One of the fun parts of being a church musician is that you get to look through Christmas music starting sometime in, oh, July. By the time you get to Advent, you’ve heard each song about 100 times and it can get pretty tedious. But it never fails that something will jump out at me in a new way. Just recently in preparing for the Lessons and Carols service, I was rereading all the lyrics to the songs and made a point of really engaging in the poetry of the words. This time it was “It came upon a midnight clear.” The line is “When peace shall over all the earth its ancient splendors fling.”
The word “ancient” really stood out to me. This is an ancient peace. A peace from long, long ago. It’s a peace that existed before Christmas day. It was a peace that existed before time was time, and it has lasted all through the ages – through wars, famines, earth’s groanings and humankind’s despairings. This peace is of heaven. This peace is made of immortality and glory. And it is splendid. I tend to think of peace as quiet and calm and meek. And it is. But it is also majestic and full of splendor, beauty, strength and magnificence. It is an ancient entity, born from the very Being of the Creator-God Himself, a subset of His character and nature. He IS peace, who has broken down every wall, who has made a way to set us free and to reunite us with Himself, our Savior, our Groom, our King.
It reminded me of the verse that also struck me anew in our women’s Bible study this past semester on Philippians. Phil. 4:7 ESV “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Peace as a guard! It’s not the way I usually picture peace. I don’t think of it as a guard, a warrior, who stands watch over me. I don’t think of it as an active state, a state in which, as Webster puts it, “someone is carefully looking for possible danger, threats, problems, etc.” It’s Peace’s job to watch and protect our hearts and minds. And when I pray asking for God’s peace in the midst of this season, I am reminded that it is an ancient state of being, that it’s a return to our proper place, to the time when walking in the garden with Him alone was all we needed and all we truly desired. It was a taking away of all lesser things, peace like a warrior stopping the advance of the enemy, stopping them dead in their tracks, pushing back the many things vying for our attention and our hearts.
And so, for me, the celebration of Christmas is truly the celebration of peace. The peace that comes through the ages to stand guard on my soul. The peace made through the birth and death and resurrection of a baby, weak in infancy but our confidence and joy in the end (another great lyric from “Break forth, o beauteous heavenly light”). We have been given peace as a gift, the ancient warrior, the steadfast and constant guard, beyond reason, beyond all doubt, against all odds. We can rest safely within its walls, knowing our defense is sure, knowing nothing will break down its lines, nothing will destroy it. We get a taste of this peace even now, and there is much more to come, when it will fling itself over all the earth in all its ageless splendor. And it will be glorious. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.