Every year at Christmas time, the images of peace start to pop up. More than any other time of year, the message of peace resonates in the hearts of believers because of the reminder of who we are soon celebrating. The peace giver. The promise of peace that comes with the celebrations of sweet baby Jesus lying in a manger is a decade’s old tradition that we love to revel in. Even now, I think of warm cups of cocoa, mittens, and the backdrop of Christmas carols.
Except this year is so different. This year, amidst all the chaos that was 2020, we are now faced with lonely holidays to keep our extended families safe. This year, instead of gathering for tree lightings and Christmas Eve services that focus on bringing us together, we will be intentionally staying apart. To me, that doesn’t feel the same as every other Christmas. It certainly doesn’t feel like something that resembles peace.
The thing about peace though, is that it isn’t dependent on my circumstances, it’s dependent on my Savior.
The way things are going doesn’t nullify what has already happened.
In fact, some of the brokenness and helplessness that we are feeling right now might even lead us to a place where we can experience peace, true peace, in a new way. Perhaps more so than ever before.
I am reminded of a story from the gospel of Matthew. In chapter 8:23-27, we read about a different kind of peace.
Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.The disciples were amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked, “Even the winds and waves obey him!”
If you aren’t familiar with the story, let me remind you of a couple of things. First, many of the disciples were experienced fishermen. These were the very waters they grew up on. They were used to harsh weather, it was part of life. But this wasn’t any ordinary storm. The words you see, “fierce storm” actually refer to a storm more like a hurricane. And think about this…. Hurricanes were not normal for the Sea of Galilee. This was no ordinary storm. As the disciples started to worry, you can hear the desperation in their voices as they are overwhelmed with the fear of drowning. It felt like they were going to drown. Fishermen. Who knew these waters. Who were familiar with storms. Who were experienced in keeping boats afloat. What it felt like was that it was all going to fall apart.
As Jesus gets up and calms the storm, the fear that they had was now replaced with peace. They at once recognize his power over nature. There is something more I want us to consider though. These were Jewish men who knew the Torah. All Jews knew the stories of the Torah. What they knew was that Yahweh, God, was the only one who had control over nature. What they were witnessing was God’s presence in that very boat with them.
What does this tell us? Well, it doesn’t tell us that there won’t be storms. It kind of tells us the opposite. There will be things that surprise us. Things that don’t make sense. Things that we feel like our experience and our community have prepared us for. Things that feel scary and overwhelming. Things that we will be helpless against.
The promise in all of this? Jesus. Jesus is with us in the storm. Even when it feels like you are going to drown, His very presence is enough to calm our hearts. I don’t think the promise leads us to a place where we can just hold onto the boat and hope everything will be ok. Instead, I think the promise leads us to a place where we can truly experience peace because He is with us in the storm.
So this year. 2020. The year that makes no sense. The year that keeps surprising us with each news cycle. The year that has brought division and fear, and loneliness.
He is with us. Yahweh. God with us. That’s the promise of peace that comes with Christmas.
Jesus. He will never leave us alone in the boat. And for me? That’s the only gift I need.