Shalom

The Peace of Wholeness. Way back in history as recorded in the Old Testament when God gave the Law to Moses and set up the roles and duties of the priesthood to guide the spiritual life of the Jews, He gave such wonderful blessings to speak to the people: Numbers 6:24-26~The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace (שָׁלוֹם shalom). (ESV) The Hebrew word (שָׁלוֹם shalom) used throughout the Old Testament conveys a rich powerful meaning of completeness, soundness, tranquility. God gives us peace in every facet of life: hearts, homes, jobs, family, everywhere. God’s peace isn’t the absence of struggle or fighting, His shalom, reflects safety, friendship, and contentment.  

This is the peace that the angels proclaimed, it is the peace of heaven 

come down to live with us. Jesus Christ is the Prince of Shalom foretold by the prophet Isaiah 9:6~For to us a child is born, to us a son, is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (NIV) The Jews of Jesus’s day wanted a Messiah to establish a political kingdom with justice against their oppressors. Those who walked through our Fall groups witness this desire in the life of Jonah. They’d recently tasted freedom under the Maccabean rule and did not want Rome or any others to tell them anything. A conquered people, they longed for a king to rule and reign. Conversely, they understood Messiah would wield mercy and grace. They longed for the shalom of God, which was and is foundational to their culture and spiritual life. 

Who doesn’t want it all, to be complete, whole lacking nothing? Now God JUST do it MY way, in MY order, How I want it, am I right? It is Christmas! Well, God does this in Jesus Christ, only He starts with our most important need, our spiritual condition. Christ Jesus sought to bring us peace with God, where our lives were filled with enmity. As James rightly proclaims we were a bunch of adulterers. Jesus is the bridegroom, we, the church His bride to be had played like Gomer. Hosea 1:2~The first time God spoke to Hosea he said: Find a whore and marry her. Make this whore the mother of your children. And here’s why: This whole country has become a whorehouse, unfaithful to me, God. (MSG) It is ironic these are the first words to Hosea, and he weds Gomer which means complete. Yet she, like us today is truly incomplete without Jesus Christ as the center of our lives. Listen to why we need Jesus. James 4:4~You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (NIV)



Wishing You Peace

In this first century hierarchy, shepherds weren’t exactly accustomed to being contacted by angels. They never gave a thought or held expectation to celestial visitation. Imagine their surprise on a star-filled night, on the outskirts of Bethlehem when the brightest star in the sky dimmed. Then as the dark expanse gave way to the brilliant splendor of the Lord’s third named angel illuminated this moment. Michael and Gabriel, you may know but Luke calls him, Lo. Luke 2:9~And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. (KJV)

I believe the questioned posited: What in the wide, wide world of sports is a-goin’ on here? As if angelic visitation wasn’t enough, lo, he speaks. Luke 2:10–12~…Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. (ESV) Unbelievable, Inconceivable but wait, there’s more. Like literally, more, as in more angels Luke 2:13~And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased! (ESV)

The words are almost more unbelievable than the messengers. Angels proclaiming Peace to those on whom God’s favor rests. Is the Lord pleased with you? Like so many places, we read in the scripture and wonder, did they get the right address? I mean nothing against shepherds but come on there seems to be some confusion, befuddlement abounds. To this, we might invoke words from Theodore Geisel who writes in all the places you’ll go: You will come to a place where the streets are not marked. Some windows are lighted, but mostly they’re darked. A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin! Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in? How much can you lose? How much can you win? Well said Seuss, Angels don’t make mistakes, but Oh, how we won in Christ Jesus our Lord. Angels do precisely what God instructs. So, listen up, God’s favor is on all of us. That means that His peace is with us because Immanuel was born.

When you read the Biblical stories are you filled with questions, as I? I get the Shepherds see angels, but about the sheep, did they stop counting each other in the dark of night, as light broke over them? Up and at ’em boys, back to grazing. Those wooly wise guys must have had some witty banter I’d love to read. Perhaps this is the moment when the one sheep got lost and the shepherd was sent to find them. What of the slinking predators lying in wait, were they exposed for being themselves as they stalked their prey, until what must have looked like the dawning light of day? The Bible does not say. Perhaps it was chaos, pandemonium afoot, that these sheep like deer, were caught and dazed by the bright lights ahead of them motionless in their gaze. Whatever the case, this was completely out of the ordinary. An extraordinary event marking a shift in the life of humanity. Reconciliation as Jesus Christ was born and peace flooded the earth. Glory to God in the highest! The Prince of Peace has come.



The Lord of Peace

Advent is not just an extension of Christmas—it is a season that links the past, present, and future in seamless time. Advent invites participation to herald Christ in the middle time Isaiah 40:9~You who bring good news …(NIV) sharing in the ancient expectancy of Messiah’s arrival. We celebrate His birth and are reminded He called us to watch and pray.  Are you looking today for His second coming? During Advent we wait, an active season of assured and hopeful longing. Where each week, we focus on a different attribute that Immanuel, God with us brought that first Advent.  Jesus, the God-man who came to earth giving us gifts of hope, peace, joy, and love. One of those good 3:16’s. 2 Thessalonians 3:16~Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all. (ESV) Today, we take our next step on the Advent journey, reminded that God’s Peace is: Restored, Whole, and Transforming.

 

Peace Restored. The shepherds in the Christmas story often get a bad rap. Presented as outcasts—a dirty, unruly group from the bottom rung of the societal ladder. While definitely held in lower esteem, not all scholars believe they were so un-respectable. In fact, shepherds had at one point held a very high position in Israel’s history. Circumspect Jews would have known the family business, where Abraham amassed a might flock, Isaac who Genesis 26 records grows wealthier each day, Jacob bred his wealth from Laban’s stock, down even to ruddy young David who kept his fathers flock, this is direct lineage down to Jesus Christ.

Whether or not shepherds of Jesus’s day were a totally motley crew, the profession had undeniably fallen in esteem since the patriarchs. They were definitely considered lower in social status, holding menial vocation which involved hard labor, braving harsh elemental extremes, the passing of odoriferous emanations and dental maintenance as the flock tends to nip like Jack Frost at our nose. It’s safe to say shepherding was not on the counselor’s wall of fame but perhaps lay in a mother’s worst dream of shame.

On the other end of Israel’s spectrum, were the religious leaders. Smug high atop in their ivory positions of power, holding to a personal moral goodness, they made sure everyone else knew their place in the Israeli caste system—Pharisees and Sadducees and those holding near, everyone else below in cascading order. Riding atop invective comments while they lived in an affront to the law God had decreed. James 2:6~But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? (NIV) All the while they believed they were the ones with a direct line to God.