A couple of Christmas’ ago Rob and I were particularly excited about the season. Wanting to sprinkle the dust of Christmas cheer on those we loved, we decided to make a family trip to the toy store. We felt generous and wanted to look around with the kids for ideas. We joyfully anticipated seeing their eyes light up when they saw toys they wanted, but we also hoped they would be caught up in a spirit of giving.
The evening didn’t play out like we thought it would. The kids got excited, but more from the prospect of getting than giving. Their eyes lit up, but more with the gleam of greed than of joyful generosity.
The more they saw, the more they wanted, the less peace they experienced, so the harder they tried to chase it.
By the time we were done in the store almost everyone had cried (me included), there had been more demands of ‘I want’ than offers of ‘can I give’, and strife, not peace, reigned over our drive home.
Three weeks ago I received an email that reminded me of that evening in the toy store. This email wasn’t subtle in its attempt to direct me to its website. Initially, I was intrigued because this site doesn’t sell products, so while I wondered what it was all about, I was assured my time wouldn’t be wasted. The more I read, the more I saw that the ask was bigger than me coming to their site; they wanted me to direct as many people as possible to it as well – all in the spirit of good cheer, of course. Apparently, people who spend time on this website are 35% more likely to buy gifts and will, on average, spend 45% more than people who don’t go to the site.
Sounds like you’d be crazy to resist a visit, right? Especially when, as this email went on to say, 61% of responsive users said that being on this site gave them ideas on how to be their best selves. Especially when during the holidays searches for ‘the perfect thing’ jump by 30%. Well, if I wasn’t already convinced to save the address to my favourite’s bar, there was more. If I would get my own campaign going I could connect with high-intent shoppers and I could be the one to give them inspiration – what if I was what they were looking for?!
If I’d had the kind of week where I’d ‘nailed it’ (whatever ‘it’ is and whatever ‘nailing it’ looks like), I might have been persuaded to join this marvelous campaign merging consumerism and self. But I wasn’t even a little bit tempted. I’d had the kind of week that kept me grounded in the knowledge that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, I most surely was not what anyone was looking for.
The minds behind this website knew what I had learned the evening at the toy store. The more we see, the more we want, the less peace we experience, the harder we chase it. We feel gnawing emptiness and look for people or things to fill it. And so we chase. We chase pieces of peace: Pieces of perfection, relationship, beauty.
When humanity sinned, they broke. Wholeness shattered into fragmented pieces. We’ve been chasing ways to put it all back together ever since. I’m not an architect or engineer, but I can see the logic in assuming that the best person for the job of mending broken things is the one who made them in the first place.
A common way peace is understood in our world is from the negative – an absence of conflict. Creator God defines peace from the positive.
When the Creator saw His broken people in gloom, darkness, and burdened under the yoke of oppression, He told them that He was sending Sar Shalom: The Prince of Peace. The night Sar Shalom was born, a multitude of angels filled the heavens with a song of praise: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good hope to the sons of men.” (Luke 2:14)
You see, we need the right kind of peace to have a good hope. And this is where the story can get tricky, because after the Prince of Peace was born, a king saw Him as a threat and killed all the baby boys two and under in the whole region of His birth. Instead of peace, hearts were ripped into pieces.
The Prince of Peace grew to be a man and conducted a ministry of peace. But its end was death. It sounds like the story of Sar Shalom was high-jacked, broken, irreparable.
It would have been if the Prince of Peace was not fully man and fully God. He knew how His ministry would end before it started. On the night He prepared to leave His closest followers, He told them that though He was leaving, He was leaving His peace with them. Not the peace of the world. The peace of that world was pax Romana – ‘peace’ that had been obtained by military might, and peace that was maintained by military might. Peace enforced by the threat of death.
That night the Prince of Peace said that the only shalom that was a good hope, was to be found in Him. It’s a peace that doesn’t come from chasing pieces or trying to put pieces together on your own.
When the Prince of Peace walked towards the horror of the cross He carried out the plan that had been put in place in advance – before the creation of the world – knowing it was worth it because He was paying the price for our well-being, safety, wholeness, and harmony. He was buying our peace. The only kind of peace that puts together the broken pieces of our world and of our hearts. The kind of peace that ends the chasing and replaces it with rest. Peace we can’t buy or create or perfect. Peace unrelated to circumstances or feeling – peace that reigns despite them. Peace of good hope and great joy that is for all people but can only be found in the One who is peace.