For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called ... Prince of Peace.
In the holiday classic, Home Alone, we find a young boy by the name of Kevin McAllister mistakenly left behind by his parents and family as they head off to Europe for Christmas vacation. Kevin rejoices at the prospect initially, enjoying all the things he has been told he could not do. But as the story progresses, Kevin finds himself defending his home from a duo of intruders: the Wet Bandits. With great ingenuity, Kevin schemes and plots to make sure the robbers understand they have picked the wrong house. In the end, the Wet Bandits are apprehended but only after having to endure tests of the worst kind. While the victory was satisfying for Kevin, the peace was palpable when he was reunited with his mother and family at the very end.
In the opening pages of Scripture, we find all creation in full harmony with its Creator. The crown of God’s creation, Adam and Eve, enjoyed uninterrupted communion with Him. The world – the whole cosmos – was idyllic. The biblical writers described this as shalom. At face value, we take this as peace, but in the Bible, it has much more depth. Shalom is the “webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight.”1 It was not an armistice between co-existing entities or some distant deity and creatures. Shalom was a state of affairs where the needs and desires of all creation were rightly ordered, and joyful wonder and delight was found in its Creator and Savior.2
But the devious Serpent wanted a different world. The wily beast set a trap, and our first parents ultimately disobeyed God. And at that moment, an intruder barged in on God’s good creation. Unlike young Kevin in Home Alone, there were no crafty devices to repel the intruder. Sin crossed the threshold of creation, and not one thing was left intact or untouched. Everything God created was spoiled, ruined, broken, and marred by sin. Not only was enmity between God and man present, but the cosmos was at war within itself and with its Creator. There was no shalom; there was no peace. As the words from O Holy Night describe it, “long lay the world in sin and error pining.”
The world was now dark, turned in on itself, and at war. As humanity trudged on in its new direction, God gave the Prophets visions of a new, future reality. One that echoed Eden but was different and better. The visions and promises of Isaiah paint such a world where human wickedness was punished and righteousness prevailed, a land where valleys were made high and mountain tops made low, crooked paths made straight, where lamb and wolf lie down with one another, where God’s image-bearers would gather around a table and have their appetites filled, and where pain, sin, and death would be no more. It was a knitting together of all God’s creation in perfect harmony with its Creator and one another once again. But the only possibility was the God, who established shalom in the first place, would have to re-establish it Himself. So, a Child would be born of a virgin, a Son given, and on His shoulders the government – the Kingdom of God – would rest. He would be called the Prince of Peace.
“A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn” the songwriter tells us. With Jesus’ birth, the plan to make all things right took a real and dramatic step as God said it would from the beginning (Gen. 3:15; Eph. 1:4; Rev. 13:8). The Prince of Peace steps into the broken world He created to re-order it, to restore it, and to make shalom. It was not merely détente with a chaotic, belligerent creation, but a full-on embrace and heightened restoration of all things where God’s image-bearers would be sons and daughters of the King and part of a royal priesthood, but only “by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross” (Col. 1:19-22; 1 John 3:1; 1 Peter 2:9). In Jesus’s Incarnation, death, resurrection, and now ascension, has the Light broken through the darkness and shalom advances upon a sinful, wild creation. And now we await His second Advent, where shalom will be fully restored.
As we live between the two Advents, our world is still helplessly at war with God and itself. One only needs to look at social media, a newspaper, or a news program to see such evidence. We as Christians are caught up in it too. Are we helpless in between the two Advents? Is the peace the Prince promises presently preoccupied? Where or who do we turn to while the nations rage? Ever so briefly, I want to propose we look to the Prince of Peace, and specifically at His humility.
The season of Advent gives us the opportunity to ponder with great awe, God becoming man. Paul tells us in Philippians, Christ demonstrated His humility in coming to dwell with us and His submission to the cross so we could be reconciled to God. If Christ is the example of humility, the opposite is a person full of pride. Pride, some might say, was the first sin in the universe, and is, as Augustine would observe, the chief mark of the unconverted. Pride is indignant at the wound the ego might incur. Pride breeds anger, envy, and resentment towards any so-called offender who might wound the ego. Pride is the cataract for self-awareness and introspection. It doesn’t allow a person to acknowledge their short-comings, failures, or sins. It doesn’t promote repentance or allow a person to make amends for the wrongs done. Pride is part and parcel of why creation is in upheaval, groaning for its day of redemption. On the other hand, humility does the opposite of pride. Humility leads us to self-denial, sacrifice, and restoration – all chief traits we see in the life of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. And until He returns to make all things right, peace be with you.
1. Cornelius Plantinga, Not The Way It’s Supposed To Be: A Breviary of Sin. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995), 10.