As we’re ushered into the holiday season, we often hear the subject of peace. This is the time of year we tend to draw on a bolder spirit of warmth and generosity, love, forgiveness and reconciliation. It is during this season that we tend to look a little more outside of ourselves, observe and tend to the needs of others, whether it be through gifts, time, hospitality or for some of you — an olive branch. The gift of peace.
Perhaps you’ve noticed the popular symbol of the dove and the olive branch. Whether displayed throughout holiday gift shops or printed on your church bulletin, it is a common and important reflection of Christ. We also hear the word “peace” repeatedly in holiday music.
The dove and the olive branch have long been a symbol of devotion, purity and the deepest kind of peace. Its origin comes from the Old Testament in the story of Noah and the Great Flood,
“Then he sent out a dove from him, to see if the water was abated from the face of the land; but the dove found no resting place for the sole of her foot, so she returned to him into the ark, for the water was on the surface of all the earth. Then he put out his hand and took her, and brought her into the ark to himself. So he waited yet another seven days; and again he sent out the dove from the ark. The dove came to him toward evening, and behold, in her beak was a freshly picked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the water was abated from the earth.” -Genesis 8:8-11
God later establishes His covenant with Noah, that He would never again curse the entire earth with a flood — a relinquishing and cessation of God’s righteous judgment. The high waters and chaos had subsided, and God’s extension of peace made a pathway to set things right and restore for them a new future and life on the earth.
In the Old Testament, the offering of doves as a sacrifice was quite common as well, as they were considered a clean bird. A dove is a symbol of gentleness, purity and love. It makes total sense that God would use the dove as foreshadowing of Christ and His perfect sacrifice He would pay on the cross.
As we celebrate Advent, the foretelling of the birth of our Savior, we see countless verses describe Him as a giver of peace and in Isaiah 9 He is called the “Prince of Peace.” When we read the Nativity story, we see the heavenly hosts were praising God and proclaiming “peace” and “goodwill” toward men. Again and again, it is one of the main themes of the gospel. Jesus also calls us to the characteristic of a dove, which is ultimately a reflection of Jesus Himself.
“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” -Matthew 10:16
“If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” –Romans 12:18
When it comes to dealing with peace and reconciliation, both of these passages lay a perfect outline for us to follow. I believe we should always strive for peace, for again Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”
And as children of God, we should be His ambassadors of peace, to offer that olive branch. That doesn’t mean others will receive or abide by it. While that is frustrating and hard, it is important to recognize the things we have control over, and to make peace in our hearts over what we do not control. As it says in Matthew 10, by dusting off your feet, allowing peace to return to you and moving forward knowing we can always remain steadfast in prayer for the Holy Spirit is always at work!
Praise God for the Prince of Peace, our “Wonderful Counselor,” who sets the example for our imperfect selves to follow. The work and pursuit of peace is by no means an easy pathway and we humans know all too well of the sticky, complicated mess we have to navigate when dealing with other sinners. At the core, our application to these tough situations and relationships remain the same, we must reflect Christ.
Is there someone in your life to whom you can extend peace? Pray about it, and if the Lord leads you to do so, reach out. The simplest things can be a catalyst for peace. If God has taught me anything during this holiday season, it is the redemptive power of Christ-like love and the sweetness of offering peace. God is the real restorer; I’m just a facilitator of what He has already granted to me. That vulnerability and faith is a scary step to take, but those simple gestures of peace and love can often be the perfect antidote towards restoration in relationships.
Perhaps that is the greatest gift you can give someone this holiday season — a simple olive branch, the gift of peace.
Added note: for further study, I’ve attached some additional passages on peace. Merry Christmas!
Christmas Cantata 2019
Saturday, Dec. 7
5 and 7 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 8
9:15 a.m., 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Fort Worth Campus
Celebrate the season this weekend at Christ Chapel’s Christmas Cantata, “Glory to God in the Highest.” The worship service tells the story of Christ’s birth through spectacular music. Invite friends to join you and get Reservation Reminders now at www.ccbcfamily.org/cantata.