The Gifts of Joy and Peace
A meditation on Luke 2:8-14
The two most important words in this passage are joy and peace.
Joy is an essential ingredient of true Christianity and prominent in the Bible. In the Psalms of David, we see the highest expressions of joy, based on God's protection, forgiveness, restoration and fellowship with Him. The Psalmist says that there is fullness of joy in God's presence (Psalms 16:11) and in reading and obeying His Word. In the Old Testament there are many occasions where God's people experience joy not only because of His blessings, such as victory, salvation and prosperity, but because of His very nature. They rejoice in the Lord their God because of His character of steadfast love, faithfulness, justice, strength, greatness and goodness. They give Him glory because He is their creator and King. There were times when the prophets proclaimed God's judgment and withdrawal of His presence from their midst which resulted in the loss of joy. Yet even in such situations the prophets continued to speak of a messianic age, when joy would again be dominant.
The passage in Luke and others in the New Testament speak of the messianic expectation in the birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The angel delivered God’s good news that a Savior had been born in the city of David. The birth of that holy child was the source of great joy. When Jesus preached about the kingdom of heaven it was always characterized by joy. The Apostle Paul speaks of joy as the fruit of the Spirit. It is a joy that will not go away even in affliction. This kind of joy perseveres despite suffering or even as a result of it. The apostles teach that Christians should rejoice that they have received the Word and believed in Christ. Paul himself rejoices and encourages others to rejoice with him that Christ is proclaimed. He is filled with joy because people's lives are changed, they grow in their faith, love each other and live and work together in harmony.
The source of joy is the fact that Christ came to save us by bringing peace between the Creator and His fallen creation. His work on the cross was the atoning sacrifice that brought us back into fellowship with God.
The word peace has always been used for the purpose of greeting people. The simplest definition would be “the absence of war” In the Old Testament, however, its meaning is much more complex and it holds a great deal of theological significance. In this context the meaning is “totality and completeness,” but the word also has different nuances such as “fulfillment, maturity, soundness, wholeness, harmony, tranquility, security, wellbeing, welfare, success, prosperity” and even more. This kind of peace is acquired by love of and obedience to the law. In some places, peace and righteousness are linked (Psalms 85:8, 10). God is the source and the giver of peace in all its fullness, therefore it is associated with divine presence (Numbers 6:26). There can be peace in the community only when there is harmony between God and His creatures, the result of which is safety and prosperity.
In the New Testament, God is referred to as the "God of peace" (Romans 15:33). Jesus gives a peace that is qualitatively different from the peace that world gives (John 14:27). Jesus Christ is the “mediator of peace” (Colossians 1:20, Romans 5:1). The good news of salvation is called "the gospel of peace" (Ephesians 6:15) because it reconciles believers to God and to one another. Peace, in its full dimensions, is the fulfillment of the Messianic expectation of God's people (Isaiah 9:6).
The shepherds heard the good news of the birth of a Savior. They believed and visited the newborn child, then returned praising God and spreading the news. Today we celebrate the coming of the Savior who reconciled us to God and to each other. As we become His children, He fills us with joy and peace through His Holy Spirit.
We are celebrating this unique birth that took place 2,000 years ago, but He is still present with us today. We celebrate Christmas while we continue struggling to overcome a pandemic that has impacted the whole world for about two years and have taken the life of many millions. We Armenians celebrate Christmas while still stricken by Azerbaijan’s aggression and its devastating impacts, loss of life and territories, and political turmoil in our homeland that continues to this day. Peace is absent in our personal life and in our communities. But I still believe that Christmas can remind us of Christ’s coming and His presence. His presence in our life and through our decisions and actions can bring joy and peace.
The Savior continues His ministry of reconciliation in our lives both through our worship at church and through all that we do at home and outside of our home, while performing our daily routines and facing our daily challenges. He is able and willing to be present in our lives offering freedom, as well as His gifts of joy and peace. He came into the world then and He is ready to come into your world today. Are you in the midst of a storm in your life? . . . looking for warmth in a cold dark night? . . . seeking serenity and a lasting calm? The Savior came to bring us the peace of God, a peace that the world cannot give, a peace that no power in all creation can take away from us (John 14:27).
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you (2 Thessalonians 3:16).
Christos dzenav yev haydnetzav
Tsezee, mezee, medz avedis
Քրիստոս ծնաւ եւ յայտնեցաւ
Ձեզի, մեզի, Մեծ Աւետիս
- Rev. Hendrik Shanazarian
Minister to the Union