It has been a tough week.
I found out one of my favorite clients passed away unexpectedly. He had always dreamed of owning a house in Charleston. After 20 years of his working and saving, I got to help him do that. He died unexpectedly 4 months later at the age of 39.
Last night I heard about a family friend’s unexpected death of his father. Yet another friend lost both of his young parents last week.
And I look at the violence on my television screen of real life happenings surrounding the deaths of Mike Brown in Ferguson and Eric Grimes in New York—people grieving, people crying out for justice . . . and I can’t help but ache for the darkness in my country. Far away and also uncomfortably, astonishingly close. My friends are hurting. Our country is hurting.
I don’t know if the pain and suffering in our midst intensifies during the holidays or if we just notice it more this time of year. Either way it makes all the shopping, all the Santa displays and Christmas cheer feel hollow.
And then I look at the Incarnation. The coming of the Prince of Peace. We have watered down peace to its modern day meaning of a content feeling or a state of warm fuzziness. But the Jews had spent their existence as a people at odds with every other people group and nation. It was a struggle to fight off the nations for their promised land—they were enslaved and forced to fight for their rights to worship God. Israel was warned to never marry foreigners lest they be convinced to worship their gods. In a few cases they were commanded to destroy all people groups who stood in the way of this.
Racism, xenophobia, and even genocide were commonplace in Jesus’s time. But when Christ came to proclaim good news of great joy for all men, he turned this way of life on its head—a complete paradigm shift. After countless generations of fighting for faith and fighting for land and resources, the appearance of our Lord with a human heartbeat means that we no longer have enemies with heartbeats. For all are invited to peace and unity through his heartbeat—born and later silenced for each of us.
Israel’s promised peace was far greater than the prophets ever imagined. Not simply a lack of war.
And this peace is far greater than you and I imagine. Not simply an internal feeling of contentment.
It means reconciliation with God and with man. It means the redemption of all people, all equally precious in God’s sight. It means we no longer need to live according to this curse of fear and violence and darkness. It means that we can have hope for reconciliation in this life and the next.
This baby in the manger is so much more than we expect and so much more than we often embrace.
May this Prince of Peace be our model as we fight back against the darkness. Just as Christ transcended racial, gender, and socioeconomic boundaries to comfort the grieving and the hopeless, may we do the same, honoring the image of God in every heartbeat to cross our path.
Carry this Prince of Peace with you as you go today. Embrace him as you journey through the darkness. And may you walk in the cadence of his heartbeat.