Several biblical readings for the Masses of Christmas speak of God’s peace come to earth. In fact, throughout Luke’s writings, Jesus’ most important title was Prince of Peace. People who gave their lives to Jesus and his mission discovered new fellowship, an ease in making their way through the world and a spiritual wholeness like none they had ever experienced before.
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Lk 2:14)
Have you encountered Christ’s peace?
How has it changed you?
What impossible thing can you bring to Christ today?
Luke came to understand such peace by reading the Hebrew Scriptures. The first reading for the Mass of Christmas night gives an elaborate throne name to a future king of Israel: Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. These are in fact God’s own titles. By sharing them with the king, God was offering a share in the divine powers they bespoke. The coming king would perform wonders for his people in wisdom and might; he would be for his people a source of strength and fatherly protection; and he would establish peace within Israel and among its neighbors. In its original context, the prophecy was not about Jesus but about his ancestor, the great king Hezekiah, who reigned over Israel from around 715 B.C.E. to 686 B.C.E. By Jesus’ day, however, many Jews had come to understand this prophecy to be active again, describing the advent of a messiah who would use these divine gifts to establish God’s eternal kingdom on earth.
Luke drew on this prophecy throughout his writings. For Luke, Jesus is foremost the bringer of shalom, a Hebrew word that includes good physical and mental health, friendly relations with others and a moral code that turns one away from violence and hate. The prerequisite for this peace is faith that, as the angel promised Mary, “nothing will be impossible for God.” In Luke’s Gospel, God shares his shalom through the ministry of Jesus. In the Acts of the Apostles, God sends his shalom through the church.
Faith in God’s ability to do all things is the seed from which every miracle grows.
This is a deep peace. Those who experience it perform wonders. In this peace, Mary accepted a confusing and even dangerous pregnancy and gave birth to the Savior. In this peace, Jesus forgave his killers even as they crucified him; and Stephen did the same, even as they stoned him. In this peace, the first disciples lived together—Jew and Greek, slave and free—in a fellowship like none the Roman world had ever seen.
“And on earth, peace.” The gift of which the angels sang remains available to any who believe that God can do all things. Faith in this promise is the peace that Jesus gives. This is the peace that calms the hearts of parents struggling with a troubled teen. This is the peace that propels many to protect the weak and work for justice. This peace allows teachers to face seemingly unwilling students day after day. It provides a moment of clarity for an addict, and inspires the willingness to seek help. This is the peace the children of elderly parents feel as they watch the decline of their loved ones.
Faith in God’s ability to do all things is the seed from which every miracle grows. From this faith comes the peace of Christ.