Peace - Advent 2020

The Hebrew word for “peace” is the word “shalom.” It means “to be safe, sound, perfect, complete, nothing lacking.” Shalom signifies the presence of well-being and harmony, both within and without. It also signifies the absence of anxiety or stress. Biblically, it is a future-orientated word.

One would think the birth of the prince of “shalom” must have been peaceful.

One would think.

Matthew 1:18-25

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.

We know very little about Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. He is a carpenter. He’s a blue-collar artisan who works with his hands. He’s not an academic, not a business man, and not a priest. He’s an “honest day’s work for an honest day’s wage” kind of guy.

When his fiancé gets pregnant (by the Holy Spirit, though he doesn’t know it yet), his response is exemplary. Despite what was most likely deep hurt, he is “unwilling to put her to shame” and decides to deal with the situation quietly, no fuss. He wants to guard her from the shame he knows could come. Joseph is temperate, and he repays what he presumes to be evil with good. In other words, he is a good man.

At this point in the story, he is most definitely not at peace.

Matthew 1:20a

But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream.

Joseph is “considering these things” well into the night. Even his dreams are dominated by the situation. He’s mid-stress-dream when an angel shows up, in his dream, with a job.

Matthew 1:20b-25

Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel

Angels figure prominently in the birth story of Jesus. They come in a dazzle of brilliance and are notorious for bringing “good news of great joy!” But for Joseph, while this news is indeed good, the implications for him in the here and now are heavy.

Joseph is to proceed with the marriage. She and her son are very important. Mary is the one of whom the prophet testified. Jesus will save people from their sins. Those are gigantic destinies.

But what about Joseph? Interestingly, there is nothing about his own life, his own impact. It’s as if his legacy is to be bound up in the life of these two: the virgin and her son.

“Don’t be a hero, Joe” — I can imagine his friends saying. “It was just a silly dream.”

Matthew 1:24-25

When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

God commands Joseph to do something, and he intends to do it. Through discomfort, trial, anxiety, challenge and shame (read: non-peace), he will raise the Prince of Peace.

If I were Joseph, I would have a few follow up questions. But Joseph doesn’t ask a thing. He trusts God and obeys.

In fact, of all the characters in the early part of Jesus’ life, Joseph gets the most face-time with heavenly messengers. Repeatedly, angels show up with a difficult job. Repeatedly, Joseph trusts and obeys. See for yourself…

Matthew 2:13-14

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt.

Matthew 2:19-20

But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.

We try so hard to manage our own impact, our own legacies, our own peace . So much anxiety, so much stress, so little peace comes from trying to conjure something eternally meaningful from fleshly strength. God doesn’t ask us to part the sea, but to walk through it. God doesn’t ask Joseph to explain his marriage and family to the world — he asks Joseph to trust and obey.

Trust and obedience are how we let God make good on His promise. In so doing, as Joseph did, we find peace.

Philippians 3:13-14; 4:7

But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

This Christmas, resolve to entrust your destiny to God, and like Joseph, bind up your legacy with the Prince of Peace.



God give me your peace. Help me trust and obey


What are the ways you have tried to squeeze eternal significance from fleshly strength?

What are some areas in which God is calling you to trust and obey him, even though it’s difficult?
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