“Here, take this.” Looking down I found in my hands a lovely copy of the Bhagavad Gita. “We want to give you something to help to find inner peace this Christmas,” said the young lady who plucked me from the streaming Christmas crowd in the centre of town. “Are you from this city,” she asked? “I am,” I replied. She smiled and proceeded to tell me how special this time of year is to her and her religious beliefs. I smiled back. “Yes, December is a pretty special month for me too.” A short conversation, that was much warmer than the street itself, then ensued right across from Marks and Spencer.
This happened just a couple of days ago and I’m still smiling about it. Oxford, like many cities in the UK, is a multicultural city, full of people of differing beliefs and different religious and cultural backgrounds. As the lights go on and the trees go up and the shoppers search for ultimate list-fulfilment, the rush that results often leaves us breathless until we stop on Christmas Day.
One of the titles of Jesus is ‘Prince of Peace’*. Sounds almost ironic, doesn’t it, amidst pre-Christmas madness?
We know that the setting for that first Christmas also lacked that a peaceful presence. A country occupied by a foreign military power may not be Debenhams on Chritmas Eve, but it sure isn’t a Spa room full of candles either. A country groaning under the weight of oppression was seeking a liberator, a king to lead them to freedom and peaceful prosperity.
Their yearning was fulfilled by the birth of a little boy to Jewish parents in Bethlehem. This little boy, foretold by the prophets, announced by the Angels, would grow up to lead a movement that would change the world forever. But even more than that, this little boy really did grow into his title, ‘Prince of Peace’.
Peace. The absolution of anxiety and worry. We all want it, and in various ways all will seek it this Christmas. Be it through family (or not), or presents, or a little tipple, or time away from work … We will seek to quiet the chaos when we can to enjoy a moment of peace whilst we can.
We might even turn to a book, or meditation, or some other spiritual practice to help. And we may even achieve some measure of calm for ourselves through these things.
But Jesus Christ offers a deeper and truer peace. Yes, the hustle and bustle of life wearies us and demands rest. That rest is good and proper. But Jesus’ peace touches a condition far too deep for our own efforts alone to fix.
When our families get together at Christmas there can be much joy and fun. But when there is strife and brokenness at home, then joy can be painfully elusive. God is described as a Father, who loves us and who longs to be in joyful relationship with us. And Jesus? The Prince of Peace? Well, he introduces us to our Heavenly Father.
Christmas is a time of fun and laughter. Hopefully a little break in our lives to relax with those we love. Soon it will be over and we will be back to work. We can bring a certain measure of peace to our lives, but is fleeting and it is never certain. Jesus Christ – whose birthday we celebrate together this Christmas – offers a peace to everyone that is sure, steady, and inexhaustible.
“Hark the herald angels sing ‘Glory to the newborn King!’”
*Foretold by Isaiah the prophet (Isaiah 9:6)