By Mark A. Taylor
At first glance, this week’s Christian Standard Interview may not seem like it belongs in a Christmas issue. But ponder a moment, and you’ll see it fits perfectly.
Bill Pile’s attitude toward his terminal cancer demonstrates how he’s received the best Christmas present of all, the gift of peace.
Peace is the promise of Christmas. The prophet said the coming Son would be the Prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6). And the angels’ song assured shepherds that finally this peace had arrived (Luke 2:14).
Every Christmas worship service speaks of the Christmas Baby bringing salvation. But Scripture makes clear he also brings us peace. Isaiah foretold that Christ’s punishment would not only heal our wounds but also bring us peace (Isaiah 53:5). When we tell the “good news” we “proclaim peace” (Isaiah 52:7). And the apostle assures us we can all experience what the angels promised: “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:4 7).
And yet peace eludes many, even many Christians.
Usually this happens when we focus on ourselves. Our responsibilities overwhelm. Our schedules restrict. Our families disappoint. Our doctors give us bad news.
We whine or worry because there’s so much we can’t control. We can’t tell the boss no. We can’t make someone like us or respect us or return our phone calls. We can’t undo the damage done to our bodies by pollutants or an accident or our own bad habits.
We try to compensate at Christmas most often by spending or eating or trying to conform to everyone else’s expectations of us. But we miss peace, the promise of Christmas, because we refuse to do what brought peace to those in the first Christmas story.
The one characteristic in common among Mary and Joseph and the shepherds and the wise men is this: they obeyed. Although they were not living in our fast paced 21st century Western culture, their world was just as filled with stress and confusion as ours. Yet even though God’s expectations or methods seemed unusual, if not outrageous, they obeyed him.
God responded by guiding and protecting and giving them glimpses of his glory they would never have seen had they focused as we so often do on themselves or their own instincts.
They simply submitted, and their trust led to joy (see Luke 1:47; 2:33; and Matthew 2:10).
Without thinking about Christmas, I’ve found myself praying for peace and joy this past year. When friends or family members have faced unsure situations, they’ve needed something better than prosperity or happiness. They’ve needed what Bill Pile has and what you and I would best receive as we celebrate his Son. They’ve needed what only God can do for all of us: “to guide our feet into the path of peace” (Luke 1:79).