It is very fitting that we celebrate peace as one of the gifts of the first advent since that was something angels wanted to impart at Jesus’ birth. Luke 2:14 tells us what the angels spoke about Jesus’ birth to shepherds working in their fields, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Now this peace is promised to those on whom Jesus’ favor rests. You might be so inclined to wonder just how much peace Jesus has brought to the world after thousands of years of global conflicts not to mention your own personal strife.
The apostle Paul explains at various places how this peace works. For example in Ephesians 2:14-16: For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.
Again, the angels promised peace to those on whom the favor of Jesus rested—that is for those that accept Him as the King like the angels proclaimed. The apostle Paul explains that Jesus breaks down for his family in his body the hostilities we bring to the table and makes His people one. This is true whether we act peacefully or not. In a world of injustice, racial division, imperialism and the like, all those who are Jesus’ are united in His body and are called friends of Jesus, the body of Jesus, the family of God, etc.
This peace that Jesus brings is more than just the absence of conflict but a deep connection, a binding together. The peace that Jesus offers is more than just “live and let live” but a uniting of a people—and this is already accomplished. Members of the body of Christ, the church can operate as if this were not true and thus reject the peace that Christ offers, but that does not diminish the peace that Christ came to bring at Christmas.
Christ brings a peace that, when we live like it is true, affects peace outside of the church as well for many that come in contact with a surprising love and joy between people. Though this peace of Christ brings division as well, that is not evidence we ought bring hostility to others, but rather reminds just as Christ was met with war and blood and antagonism, so His brothers and sisters will also not experience all peace and no pain.
Thus we enjoy the peace that Christ brings in a world at war, trusting that our peace in a warless world is on the way. Thus we celebrate the first advent, that is the arrival or coming, of Christ and long for Jesus’ second advent that His peace be made complete!