s already around us. Like flames. So…Week Two Praise Rhythm: Anytime this week you see flames (ie: candles or fireplaces), speak a word of thanks to God for the peace that comes with trusting Him.
- Resources: I love sharing with you the books, podcasts, articles, and anything else that has inspired, encouraged, or taught me. These are humble offerings with no expectations.
- This week Spotify sent out our “2022 Wrapped” details. It was fun to relive the songs and artists that have filled my year (and ears–haha). So many hours of listening to playlists that strengthen faith and encourage my spirit!! You might notice I added a song to our “God With Us” playlist this week. Matt Maher’s “Glory” speaks to so much of what we’re discovering about God’s brand of peace. Enjoy!
- **You’ve heard me mention Emily P Freeman here before. I love her books and podcast. In her her October ’22 newsletter, she actually said: “Thank God for the incarnation, who knew we didn’t just need someone to look up to but we needed someone to be with us, someone who brings peace and makes peace and is Peace.” It’s still rocking my world.
- I do love a great resource to help me dig into the original languages of Scripture. And when they’re online, it’s even better! Biblehub.com has been my go to for a while now. It’s where I can read a passage in its original language alongside English, then click links to get to deeper meanings and connections as collected by the Strong’s Concordance. I sat in awe as I read Isaiah 26:3 to see “shalom shalom!” I know I’m FAR, so very far, from the first person to see that. But I kinda felt like I’d discovered a treasure. You can see for yourself here.
- We’re a flock. We’re a fellowship of believers. We’re a community. Know that you are not alone. You’ll walk these paths with Christ at your side and your sisters hemmed around you.
- As you feel led, share in the comment section. I’d LOVE TO HEAR how the Praise Rhythms help you keep in step with God this season. Do share!
- God’s peace needs to be shared. One way to do that is to share this site. 😉