|"Prince of Peace" by Wendie Thompson|
One of the most famous texts about Jesus’ birth is Isaiah 9, where it says, “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us,” and then it goes on to list all of these amazing names, but one of these names for Jesus is “Prince of Peace.” Something about that name has stuck in the memory of Christians. Jesus is the Prince of Peace.
This little baby, born in a shed for farm animals, was born as a royal peace giver. This little baby - so innocent, so vulnerable, so fragile - is yet the Ruler of that Peace for which we desperately long. Somehow, even though we struggle to believe it, this little baby is the answer to all our questions. Jesus, Prince of Peace.
Now, hold that in mind, as we listen Stacy Keene tell her true story about how a coming baby impacted her world. (Click here to listen. You can skip to 1:00 and stop at 6:00. Or you can read the text below)
So my first true love was my Grandpapa, and he really set the precedent for every other man I ever considered loving. He was clever but modest, and brave but quiet. So when I was an adult, and I found out the great news that I was pregnant with my first child, the first person I wanted to tell was my Grandpapa.
Except that he had just found out a week before that he had four weeks to live.
And that started this beautiful tradition of every night calls to my grandfather while I was pregnant. And I’m very aware of the fact that he is defying the odds every night when I call him and he is still there to take my call to and to hear about my condition and tell me about when my Grandmama was pregnant with her kids or when my mom was little. The stories he laughed the most about were when he told me about me in my babyhood.
And the responsibility of keeping that lifeline going was really heavy but beautiful. I appreciated it.
And about a week before my last month, he ended up going to the hospital, and I went into premature labor that night. And while I was giving birth in the room - literally the room below him - at Union Town Hospital - on June 29, 1997 - he was holding on, and I was bringing my son into the world.
And the next day, I smuggled information with my sister up to him that night, “It’s a boy, and he’s going to share your middle name.” And she came down, “Oh, he really wants to see him.”
So the next morning my mom came in, and she had like a bag full of clothes, for the baby and some for me. And I’m like, “What are you doing? I don’t get out until tomorrow.”
And she’s like, “Get dressed. Hurry up.”
So she’s dressing Morgan in clothes and wrapping him in a blanket, and she like, “We’re going upstairs, come on.” So she’s holding on to Morgan as though somehow she’s not going to get caught by the nurses. And I’m wearing a sweatsuit that doesn’t really fit, and I’m all sweaty. It’s like -- I just had a baby, I can’t hide this.
So, we’re walking past the nurses’ station, and I know they know who I am. I mean they know me ... intimately. And I just look at them like: Please don’t say anything. And for some reason they didn’t.
And my mom and my baby and my sister and me - all snuck upstairs to see my Grandpapa. And he held Morgan, and he whispered some things to him, and he told me he was proud of me. He laughed until he peed himself because we smuggled my son up to see him. And he was like, “I’m so glad you guys did a deviant act for your last act for me.”
So it was a funny and beautiful situation. I went back down to my room and apologized to the nurses. And they scolded me and cried at the same time.
So the next day, my grandfather and I were both discharged from the hospital. I was going home to start my new life with my new child, and he was going home to die.
After he passed away, I really missed those stories he used to tell on the phone when I was pregnant. And the last story I got to hear was from my mom. It was about him.
She called and said, “You know, I think Grandpapa would want you to know this now. Two days before he heard that you were pregnant, he had decided to go through with assisted suicide because he had been living with cancer for so long, and been given four weeks to live, and decided that he didn’t want to suffer the last four weeks. And then you came to him and said, ‘Grandpapa, I’m pregnant,’ and he was like, ‘I’m going to stay for nine months! I’m going to stay alive and see my great-grandchild, and be there for my granddaughter.’”
And his doctors thought he was ridiculously crazy, but he did. He died the day I brought my son home. And now I know that he loves me as much as I loved him.
Because the child was coming, he had hope. Because the child was coming, he decided to live. Because the child was coming, he loved well. Because the child was coming, he had peace.
So now in the Advent and Christmas seasons, we have a similar experience. Because the Christ-child came, we have hope. Because the Christ-child came, we can live. Because the Christ-child came, we have learned to love. Because the Christ-child came, we have peace.
But even more, because Christ, the Prince of Peace, is coming again, we have hope and peace. Christ, the Prince of Peace, will set everything right. The Prince of Peace will right every wrong. The Prince of peace will care for our hearts and souls and everything eternal. The Prince of Peace will shine holy light on all that is good in our world. The Prince of Peace will calm our fears and give justice and mercy and goodness. Because the Prince of Peace is coming, we taste his peace even now.
