He Shall Be Called: Prince of Peace

Isaiah 7:6 

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.

Ephesians 2:14-17

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.


  1. Throughout Advent we have looked week by week at each of the royal titles given to the newly coronated king in Isaiah’s passage and at how Jesus was seen by the early church as the fulfillment of each of these titles. 
  2. Most of the content of the four Advent messages on the Names for the Messiah have come from a small book by Christian writer – Walter Brueggemann — The Name of the Messiah. It is an excellent small Advent Study booklet[i]
  3. After examining Jesus as Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God and Everlasting Father, we come today to the fourth and final title bestowed by Isaiah:  Prince of Peace.
  4. Several years ago, there was a newspaper article about the horrors of war in Aleppo, Syria,(You remember the videos of the Syrian forces bombing the cities of resistance) and particularly its impact on children.
    1. The article referred to a short video of a 7-year-old Syrian girl, Bana, who said simply: “Please, save us. Thank you.”
    1. The author of the article writes about how disinterested, or at least how distracted from the humanitarian crisis we as a society, have become.
    1. He says, “… All we do is watch, helplessly, as Syrians refuse to go quietly, determined to get us to know them, their lives, all that has been lost.
  5. Some of our society’s indifference can of course be chalked up to compassion fatigue and disillusionment with a war in its sixth year. Actually, we do have compassion fatigue, don’t we? What about Afghanistan, Yemen, the refuge and migrant crises, the mass shootings – our compassion is short lived and then we move back to our normal reclusive pace.  
    1. Today Social media supercharges protest movements, which burn out almost as fast. Such protest movements such as the Civil Rights movement used to require a slow … construction. They didn’t rely on Facebook videos and … photos Instagram and others.
    1. Truth be told, no sane person wants to see these images anyway.
    1. What’s happening in Aleppo is almost unbearable to look at. But that’s the point. The video of the little girl, Bana, looks us straight in the eye and asks us to save her, please. We have done nothing to help. The very least we should do is look back.”
  6.             I have been trying to look back. And as I have been looking, I’ve been thinking about this fourth title for the Christ-child that we’re reflecting on today.
    1. We call the Messiah Prince of Peace.
  7. Of all of the titles we’ve talked about, I think this one slides most easily onto Jesus. It makes sense.
    1. We often think of Jesus as Prince of Peace, even outside of the Advent season.
    1. And during Advent? There are images of peace everywhere.
    1. We love the idea of peace. Just look at some of the Christmas cards we have received – the over whelming theme is peace. (show some of the cards)
  8. But do we really love peace? If so, we have to ask ourselves “What are we willing to do to make peace a reality in our world?”
  9. But do we really love peace? If so, we have to ask ourselves “What are we willing to do to make peace a reality in our world?”
  10. During his last days before his crucifixion, Jesus heads to Jerusalem, and after he arrives, Jesus is greeted with a parade and fanfare with people waving palms, he heads out to look over the city. Jerusalem is on a hill, so Jesus goes down the valley and to the other side of the hill and looks a Jerusalem.
    1. As Jesus surveys everything before him, Jesus beings weeping. He says, “If you, even you had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes … because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.” (Luke 19:42, 44b)
  11. What do you think?
    1. Do we recognize the things that make for peace? What are they? And do we choose them, the things that make for peace?
    1. If we look at the video in Aleppo and at the little girl, I think that we really do not know anything about what peace means.
  12. Pause
  13. The story woven through the scriptures tells us that God’s people have long struggled with knowing how to make peace. God’s people are not very good at making peace – God’s style of peace.
  14. Consider this: Jesus, Prince of Peace, was born in a nation occupied by the Roman government during the time in history known as the Pax Romana – the Roman Peace.
    1. And yet, we know from the accounts of scripture that God’s people in Israel did not consider it a time of peace, but a time of oppression, a time when they were living under foreign rule, a time when people lived in fear.
  15. If we’re settling for this kind of peace, it’s a shallow peace, a false peace, clinging to a notion of peace when there is no peace.
    1. When people are living in silence because they are afraid,
    1. when there is injustice and oppression and yet we say we are at peace – this is not the vision of peace God has.
    1. This is not the peace that the Prince of Peace ushers in.
  16. Maybe we do not know the things that make for peace.
