Monday night we gathered together, lit candles, and sang; it was Christmas Eve. We stood with many others around the world as we collectively sang, “Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright.” I was struck as we sang all of the Christmas carols how central peace is to the Christmas story. It is a shocking break in a story that should be anything but peaceful. Homelessness, travel, and child birth seem to be pretty chaotic. There is also the whole fear for their life thing that Joseph and Mary had to deal with, yet peace is insistent.
This is the beauty of the incarnation. God became flesh and dwelled in our neighborhood. The coming of God means something big for our world. God’s love is bigger than we thought and it is visible in the one who became flesh and blood for us. God notices and is attentive to the deep human quandary in such a way that God becomes man. This is the ultimate act of listening and being present with creation. In Exodus, we read about a God who turns his ear towards the Israelites. These cries for liberation compelled God to action, just as the groans and cries of all of creation compelled the sending of Jesus.
The incarnation, the coming of God in human form, is not just a piece of Christmas folklore, it is God’s saving work for all. The incarnation is meaningful because it reminds us that faith comes alive in human history. The Spirit of God is at work in the public space. We spend time talking about the personal aspect of Christian faith, but salvation is much bigger than my individual salvation. God is working in all of creation. The story of God’s saving work is good news because the death and resurrection of Jesus speaks a better word into all things. Douglas John Hall says, “For it is the ultimate incarnational theology, a theology that insists upon encountering the real world and not an ideational construct called a ‘world’ and ‘cosmos’.” God loves all of creation in its particularities; God loves creation even in its brokeness.
You see, peace is so insistent because the prince of Peace came into our world. The chaos does not have the last word. The pain does not reign. When God comes into our neighborhood all things are changed. All that God made is subject to God’s saving work because Jesus came in real space and time. At just the right time God in Christ came and marked a turn in human history.
We, the people of God, are able to find peace because ours is a story of victory and ours is a God who experienced every bit of our world. Jesus is good news for all because Jesus experienced the whole human experience, even suffering and death. The incarnation is peace for the world because God meets us in the midst of our mess and proclaims this is not the end of the story.