Listen as Paul explains this to the church in Philippi in Philippians 4:1-9.
1Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stay true to the Lord. I love you and long to see you, dear friends, for you are my joy and the crown I receive for my work.
2 Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. 3 And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life.
4 Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! 5 Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.
6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
Because Christ - the Prince of Peace - is coming, stay true to the Lord (v. 1) Don’t give up on him. Don’t distort who Christ is by living lives absent of peace. I can say honestly with Paul, “You are my joy and the crown I receive for my work, so my dear brothers and sisters, stay true to the Lord.” Because Christ - the Prince of Peace - is coming, live in his peace.
Because Christ - the Prince of Peace - is coming, make peace with each other (v. 2-3). Settle your disagreements. Deal with whatever arguments you have outstanding, whatever offenses stand between you and others, whatever grudges you hold in your hearts. Mediate for each other. Invite someone to help you find peace with those who have wronged you or those whom you have wronged. Do whatever it takes to find peace. Because Christ - the Prince of Peace - is coming, live in his peace.
Because Christ - the Prince of Peace - is coming, rejoice (v. 4). Even though you cannot always be with the ones you love, rejoice. Even though there is an ache in your heart for relationships that just aren’t there, rejoice. Even though your body hurts, rejoice. Even though you stay up at night worrying about your kids, rejoice. Even though you don’t know how to do all the work you feel like you need to do, rejoice. Even though your husband feels like a stranger, rejoice. Even though you find yourself in the hospital, rejoice. Even though - a million different things happen in this broken life - rejoice. I will say it again: rejoice! Because Christ - the Prince of Peace - is coming, live in his peace.
Because Christ, the Prince of Peace, is coming, “let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do” (NLT) (v. 5). “Let your gentleness be evident to all” (NIV). “Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them” (Message). “Let all men know and perceive and recognize your unselfishness (your considerateness, your forbearing spirit)” (Amplified). “Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people” (CEB). “Always be gentle with others” (CEV). Because Christ - the Prince of Peace - is coming, live in his peace.
Because Christ - the Prince of Peace - is coming, pray instead of worrying. Trust Christ to set things right. Trust that God will give you whatever you really, really need. Trust that God will care for those you love. Trust that God knows how to run this world. Tell God exactly what you need, and thank God for all the good God has already done, and then trust. Allow God’s peace to stand guard in your heart and mind. You won’t understand how it works. God’s peace defies logic and explanation, but it is real. God’s peace is there working in us, calming us, guarding us from dangers we know and from dangers we don’t know. Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything, with thanksgiving. Because Christ - the Prince of Peace - is coming, live in his peace.
Because Christ - the Prince of Peace - is coming, look for the good. Look for the good all around you. Don’t hide out in the Christian ghetto. Don’t condemn every artist and writer and musician and philosopher in the world as hopelessly corrupt. Look for whatever is good and lovely and admirable and excellent and beautiful, and think about those things. Praise God that God is at work showing God’s goodness through people who don’t even know that they know God. But also don’t waste your life thinking about nonsense. Don’t waste your minutes and your days chasing scandal and gossip and promiscuity. Think about the good stuff. Focus on the holy and the honorable and the right and the pure. Because Christ - the Prince of Peace - is coming, live in his peace.
Because Christ - the Prince of Peace - is coming, put into practice what you have learned. Don’t be a learner without being a doer. Don’t be a worship consumer without being a worship liver. Don’t just add information to your brain. Put into practice what you have learned. I am far far far from perfect, but I have tried to follow Christ among you. Whatever you have learned from me or received from me or heard from me - whatever you have seen in me that is like Christ - put that into practice. Honor me by doing what I have taught you to do. If you love me, follow me as I follow Christ. Whatever you have seen in me that is not like Christ, shed, jettison, reject that, so that you can follow Christ more closely than me. But most of all, put your faith into practice. Move beyond words and creeds and claims and promises. Move into the world of action and practice and compassion and service. Do. Practice. Be. Live this life to which God is calling us. Live this life which Christ is breathing into us. Because Christ - the Prince of Peace - is coming, live in his peace.
Because Christ - the Prince of Peace - is coming, live in his peace. Don’t give up. Stay true to the Lord. Make peace with each other. Rejoice. Be gentle with others. Don’t worry. Tell God what you need, and say lots of Thank-You’s. Focus on the good. And put this faith into practice. Because Christ - the Prince of Peace - is coming again, live in his peace.
And then, you and I and our world, will never be the same because Christ will come among us. Christ will be real among us. And we will all be changed together, and we will all live in his peace together - in the peace of the Prince of Peace who has come and is coming still.