The Prince of Peace of Isaiah 9 shattered the longing for an idyllic, earthly paradise by his disturbing declaration that he “did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34). These are not the words of a self-proclaimed, dreamy-eyed, delusional messiah. No indeed! He took pains to get his message across: he was not born of the virgin Mary to bring an end to all conflict, suffering and evil then afflicting the people of the earth in the first century Roman Empire.
In fact, he prophesied that his coming would bring more conflict and calamity, setting “a man against his father and a daughter against her mother…” The sword he unsheathed was not to drive out the Roman legions from the holy land, but to divide humanity into two irreconcilable kingdoms. To the forces of darkness the penetration of his Light into their domain was as threatening as it was abhorrent.
The human instruments of evil, Herod and later the Jewish leaders, sought with an intensity beyond their understanding to extinguish that Light. The former didn’t succeed, and the latter hardly had time to savor their elimination of the threat from Nazareth before the Light reappeared out of the darkness of the grave. His radiance blinded those who thought they could see and gave sight to those who knew they were stumbling in the darkness of their own sin. So it is today.
It is not the pacification of all hostilities that the church is commanded to pursue: only the Prince of Peace can do that. He told us that the conflict between ‘good and evil,’ between the kingdoms of darkness and light will not end until he wraps up history with a shout of triumph. Knowing that the spiritual battle will rage until that moment, we should not be discouraged nor agitated that it continues in our time. Neither should we retreat into a bunker mentality and passively wait until the warfare is ended.
Rather, we must continually focus our sights on the Light of the world. Celebrating the coming of the Son of Man, the Son of God, is a reaffirmation that the Lord of All has not abandoned godless humanity to wallow in its own immorality or struggle fruitlessly against its own mortality. The Hope of Israel is the Hope of us all! In him is all the fullness of God – immortal, invisible, eternal, holy, just, merciful, gracious, loving.
Though the unrighteousness of men will continue for a while longer, the Prince of Peace has come to bring peace now with the Holy God and everlasting joy to his people. The Bronx Household of Faith is placed here on this piece of contested ground in the global struggle to bring good tidings of peace and joy to those still in darkness. Although the battle still rages, the war is won!