Some nights, sleep eludes me- especially with the list of things to remember during the Christmas season. I wake up at three in the morning and my mind begins to race. Like a Border collie herding sheep, my thoughts dart around my brain attempting to corral the tangle of ideas that fill my mind. I can go on this way for hours, tossing and turning in the dark until I remember to whisper a prayer. Finally, my mind rests as I lay it all at God’s feet and accept the gift of peace He promises in His Word.
The theme of peace is woven throughout the story of the Messiah, from Old Testament to New. Isaiah called the Christ child the “Prince of Peace” hundreds of years before Gabriel told Mary she would conceive a son by the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 9:6, and Luke 1:31-33, NIV). The angels celebrated the birth of Jesus by giving glory to God and proclaiming “peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14, NIV) Jesus, the Messiah, would usher peace into the world unlike anything previously experienced.
Once He was a grown man and began His ministry, Jesus had much to say about the kind of peace He was bringing to earth. Knowing the troubles His followers would face, He gave this reassurance shortly before He was crucified:
“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:25-27, NIV)
The peace Jesus offered came in conjunction with the Holy Spirit. The disciples would not fully understand what He meant until later when they experienced the Spirit’s power after Jesus ascended into heaven (see Acts 1 & 2 for the story). Today, however, His followers have unlimited access to the power and peace of the Holy Spirit. All they have to do is ask for it.
Later Jesus also explained:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NIV)
Jesus didn’t promise that He would make life easy or ensure circumstances would go according to our plans. He didn’t promise that things would always be happy. Jesus knew we would face troubles, that we would feel overwhelmed and that our fears would sometimes get the best of us. That is why He reminded us that the peace He gives is not like what the world offers—it is far greater. His peace is not based on circumstances, but on a much deeper sense of well being rooted in having a relationship with Him.
As I consider my sleepless nights and the imaginary Border collie that tries to herd my worries, I realize that what’s missing in my metaphor is a shepherd. Jesus described Himself as the Good Shepherd in John 10, so next time I’m fretting when I should be sleeping, I’ll picture Him walking beside that yapping collie, bringing order and peace to the chaos that sometimes rules my mind. I’ll imagine Him walking with focus and purpose, never frazzled or rushed. In His hand, He holds a curved staff that He uses to corral both the worries and the stray thoughts that keep me awake. And the next time I see a candy cane, I’ll let it remind me of my Good Shepherd’s staff. I’ll thank Him for the gift of peace He brought at Christmas that is mine to keep throughout the year.
Given the sheep & shepherd metaphor, it seems only fitting that shepherds were the first ones to worship the newborn king all those years ago in Bethlehem. Click on the link and enjoy Sidewalk Prophets’ musical celebration of that sacred event: “What a Glorious Night.” Merry Christmas!