NAMS Advent blog, week 4

In this final Advent blog, we look at the quality of peace – what it is and how it marks us out as Jesus’ disciples in the world. Peace, as this season of Advent reminds us, is a gift of God like love, faith and hope. May you and I revel in the peace that God brings through Christ this Christmas.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” (Luke 2:14). 

An old chorus I sang growing up, based on an African-American spiritual, spoke of having ‘peace like a river.’ [1] Recently, my wife and I were wondering where that phrase came from, since we didn’t generally think of rivers as peaceful bodies of water. We thought rather of waters in constant motion. 

At points indeed, rivers could be terrifying – raging and foaming rapids that cascade over treacherous, bone-wrenching rocks, often culminating in tumbling waterfalls. 

Shortly afterwards, in an evening devotion, we were reading together in Isaiah 48, in which God accused Israel of being obstinate in their rebellion against him.  He called them back, as He often did, to repentance. Isaiah records God’s plea in these terms: 

“Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the Lord your God, who teaches you for your profit, who leads you in the way you should go. Oh, that you had listened to my commandments; then your peace would be like a river and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.” [2]

Now we got the point. Peace is like a river in that it brings life. Rivers in Israel were a real source of security, sustenance and abundance. The great Jordan River and her tributaries, as they cut across the thirsty, arid landscape, gave rise to fertile banks. The rivers of peace and her righteous waves were meant to carry us along God’s holy ways – a means of great blessing and rule that come from following in the way of God. 

Our sinful world however, like stubborn Israel, wants peace on its own terms. 

According to popular culture, peace is often (and only) thought of as the absence of conflict, war, trouble or stress. They picture a world devoid of struggle – that lets then be as they want. 

The Scriptures, by contrast, root ‘peace’ not in the absence of danger about us, but in the presence of God with us, no matter the outward circumstance.

True peace is God’s gift. It can only be found as we submit to the will and ways of God. The poet Dante captured it well: ‘In his will is our peace.’ [3] 

C.S. Lewis agrees: “God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” [4] 

Peace then, that the angels sang about to the lowly shepherds at Christmas, is peace that is given through the favor and blessing of God. We cannot manufacture it, nor earn it ourselves. It is instead a dynamic by-product of the Gospel transformation that comes by grace through faith in the salvation of Christ alone, for God’s glory. 

Didn’t Jesus promise such a genuine peace – unlike the world’s type – in John 14:27? So we need not be afraid at all, even though a little later in John 16:33, he tells us that we will have trouble in the world. There again, he reiterates that in him, we have peace.    

May the peace of God that is yours in Christ therefore, rule your heart this Christmas. 

As disciples of Jesus called to ‘know nothing except Christ and Him crucified’ and to make disciples after Him, may that peace also be a source of blessing to many around you, this time and always. From Him, springs life everlasting and peace unending.

Oh cross that liftest up my head
I dare not ask to fly from thee
I lay in dust’s life’s glory dead
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be. [5] 


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[1]  In the same vein, the opening line of Horatio Spafford’s well-loved hymn ‘It is Well with My Soul’ carries the same image: “When peace, like a river, attendeth my way…”
[2] Isaiah 48:17-18, ESV. The passage ends with a solemn warning in verse 22: “There is no peace, says the LORD, “for the wicked.”
[3]  Dante Alighieri, translated from Paradiso, Canto III, line 85.
[4]  C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), page 50.
[5]  Final verse of Hymn “O Love, That Wilt Not Let Me Go” by George Matheson. https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/432

NAMS Advent blog, week 4

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