Peace on Earth
She twists the wire around the green, around and around and around until all the unruly Christmas greenery finally yields and hangs submissive on the circular frame. There’s an intensity to how she does it that most ten year olds don’t have. A determination.
Because for this little ten year old the monster is not under her bed or in her imagination, but in her homeland. Ukraine.
This little girl is the oldest of four children who fled Ukraine with their parents as the darkness invaded. They travelled through country after country, searching for room at the inn, finding temporary lodgings all the way across Europe. To here. This little town in the heart of the UK with large hearted people who welcomed them in.
Where is the calm and the bright? When does the war end? When do little girls get to live free from fear? Can Christmas bring the Peace on Earth we long for? Peace on this earth, this earth beneath our feet right here and now.
Prince of Peace.
This scripture we pull out at Christmas time, this one prophesying about the baby born King, the prince of Peace. If you actually read the scripture in the same chapter just before it. It begins in the dark. This promise of a Prince of Peace begins with a people lost in the dark. Like us here on this earth. This earth right here beneath our feet.
‘Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honour Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan –
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
We are all at this Ukrainian Christmas fair together, this little girl and her family, and we with ours. I’m working alongside my sister-in-law helping children and adults weave living branches into wreathes.
There are stalls of every kind laden with goodies for sale with proceeds going to the war weary people of Ukraine. The decorations are cheerful and the carols jolly. But a video with images from Ukraine before the war is playing in the background, reminding our hearts of all that has been lost.
I wish with all my heart that the peaceful Christmas card Nativity scene were true. I wish the ‘all is calm’ and ‘all is bright’ was true. But it wasn’t then, and it isn’t today, not right now in the Ukraine, not in Kingston Jamaica (where we lived and worked for years) or anywhere else on Earth, this Earth, the one with all the pain. We’re all still spinning here in the dark on a planet wracked with war.
After the Ukrainian Christmas fair finished our little family stumbled home last night and snuggled on the sofa to watch the nativity movie for the hundredth time… our tradition every year in the Advent season. This movie closes with the infant Jesus fleeing with his young parents to Egypt to escape the reach of Herod; The infant Prince of Peace, a refugee, on this earth He owns.
The baby Prince of Peace did not come into a serene Christmas card Nativity scene. He came as a vulnerable baby covered in blood and amniotic fluid into the grit and pain of a world with not enough love and too much violence; a world much like this earth today. This baby born King’s first breath was drawn not in a warm hospitable home with fire blazing in the hearth, but in the cold dark air of a stable, surrounded by the muck and mire of animal dung, reminders of the poverty of his worn out weary parents. He came into the gritty, dark, violent world of Roman domination and as a toddler became a refugee, just like this little girl, fleeing as the war against children whirled around him. The same streets where shepherds and Magi had walked to find the baby born king, soon after rang with crying and ran with the blood of baby boys born on the wrong year in Herod’s reign. Mothers grieved, rocking their lifeless babies in Bethlehem just as mothers grieve their children in Ukraine and Kingston today.
Little girls with Monsters in their homelands belong to a Prince of Peace who understands their scars from the inside. He’s been there. And He’s there now. With them. With us.
Jesus was born and raised under Roman domination. He didn’t flee, He didn’t hide away. He stayed on this earth, the earth without the peace, the one with all the pain. In the dark. With us.
The baby born King, the Prince of peace chose to live under the darkness of human “rule”, to establish a movement to invade and subvert all the kingdoms of darkness with light.
A little further down in the same chapter in Isaiah 9, just before the part we read at Christmas, it describes a battle won by God agains oppression and the end of all war…
‘For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.’
From the beginning the Prince of Peace was on a mission, to fully fill this empty world with peace. Peace on earth is the long term plan, the ending of God’s long story with us. But we’re not at the end of the story yet.
Today, He is bringing peace to Earth in ways we can’t imagine, not just peace of mind or peace of pocket, not even peace from war- yet. He doesn’t enforce peace like the ‘Pax Romana’ Roman version of peace. Keeping peace by force with bigger and bigger warheads.
Though there will come a time when all regimes, rulers and people will be judged with justice and righteousness. His peace among us today is far more unexpected, far more subversive. The only peace that has the chance of bringing lasting peace, peace from the inside out, peace in broken hearts. Peace in Him.
‘And He will be the source of Peace’
‘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’.
Shalom (Biblical peace) does not just mean the absence of war. It means the presence of completeness, wholeness, things just as they should be, sometimes even in the midst of war. We are only complete When he is our peace, and we can only have peace when He is where He should be, at the centre of our being, on the throne of our hearts.
And this Prince of Peace is at work today, even in the midst of all our wars.
NT Wright writes, “The long history of evil has begun, but matching it, stride for stride, is God’s redeeming purpose.”
We live in a time of ‘now abut not yet’ where the Kingdom of Light is invading the Kingdom of darkness, subversively, powerfully, stride for stride. Heart by heart, life by life.
As we got out of the car to returning from the fair last night my son looked up at the bright moon shining in the deep darkness.
“Mummy the moon is so bright, its so amazing that the light from the moon millions of miles away from us can still shine so bright on our faces here now.”
His older sister corrected him, “what’s more amazing, is that the light from the moon on your face now is actually just a reflection from the light of the sun!”.
The Ukrainian Christmas fair was hosted by a little church in Evesham, full of people whose broken hearts are held together only by the love of God. People who had been alcoholics and addicts, people who would never see themselves as warriors or world changers or agents of peace. This little girl’s family now belong to a motley crew community, a mix of people living in the Kingdom of this Prince of Peace. Agents of His Kingdom advancing. reflecting into the darkness the light of the Prince of Peace. The son who has been given.
We live in the now-but not yet Kingdom. The Prince of Peace mending the pieces of our broken hearts and calling us into partnership with Him in restoring peace on earth. With Him. Until the day the story ends, not with an end but a new beginning,
‘Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’
This little girl has a place of safety and is on a journey of restoration, not because there is yet peace on this earth, but because the Prince of Peace reigns in the hearts of those who welcomed her family in; Not because there is peace on Earth, but because there is a Prince of Peace on Earth with us.
This earth right here beneath our feet.