Growing up, my family spent each night of the holidays sitting beneath the glow of the Christmas tree and watching Christmas movies. We watched the original Miracle on 34th Street and the “new” Miracle on 34th Street (which I now realize is 20 years old). We watched the trilogy of The Santa Claus. We watched multiple versions of the Christmas Carol and romantic comedies that vaguely take place during Christmas like While You Were Sleeping. Each movie ends with lovely similarities: kissing, comfort, warm homes, snow, and singing. They end with Christmas as it was meant to be. This, we might imagine, is peace on earth! Shalom!
As we’ve examined earlier, that’s what the angels sang to us “Peace on Earth”, but Jesus also makes some rather confusing claims about how He came. In fact, He says very blatantly in Matthew 10:34-36, “Don’t think I came to bring peace on earth! I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.”
On first blush, you might notice a few things. One, if Jesus came to get sons and fathers and mothers and daughters and in-laws to be against each other, mission accomplished! Two, Jesus is divisive. His kingdom doesn’t come with perfect snow and hugs gathered around the Christmas tree. The sword of Jesus’ life and existence puts a wedge in the world. But Jesus doesn’t stop at that quote. He goes on to say this:
“Whoever loves his father and mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
Family isn’t everything. Your parents and your children are not everything. In fact, they aren’t worthy of your devotion. Jesus will not allow you to put your hope in your parent’s approval. He will not stomach your worship of children, their success, or their presence. He will not settle for a Christmas card. He demands full devotion. He demands you consider what God thinks of you. He is either the greatest gift you could ever receive or He’s not with you. Either you give everything you have and make all consideration for His will, purpose, and kingdom, or you haven’t really seen it yet. But that’s still not the end of the quote. Jesus goes on:
“And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
You must lose your life. You must do the calculus and the cost-benefit analysis with regards to your soul, personality, story, gifts, resources, time, energy, family, and money. Is Jesus worthy of your life? In our church, Soma Los Angeles, we often talk about our gospel identity. That we’re transformed by the gospel and given a new identity in Christ. What Jesus is describing here is: will you give up your identity as a mother, fathers, daughter, son to make way for your new identity in the gospel, my son, my servant, my ambassador? Will you surrender your self-made identity around your job, accomplishments, nuclear family, political party, causes, and schedule to make way for an identity marked by the cross of Jesus?
Jesus doesn’t come to bring a false peace where we continue to worship our family’s view of our lives. Jesus came to restore you to the one love, one hope, one Lord. The arrival of Jesus’ peace carries a choice: Is He worthy of everything, or is He worthy of nothing? Is Jesus King over everything, or is He King over nothing?
The Call to Submit All to His Reign!
After Jesus rose from the dead, He gathered His disciples together before He ascended into heaven. He makes this declaration in Matthew 28:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
When you gaze at the nativity scene, do you see the King with all authority in heaven and on earth? Do you see His rule and reign of everything below your feet and everything above it? Does He carry more weight than your parents?
How will you answer that call to live your life under His complete authority? To live with Jesus as Lord? To submit your life to Him? Warning: If you do, not only will you experience life, but there will be many who will be angry because you no longer worship them. Even then, you’ll be a peacemaker.
In the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5, Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Blessed are those who find and make peace. While adoring and following Jesus creates a wedge in this world, and Jesus’ command for full submission ends your life, it actually creates peace. What will Jesus call you to do as your King? Love your neighbor. What will Jesus demand of you? Find your rest in Him. What will Jesus command you to do? Forgive others, push back darkness, care for the wounded, welcome the stranger into your life and home, and lead your family to do the same. How blessed are we to call Him Lord and that He would send us into the world pointing to Him—the one who enables the soul to feel its worth. That is a different kind of peace.