Christmas Day: Christ does not teach peace as a technique or state of mind. It's different, and more.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;
and the government will be upon his shoulder,
and his name will be called
“Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
— Isaiah 9:6
Thirty years ago today, Christmas Day, the Soviet flag flew over the Kremlin for the last time. Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev resigned. That fateful Christmas brought a peaceful end to a bloody and tumultuous regime.
Centuries before, on Christmas Day in AD 800, Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne Holy Roman Emperor. Outside old St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the people cried out, “To Charles, the most pious Augustus, crowned by God, the great and peace-giving Emperor, life and victory.” The Holy Roman Empire endured until its dissolution in 1806.
The first Christmas in Bethlehem came to pass during the reign of Caesar Augustus. Augustus was the founder of the Roman Principate, the first period of the Roman Empire. His reign was effective. His leadership brought about a period of relative peace, known down through the ages as the Pax Romana. These two centuries, absent large-scale conflict, were remarkable years of peace for Rome.
Since the birth of Christ, kings have faltered and fallen. Empires have arisen and crumbled. The unscrupulous engine of history steams ever onward.
So how is this child king rightly called the “Prince of Peace”?
Christ told his disciples at the Last Supper,
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27)
Christ is a king. But he is not a king of this world. Christ gives peace. But his peace is not of this world.
Christ does not teach peace as a technique or state of mind. Peace is not something to be accomplished or earned.
St. Paul tells us, “For he is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh” (Eph 2:14). Christ himself is our peace! He makes peace between God and man! He stills our souls and gives us rest!
By taking our lowly human flesh, by coming down to our human estate, Jesus reunites us to God, from whom we had fallen away. This is peace: to know and love God. Thus, Jesus teaches, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
The mighty will be cast down. Swords will be beat into plowshares. All the grand schemes and plans and ambitions of men will be laid waste. Let us sing with the angels this day, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests!”
O God, who wonderfully created the dignity of human nature
and still more wonderfully restored it,
grant, we pray,
that we may share in the divinity of Christ,
who humbled himself to share in our humanity.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever.