Many of you are aware that the Hebrew word, “Shalom” is commonly translated into the English word “peace.” But it’s much more, much deeper, than that. It means not only peace, but harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare, and tranquility. At its essence, it means peace with God. It means a full and utter reconciliation with God –a relationship with God free from conflict.
That feeling is rare, and I yearn for the day each December when that feeling, that glorious Christmas Spirit, creeps into my soul and this indescribable feeling of warmth and joy and love for humanity –and God– instills itself in me. I yearn for it, but it is not something I can force myself to feel.
And then one day, as I pondered how to describe that feeling, I recalled Galatians 5:22 & 23a:
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (NLT.)
Now, the word “peace” in that verse is not “shalom,” it’s εἰρήνη. That’s really no big surprise since the verse is written in Greek and “shalom” is a Hebrew word. But, taken as a whole, it’s not a far stretch to claim those nine fruits of the Spirit come very, very close to defining the word “shalom.” At the very least, the fruits of the Spirit are so close to the fruits of true shalom, I’d be willing to make the case with some fervor that the Christmas Spirit is the Holy Spirit.
The thought of greeting each other with “Shalom” with the idea and intent being that God would pour out His Holy Spirit on those being greeted is something that warms my heart indeed. Instead of saying “Hello,” (Which is thought to originate from hailing a ferryman with a form of “whoa there.”) to wish an impartation of the Holy Spirit on another seems a wonderfully Christian thing to do.
The apostle Paul includes the words “grace and peace to you” in the opening salutation of every one of his letters. Peter opens both of his letters with, “May grace and peace be multiplied to you.”
Jesus tells his disciples in John 14:27 that He will give them peace, but note how He describes it:
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (NLT.)
It’s an other-worldly peace, a supernatural peace better than any other peace from the way I read it.
And, as we read in Luke 2:14, when the angel of the LORD appeared to those shepherds abiding in the fields to announce the birth of Messiah, he said:
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (NLT.)
The true gift of Christmas is shalom. It is the true peace, the complete and full reconciliation of relationship with God that our souls long for. It is the harmony, the wholeness, the complete tranquility and prosperity for our souls that only God could provide for us by coming to this Earth for us as a baby in a manger.
It is shalom on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.
Isaiah 9:6 “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (KJV)
Recognition given to Pastor Joel Hollerich for his sermon of 12/5/2021 that inspired this piece.