Advent: Prince of Peace?
Isaiah 9:6-7 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
Luke 2:13-14 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
Jesus is heralded as the “Prince of Peace,” but since his coming the events of the world have seemed, at least, to prove otherwise. A Lutheran church nativity scene in modern Bethlehem has the baby Jesus lying amidst rubble, presumably as a commentary against the Israeli war with Hamas. However, modern events are not all that dissimilar from the actual time of Jesus’ birth.
Most scholars put the birth of Jesus around the year 4 BC. This was one of the most violent years and led to one of the most violent times in Jewish history.* With the death of King Herod the Great the same year, Judea entered a period of violence and unrest. For the previous 150 years, Judea had been deeply divided by warring factions. This was largely kept in check during Herod’s reign of terror. We know what he did in the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16-18). He was equally brutal with any rival to his throne.
With Herod gone, Jewish nationalism again reached a fevered pitch and there was hope that the Jews could win their independence from their Roman overlords. Skirmishes, insurrections, uprisings ensued literally foreshadowing and contributing to the Jewish War in AD 66 . During these early years, Josephus states there were over 10,000 “disorders” in Judea.
This was the world into which the “Prince of Peace” was born. Some of these horrors occurred near Nazareth, the hometown of Mary, Joseph and Jesus. They were, no doubt, terrorized at times by the unrest around them. Many of Jesus’ followers were Zealots some of which tried to make him a King (insurrectionist) by force (John 6:15).
Since that time humanity has continued its pursuit of war and oppression. Just think of all the wars our country has participated in over the last 250 years. Modern times are no different with war and unrest everywhere. Jesus himself told his disciples in the context of persecution that his followers would experience familial, social, political, and national unrest.
Matthew 10:34-36 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 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– 36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’
So what do the angels mean when they herald “peace on earth?” How can Jesus be the “Prince of Peace” when there has be no peace “on earth” in the 2,027 years since his birth?
This is the question my lesson Sunday will seek to address. Does the Prince of Peace have a message for us in the midst of our unrest? Can the baby Jesus amidst the rubble save us from the rubble surrounding us?
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*For more information on the unrest at the time of Jesus, see