    1. But on our walk with Christ, we do know Jesus, or we are coming to know him, or we have been invited to come and know him.
  17. And Jesus knows about peace. And Jesus can teach us a lot about peace.
    1. Jesus carries in his being a peace that “defies all ordinary expectations, [that is] a peace that is wrought in vulnerability, [that] does not impose its own way.”
  18. He is a Prince of Peace whose vulnerability baffles us.
    1. When Jesus is born, God’s messengers declare that his birth signals that peace is meant for all the earth.
    1. When Jesus heals people, he tells them, “Go in peace,” not as a trite farewell, but as a way of saying that person has been restored to God’s vision for their life.
    1. When Jesus sends out the disciples to preach the Gospel, he tells them to seek out people and homes who “share in peace,” suggesting that peace is a personal and interpersonal relationship, a way of being that we can claim, counter to the culture around us.
    1. Jesus practices nonviolence, refusing to defend himself, even to the point of his own death.
    1. When he is resurrected, the first words he speaks to his disciples are words of peace.
  19. Some might think that Jesus is just naïve. But I think that we’re the ones who don’t know the things that make for peace.
  20. I think sometimes we’ve confused peace with safety and security. But they aren’t synonyms. Peace is different from safety and security – let’s look at why
    1. Peace is not safe! Working for peace, is risky, because God’s vision of peace for the world means that the whole world order gets turned upside down.
    1. If God’s vision of peace prevails, then some will lose power and status and wealth and position.
    1. If God’s peace means a world where the well-being of all people is top priority, then some will fight tooth and nail to keep the status quo. I think that we see this happening right now as our country struggles with caustic divisions over racism, immigration and welfare.
  21. If we insist on working for God’s vision of wholeness for all, then we have a hope of experiencing the peace that passes all understanding.
    1. That peace can abide in our hearts and change our lives, but we also take risks when we commit to the way of peace.
  22. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, invites us to follow him. And his path leads into some dangerous places. He knows this. He goes this way anyway. And he asks us to follow anyway.          
  23. So, we ask ourselves, what are the things that make for peace?
    1. I think peace comes from the inside out.
    1. We don’t know about peace when we think that peace is beyond us, that we aren’t a part of making peace.
  24. When my brother and I would get into arguments growing up, (which we never do anymore, of course) my mom would say, “How can we expect there to be peace in the world if we can’t have peace in our home?” This would induce some eye-rolling in us – at least we agreed on that – but I’ve always remembered it.
    1. How can we have peace in our home if we don’t have peace within? Peace within comes from our relationship with God, from God dwelling in our hearts.
    1. That’s the work of Advent – preparing room in our hearts for the Prince of Peace.
  25. We don’t know about peace when we think that peace won’t cost us.
    1. Brueggemann says that “Peace requires the capacity to forgive.
    1. Peace requires a readiness to share generously.
    1. Peace requires the violation of strict class stratification in society.
    1. Peace requires attentiveness to the vulnerable and the unproductive.
    1. Peace requires humility in the face of exaltation, being last among those who insist on being first and denying self in the interest of the neighbor.”
  26. We don’t know about the things of peace when we pretend, we have achieved peace while others are suffering.
    1. Peace is not the absence of something. It is the presence of something.
    1. Peace is not simply the absence of war, the absence of violence, although we seek after such things as a part of peace. Instead, peace is the welcomed presence of God’s reign in our midst, which results in the well-being of all of God’s creation.
    1. And if peace is the presence of something, not the absence, then we can only live in peace when we are active, not passive in pursuing it.
    1. Peace will not just find us, settle on us, wash over us. We must seek peace, cultivate it, spread it, carry the message of it, claim it in the midst of every opposing message.
  27. When we do these things, when we seek to learn the things that make for peace, when we make it our life’s work to practice them, maybe then we will be able to look back at little girl in Aleppo and hold her gaze steadily, really seeing her, ready to work for a world where she experiences wholeness. We’re waiting, longing for the Christ-child. Let us not miss this visitation from God. Let us be God’s peacemakers, God’s children. Come to us, Prince of Peace. Amen.
  28. Thanks be to God.
  29. Let’s remain sitting as we quietly ponder the words and sing “Let There Be Peace on Earth” 431 in our hymnal.

[i] Names for the Messiah by Walter Brueggemann, 2016 Westminster John Knox Press