“Here am I, the servant of the Lord;
let it be with me according to your word.”
He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
How do you explain Christmas to a child, or to an adult for that matter? Beyond the Santa Claus part, Elf on the Shelf, and holiday shopping, how do you communicate the incarnation of God? How do you go about unscrewing the inscrutable? Where do you find words for the eternal God becoming time-bound, and the Creator becoming a creature vulnerable to His creation? It can feel like trying to put the Pacific into a thimble!
A man and a book that help me better grasp the wonder of God becoming human is Don Richardson and his book Peace Child. It is a compelling read about Don and his wife Carol ministering to the seemingly Stone Age Sawi people in New Guinea. When they arrived in 1962 the Sawi were still headhunters who prized treachery and betrayal. Sawi children were trained in “fattening friendship”, which meant befriending a member of another tribe to gain trust and then kill him when least expected. Thus, the Sawis cheered when told the story of Judas betraying Jesus. They saw Judas as the hero, not Jesus. The Richardsons were bewildered in knowing how to effectively communicate God’s love for us in giving His Son to die.
But a light went on for the Richardsons when an old blood feud between two Sawi tribes escalated. The two tribes came to realize that if they did not make peace, there would be nothing left. What could be done to bring peace and end years of hostility?
That was when the two tribes resorted to the tradition of the Peace Child. This meant the two chiefs of the two warring tribes each coming together with a Peace Child. The Peace Child was the son of each tribal chief who was then adopted into the family of the enemy chief. Each son was designated as a Peace Child and given to the other chief with the solemn words: “I give you my son, and with him my name.” The custom meant that as long as each Peace Child lived, there would be peace between the tribes. Each Peace Child insured peace between the warring tribes.
The Richardsons saw in the Peace Child custom their opportunity to explain God giving His Son to make peace for the world. And because God’s Son lives forever, there would always be peace with God. It was as if the Sawi heard the good news of Jesus for the first time; they could now put their trust in Him. Lives were changed and the good news spread to other tribes, and people who were once headhunters learned to live in peace.
The Bible reveals God as the great Initiator, the One who always makes the first move. It is God who takes the initiative in making peace with people oblivious to and even hostile towards Him. It is God, after all, who “so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16). It is God who “proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). It is Jesus who as the good shepherd “lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). God does not ask us to make peace with Him; rather, God declares peace! Peace won for us by Christ, the Peace Child. God sent His Son not to condemn and destroy, but to reconcile and make peace. For it was God who “was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of the cross.”
- Talk to the Father about experiencing more of the peace Christ won for you.