Step with me into the Nativity scene for a moment.
Most of us are Christmas veterans, so the image should come to our minds with ease: worshipful shepherds bunched by the manger, wise men huddled with their gifts (though, historically speaking, they came later), meandering animals (though maybe not in a stable), angels overhead, a protective Joseph standing by his wife.
Now, imagine their eyes. The eyes are the beauty of the Nativity scene. In its memoir-ish compression of the Christmas storyline, the Nativity gathers each pair of eyes from the story—ours included—to one place, for one reason: to gaze in awe at the newborn Jesus. The Peace Child.
See how he relaxes in Mary’s arms, asleep, lost in his world of slumber? The one who could command angels for his safety rests, helpless, trusting only in her protective strength while he sleeps. Feel the breath of mother and child rise and fall in unison. Love has pulled a veil of peace around them. Trust has built them a Holy of Holies. And hope has captivated the eyes of those looking on.
The Nativity scene, like a photograph, freezes a moment so that we can enter it, linger, and receive what it has for us. It is a moment of ultimate peace—and it is a picture of the peace that is God's gift to us.
Peace Even in Pain
It’s meaningful to note that this peaceful moment happens amidst murderous tragedy. Because the Nativity is centered in the context of Herod slaughtering dozens of children, the peace of Jesus gains even more poignancy.
This life is painful and hard. We experience circumstances of seemingly irreversible evil, bear burdens that never seem to lighten, make mistakes that can’t be undone. The Nativity points our eyes to the true and deep center—the peace of Christ—without erasing the reality of suffering that swirls around us.
As we sit in this Nativity moment, let your eyes follow those of the shepherds and wise men. Fix them on the newborn Jesus—the one who is also the Lion of Judah, the Risen King, the very Prince of Peace.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you,” he says. “I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.” This Peace Child, cradled in his mother’s arms, is the one who also holds you in his arms.
The sleeping Peace Child exudes a peace that transforms all around him into children of peace themselves. When we are united to Christ by faith, our position in Christ slowly becomes our experience in Christ. Because of our union with Jesus, you and I are inside this peace, and this peace is inside us, even when it feels impossible to believe—when the depression won't lift, when grief overwhelms, when fear rages, and when discouragement threatens to sink us. “Don’t be afraid!” this Peace Child shouts to his friends one day, as he walks on water. “Take courage. I am here!”
I am here.
Do you see the tiny fist of the Peace Child, fingers clutched around Mary’s finger? That is the hand that one day will calm the sea, heal the blind, accept the nails being driven into the cross. It is the hand that guides you through the valley of the shadow of death. It is his right hand on your shoulder, even now, delighting in you and saying, “Fear not. . . . I am the First and the Last.”
Peace in All of Life
This Advent and Christmas, may Christ’s peace envelop us fully so that we can find rest in it. May it roll into us with the power that will one day draw mountains to their knees in worship, and with the comfort that will wipe away every tear.
May we live all of life in the peace of the Peace Child. It is the gift he offers, because it is what he himself is. He cannot be less, and because of that he is all we need and more.
For all its manifold charms—Vince Guaraldi’s evergreen jazz score first among them—the highlight of the Charlie Brown Christmas special is the moment when Linus recites the story of the angels announcing Jesus’ birth.