Isaiah, the great 8th century Hebrew prophet, looked forward to the Messiah, the Christ, with this prophecy:
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and [of] peace
there will be no end.
The pronouncement comes from the angel host that visited the shepherds of Bethlehem on the night of the Messiah’s birth:
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
The Hebrew concept of “peace” is based on the word shalom (שלם) which has connotations much bigger than cessation of hostilities. Biblical peace is more than the absence of war. Peace has to do with having the right relationship with the Lord, and thus personal well-being. To be the “Prince of Peace” means you brought prosperity to your people. To have a government of peace would mean you governed in a way that was to the benefit of your people. For God to pronounce peace on the earth means truly that he is well pleased with his people.
Why would anyone not want peace?
There are many reasons, and we still see them working out in today’s world. There are those who do not wish to have peace between nations, because they believe that national belligerence and aggression may lead to more people, power, and wealth. Historically, most empires were built on wars that overpowered other nations and looted them.
There are others who reject peace because they believe they can prosper in chaos and profit from war. This can be the perspective of anarchists, those who believe they can emerge from anarchy as rulers and masters. The heart of an anarchist believes that society and government are irredeemable and must be destroyed so that everything can be rebuilt. It can also be the perspective of cynics in the war industries who long for wars so their companies can make profits.
There are also some who reject peace because they are restless souls in conflict with God. They have no peace in their souls, and don’t want others to have peace either.
In all of these scenarios, the opportunists, the anarchists, the cynics, and the troubled souls, Christ offers peace. The Christ Child is God’s peace offering, as St. Paul says, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14). Paul is particularly speaking of the hostility between Jews and Gentiles, but the application is larger. Christ is truly our peace, provided as a blessing of God for all the residents of the earth.
So may you have peace this Christmas. May you have peace in your country. May you have peace in your politics. May you have peace in your soul. May Christ be the Prince of Peace for you now and forevermore.