Thursday, 22 June 2017

Day 22: He Himself is Our Peace

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Note: I wrote this post at Christmas. Apologies if you end up with carols in your ear all day!

He himself is our peace. 
Ephesians 2:14

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; 
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them a light has shined... 
They rejoice before you... 
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given... and his name shall be called Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9 

There are times when the news feels unbearable. 

Confronted by stories of child abuse, unprecedented terror, the devastation of homes, towns and countries, - and more- is there any heart that has not longed for a day when every garment rolled in blood might be burned as fuel for fire, when the rod of the oppressor might be broken, when there might be equity for the meek of the earth? For many of us, heavy, dark clouds have rolled in and hung low and threatening and it's been hard to hold on to any kind of hope that isn't tinged by stoicism or cynicism.

In addition to this, there have been all kinds of personal struggles for us to face too. 

In the past few months I have suffered the worst bout of depression I've had in years; I've wept, I've raged, I've felt as though all of my past, my relationships and my hopes have been tainted by the shadows of an irrational yet deeply profound sadness. I've cried out to God, utterly mystified that he'd have things this way. I've held on to shards of hope in weary hands and pleaded for another way.

The world, and individual hearts within it, is weighed down with darkness. There is so much- personal and political- that is so hard to understand; how we've got here and how we'll ever escape seems beyond our fathoming. Suffering is cumbersome and complex, inscrutable and isolating: it's hard to hope when we can't imagine what a solution to it might look like.

At the beginning of December, after the weighty year that was 2016 (it appears 2017 has been no less weighty!),  I read these words. As I did, my heart brimmed with bittersweet joy:

And ye beneath life's crushing load, 
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way, 

With painful steps and slow.
Look now for glad and golden hours 

Come swiftly on the wing;
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing! 

I recognise the weariness of  life in those words, the struggle to persevere, the gruelling nature of the journey.

But when I think about the angels' song, I feel my heart coming alive.

The angels sang, "peace on earth!"

But hallelujah,  they weren't proclaiming the arrival of a philosophy, or a manifesto, or even a state of soul; hallelujah they weren't bringing simplistic solution, a further puzzle for us to work out how to apply... but they were proclaiming a person.

Our rest from the weary road, our release from the burden is not within our own minds or our own hearts or our own spirits.

No, the baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger: He himself is our peace.

Persons are complex. And Jesus, the Lion and the Lamb, who is in the words of Jonathan Edwards, "an admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies" is complex enough, rich enough, both powerful and tender enough to be a match for the darkness, in all its devastating convolutions.

As he lay in that manger, Jesus began to plumb the depths of our darkness and our suffering, and as he grew, he began to redeem. Jesus is a person: a historical, glorious, redeeming, complex person. He can meet the complexity of the darkness. He can fathom the nuances of a thousand shadows. And He will not be overcome. He was born in obscurity and poverty, yet in the dark street shineth the Everlasting Light: "the hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight!"

I don't know what everyone who reads this will be suffering today. And if I did, I'd have no neat answers to wrap up the pain, to unpick the confusion, or to chase away the dark.

But I take comfort in Isaiah's promise to those walking in darkness.

To them Jesus, the Prince of Peace, and our Peace, has been given.

The solution to our sadness, sin, darkness and suffering is not simple, because these things are not simple. But this does not mean he is not adequate for them. To the contrary, it means he is able to deal with these things more comprehensively, more rigorously, and more gloriously then we ever could imagine. He is not just a person, but the ultimate person. He is not just a bringer of peace, He is our Peace. And He has been given to those walking in darkness.

He is ours today.

I pray that Jesus, God with us, brings deep hope, joy and Light to all of us who walk in the darkness.

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