An Advent Meditation
The Lutheran Witness originally published this article on December 6, 1921. Volume 40; issue 25. The historical context is worthy of note: The writer refers to the first international court of arbitration at the Palace of Peace. The Permanent Court of Arbitration was established by world powers in 1899 and intended to arbitrate disputes between various states. In 1921, when this article was written, the world was still reeling from the World War I, which ended on Nov. 11, 1918.
“Every civilized man wants peace.” What peace does the world so earnestly desire? The peace that comes from stable exchange, sound currency, unhampered trade. To insure itself these things there was set up, more than a score of years ago, at The Hague Holland, the first international court of arbitration in the magnificent Palace of Peace, a monument to man’s dream of preventing for all time war and its bloody sacrifice of human life. What a dream, indeed! How shattered the utopian hope! In its utter futility a shouting testimonial that “the word of the Lord is right”: “From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” (James 4:1). While we respect the humanitarian proposals of good statesmen who strive to prevent disharmony in human affairs, and honor their memory long after they have passed away, it remains everlastingly true that they can change neither their own nor other men’s hearts to the extent that a city shall contain only the righteous, let alone bring about such a condition where nations will embrace one another in true brotherly love. Nothing that man can devise and do can change the heart of mankind or eliminate the cause of every political and social evil — “even your lusts” — sin.
The Advent- and Christmastide remind us of the message of peace that was proclaimed to the world at the birth of Jesus Christ. If an earthly peace was the burden of that message, then we must admit that the world is off no better, essentially, than before this message was received. But the peace God’s angels proclaimed at the Savior’s birth is an entirely different peace. It is a holy peace directly connected with the person of the divine Christ, in whom God’s promises concerning the Woman’s Seed have been made yea and Amen. Isaiah calls Him “the Prince of Peace.” Peace is His name. Peace is His essence. In His person there is peace for the world. Regarding it St. Paul says: “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them” (2 Cor. 5:19). The curse of the Law under which man, because of his disobedience to the holy will of God, was lost and condemned to eternal pains, separated man from God. This curse, this inevitable doom, was removed by Christ, who lived and died, yea, was raised again for our justification in the sight of God. In Him God and man have been reconciled. So the angels’ message of, “Peace on earth, good will toward men,” revealed man’s new status before God in the person of the divine Christ, the born Redeemer of the world. Christ is the Prince of Peace because He is the Peace between God and man that has regained man prosperity and blessings here and hereafter. “Good will toward men,” toward all men, from God in the person of Christ, His only-begotten Son; “peace on earth” from God in the person of Christ, His only-begotten Son.
The distress of nations with perplexity is a punishment for rejecting the love of God with its offer of peace and healing. Just how much you are suffering under the general unrest and distress, in whatever manner, depends largely upon how much your soul is rested in God. Not as though Christians were immune against the common evils of life. Nor are they indifferent to what they know to be their duty toward the rest of the world at any time as Christians and citizens. But if their heart is fixed in God, they have peace within under all circumstances, in Him who is their gracious and all-powerful companion, as they make their pilgrimage through this perilous world. “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him” (2 Chron. 16:9).
May the Advent- and Christmastide with its blessed and comforting message urge us to search and pray more diligently for the peace which passeth all understanding! “O Lord, how shall I meet Thee, How welcome Thee aright?” “The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). Prepare to meet Him who comes in the name of the Father. May the dear Christ-child find many hearts embracing Him in faith and love! The world, the self-righteous, know and see no other joy and peace than that afforded by empty and perishing diversities, the tinsel and dissipation of Christmas. But the publican, the sinner — what a world of peace and joy the Christmas-message opens to him! He says with St. Paul: “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord” (Phil. 3:8). With Simeon he can say: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word; for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people” (Luke 2:29). Mine is the sure word of the Scriptures: God and sinner reconciled. Here is the infallible Mediator Jesus Christ, the Righteous, Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Yes, in Him you are rich beyond compare, and can easily afford to miss whatever prosperity you lack in this world’s goods, also the exchanges of gifts of love at Christmas. Whatever it be, let us now go even unto Bethlehem and place our hearts and our prayers, our cares and our burdens, our life and our future, at the feet of Him who became poor that we might be rich. So shall the grace of God in His Son, our Savior and Lord, be measured out to us in abiding faith and peace.
Arthur W. Hinz.
Photo: LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford