Isaiah 9:6 – “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.”
Perhaps when you were growing up you had a friend you called the “King” of something. He was the “King of homers” on your sandlot team, or the “King of climbing” in the trees in your neighborhood, or the “King of catching frogs, or bugs, or salamanders,” or whatever else the local wildlife offered. He wasn’t literally royalty, but he was the best at what he did.
Isaiah describes our Savior as the “Prince of Peace.” Jesus is not merely a prince in a metaphorical sense, like the “kings” just mentioned. If anyone can be called royalty it is Jesus Christ: a real life Son of King David according to his human nature, and the ruler and master of all the universe in his divinity.
Prince of Peace describes him like it describes no one else. Jesus epitomizes peace. Look at how he carried out his work. When he comes into our world, he comes into what C.S. Lewis once described as enemy occupied territory. Our sin and Satan’s dirty work make this a harsh and hostile place even for us. For the Son of God, coming to reclaim what is rightfully his from a world in rebellion, it is a downright hateful and dangerous place. John said of his coming, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”
How, then, does he come? With an army of gun-toting secret service agents? Protected by an armored personnel carrier? Preceded by an extended air strike and barrage of artillery to take out the enemy’s front lines? No, he comes as a weak, helpless little baby. He becomes the child of a rather ordinary Jewish family. We sense no hostility toward this world in his birth. For his part, everything about it speaks of peace.
And we who know the other end of this life–what do we see there? When our Prince is battling death and defeating hell for us, does he look like he is fighting? Do we sense him lashing out at his enemies through his trial, his sufferings, and his crucifixion? Isn’t he rather astoundingly passive, even forgiving the soldiers who nail him to the cross? He is the Prince of Peace even when the last battle to free us from our sins is being fought, especially when the last battle to free us from our sins is being fought. He peacefully surrenders his life and dies.
We know this peace from yet another of his conquests, one much closer to you and me. He has also won the battle for our hearts. How did he do it? We weren’t converted to faith in Jesus at gunpoint. Someone may have shared very convincing, very persuasive arguments in favor of the Christian faith along the way, but our faith doesn’t rest on logical arguments alone. How did the Prince of Peace win the battle that battle?
Have we not been overwhelmed by his love and grace, like the love and grace at the center of the sweet story of Jesus’ birth? The wonder of Jesus’ birth is not so much found in the miraculous elements that surround it, true as they are, but that the Lord of all the universe should care enough about us mortals to take our flesh and share our woes. Here, as one theologian put it, “I find a beautiful thing I want to believe, not just something I am told I must fight to defend.” True to his nature, the Prince of Peace has overcome our unbelief, not so much with an act of raw power or a violent assault on our resistance. Rather, this self-emptying of God to save us so consoled us and comforted us that we quite literally can’t help ourselves. We fall into God’s loving arms in faith. It is by the preaching of peace that he has made us his own.
That same peace pervades the kingdom into which he has led us. There is only one place on earth where real peace can be found. It isn’t a destination on any major airline or port of call for any cruise ship. It is the kingdom of the Son God loves. It crosses every border and transcends every division. Within this kingdom people of the most dissimilar cultures separated by the most ancient hatreds or prejudices are united as one. There is nothing else like it on earth. The Apostle Paul describes the peace Jew and Gentile once found under our Prince like this. “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.”
Such peace is not a faded phenomenon of the First Century A.D. Especially at Christmas one hears incredible stories of Union and Confederate soldiers worshiping together on Christmas Eve during the Civil War, or French and German soldiers worshiping together at Christmas during WW I. Men who were sworn enemies and bound to kill as many of each other as they possibly could by day were drawn together by a higher government and a peace which transcended their wars. Their peace was, for the most part, an invisible one, coming as it did from the invisible kingdom to which they belonged, but it was far more real and powerful than any brokered peace this world has ever known. This is because it flowed from peace with God in the forgiveness of sins, a peace which still unites God’s people today, though often they cannot recognize each other across the more visible divides.
Many other words could describe the nature of our Savior and his work: joy, righteousness, grace, or love. But none is more clearly proclaimed to us in the Christmas Gospel than this one we have from Isaiah’s inspired pen: Jesus is the Prince of Peace.