18 December 2022

Following Jesus' example: Channels of peace

Ivan Radford

In the fourth of five Advent reflections, Ivan Radford considers how the shepherds responded to the angels’ message.

‘Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on Earth peace to those on whom his favour rests”’ (Luke 2:13 and 14).

One night long ago, a great horde of angels appeared to a group of shepherds to tell them about the birth of Jesus Christ, praising God loudly with one voice and shining the glory of the Lord all around. Doesn’t necessarily sound that peaceful, does it? And yet this energetic part of the Christmas story – in which we read of how the shepherds ‘hurried’ (v16) to Bethlehem to see this baby for themselves – gets to the active heart of what the coming of the Prince of Peace is all about.

The angels proclaimed peace to those on Earth on whom God’s favour rests. The fact that they proclaimed this to a group of shepherds emphasises the wonderful truth behind that proclamation: the favour of God, who gave his son to the whole world, rests on anyone and everyone who will receive him as their Saviour. The inner peace that God’s love and forgiveness brings not only transforms us internally but also compels us to express it outwardly.

Luke 2:16

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

Read the passage

Called to be peacemakers

Peacemaking is something else that doesn’t always sound very peaceful – it occurs in war zones and places of conflict, where hostilities between adversaries require reconciliation. Spreading peace, though, is something each of us is called to do where we are.

‘Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me,’ sang Cormac Thompson at this year’s territorial carol concert. The lyrics to Jill Jackson-Miller and Sy Miller’s 1955 song remind us of that individual commission, highlighting the need for peace to start with our personal relationship with God, followed by the responsibility – the privilege – we have to share that peace with others.

Spreading the word

How did peace begin with each of the shepherds? We don’t hear much more of their story, but we do know that they felt an immediate desire to witness to others and ‘spread the word’ (v17).

Luke tells us that ‘all who heard it were amazed’ (v18). That amazement at the Prince of Peace’s birth continues to spread ripples in hearts and lives thousands of years later, as we communicate the gospel.

Each December, Salvation Army bands go out into the streets to spread the word of Jesus’ peace. Carols are sung far and wide that tell of peace, love and hope.

Living out peace

But it’s not just about telling people of the peace that God offers freely; peacemaking is equally about following Jesus’ example as the embodiment of peace. Living out God’s love for others can begin in your home, as you apologise to a loved one or friend, in your workplace, as you forgive a colleague or customer, in any area of your day-to-day life, as you pardon injuries and combat hatred with love, and as you pray for an end to conflict around the world.

Advent is a time for preparing for the coming of Christ, for reclaiming and renewing your own inner peace and salvation. It’s also a time for preparing to spread the peace that only God can give all year round.

‘Blessed are the peacemakers,’ Jesus declared in his sermon on the mount, ‘for they will be called children of God’ (Matthew 5:9). As children of God and as peacemakers, may you be blessed this Christmas – and may that shower of blessing turn into a river that flows through your life and community.

Make me a channel of your peace.

Where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope.

Where there is darkness, only light,

And where there’s sadness ever joy.

(SASB 608)

Written by

A photo of Ivan Radford.

Ivan Radford

Managing Editor

A photo of someone lighting a red candle with Christmas foliage around it

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