how faint a whisper

glimpses of God in a heaven-crammed earth


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IMG_4227A word, and a theme, that runs its way through a number of Christmas songs is that of peace. It’s a popular word, really, and one that even those without faith in our society can latch onto, especially at Christmas-time, and proclaim as a good thing. And true peace is a good thing, undoubtedly, though what society means by proclaiming peace at this season, and what Christians mean, are two very different things. Peace is not synonymous with happiness. It is not having no difficulty in life. It is also not simply getting along with your neighbors and passing out cookies and speaking to long lost relatives again. The reason we as Christians talk about peace at Christmas time specifically is because it’s a promise. It’s a promise that is not yet fully realized, but which the birth of Christ was the beginning of fulfilling. Isaiah chapter nine’s familiar prophecy is one of the passages that makes this connection most clearly,

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end…

Christ was born, died, and rose again, so that when he comes the second time, we can join Him in this reign of peace. That is what the angels proclaimed to the shepherds, and what we remember at Christmas. (It also gives another whole meaning to the idea of advent.)

One of my favorite Christmas songs I only recently discovered. Not because it’s a new song, but because all I had ever known or remember singing as a child was the first verse. Not that the first verse is bad at all, just an incredibly truncated version of all that the song has to say. It’s a song about peace that speaks to this promise, uniting Jesus’ birth to the hope it gives us as we tread wearily at times through life, and to the ultimate fulfillment of His kingdom and the true peace it will bring. There are so many amazing lines that I would love to pull out of this song and dissect one by one, but at the same time, the message of the song altogether is so complete that I wouldn’t want to leave anything out! But if I had to pick a favorite verse, at least at the moment, it would probably be the fourth. Recently I have felt in new ways the crushing load of life. To everything there is a season, and different seasons bring different loads; heavy, light, awkward, overwhelming. But in every season, the message of rest is the same. I don’t think that Christ’s words that His yoke is easy and His burden is light mean that we cease to feel the weight of the world at times, I think it means we understand how incredibly light it all is when held to measure against what is to come at the end of the road. I can’t imagine living life without that understanding, without the promise that “…our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory…” (2 Corinthians 4:17)

So we do not look at the things which are seen, but the things which are unseen. May the peace which is unseen be our rest and strength  as we wait for when “…the whole world [will] give back the song, which now the angels sing.”

It came upon a midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
“Peace on the earth, goodwill to men,
From heaven’s all-gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.
Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o’er its Babel sounds
The blessèd angels sing.
Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.
And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!
For lo!, the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

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