Scripture: Micah 4 and 5, select verses
In the days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains…they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid…
And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace.
When we turn on the news, we may not see peace. When we hustle to the store to prepare for holiday company, we may not sense peace. When we wait in lines to get winter tires installed, we may not experience peace. But we could. We live in the chaos of the “already” and the “not yet.” We live in a fallen, broken world. And yet we are assured of God’s great love, Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit in our midst.
Peace is not a cessation of chaos. Peace is a calm in the middle of the storm. Richard Foster, in his book, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, argues that prayer can emerge us in the peace of God at any moment. “Through the Prayer of Rest God places his children in the eye of the storm. When all around us is chaos and confusion, deep within we know stability and serenity. In the midst of intense personal struggle we are still and relaxed. While a thousand frustrations seek to distract us, we remain focused and attentive. This is the fruit of the Prayer of Rest.”
In Mark 4:35-41, we read the story of Jesus calming the storm. Many a sermon has been preached on the magnificence of the Christ calling the waves to be stilled, and the storm ceasing. The disciples are in awe of the actions of Jesus. But before the action, there was inaction. Before Jesus notably rebukes the wind and the waves, he lies still…asleep.
The often overlooked piece of Mark 4, is the little, seemingly insignificant verse, “But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion.” While “a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped,” Jesus was “asleep on the cushion.” The beauty I read in this passage is not only the miracle of the Messiah’s sovereignty over wind and waves, but the example of peace Jesus gives us, being utterly rooted in God.
The prophecy of Micah in the Old Testament describes both the coming of a Saviour into the world who will be called “the one of peace,” and the ultimate righting of wrongs in the world. In the present, we have already witnessed the coming of Jesus into the world, but have not yet lived to see the ultimate righting of wrongs.
The Hebrew world for peace is “shalom,” and encapsulates a much different understanding of peace than we often have today. Shalom includes serenity and calm, and it includes wholeness and things being set right. Shalom gives a sense of everything being in its proper place. The Garden of Eden, before the fall, was a place of shalom, where people could move about freely in relationship with their Creator. The book of Revelation presents shalom when the world is made right again through the images of a wedding feast, and a new heaven and new earth.
Surely, that is a world away!
But Jesus, 2000 years ago was “in the stern, asleep on the cushion.” In prayer we can grasp the peace of Jesus, as we rest in him. In prayer we can connect with the God who promises shalom through Christ. In prayer we can experience the peace of God in the already and the not yet.
Prayer roots us in the soil of our Creator, nourishing our hearts in God’s presence. Prayer does not (in the immediate sense) remove all of the problems from around us, or remove us from the chaos, but transports us to the eye of the storm, where we can experience shalom in the midst of the cacophony around us.
The holidays for some are a time of celebration, laughter, happiness, food, friends, and family. For others, the holidays are reminders of loved ones lost, of broken relationships, and of familial dysfunction. Whether you are running from party to party making merry, or juggling emotions on the brink of breakdown, you can experience peace this Christmas.
Shalom, wholeness, peace is found with Jesus alone, “the one of peace.”
Wherever you find yourself this holiday season, know that you can experience peace through prayer.
Challenge: First thing each morning this week, get up before your household, and root yourself in prayer. Ignore the messes, the noise, the busyness ahead, and get quiet. If you don’t know where to start, consider some of these ideas…
Read Matthew 11:28-30 in The Message paraphrase of scripture:
28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Start off telling Jesus the things for which you are thankful. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the ways you have been walking outside of God’s plan, and seek forgiveness. Move into a time of asking Jesus what it is that He wants you to notice today. Open up to God about the things you are facing this season that are challenging (and don’t hide the emotion or try to sanitize it for God’s sake). Ask Jesus to speak into those challenges and meet you where you are, that you might not be alone in them. Listen and breathe.