Peace Child From Heaven

Home for Christmas is a cherished family tradition. Yet some Northwest Adventists find themselves far away from loved ones this holiday season. Servicemen and servicewomen of the armed forces are keeping the peace in faraway places. Student missionaries from Walla Walla University are scattered around the world, homesick perhaps yet dedicated to their post of duty.

Don and Carol Richardson were Baptist missionaries to the Sawi islanders of what is now Papua New Guinea. They had a lonely and dangerous assignment. The natives had a rude habit of murdering visitors.

Even ferocious neighboring tribesmen feared to set foot on the riverbank along the Sawi village. Yet the Richardsons considered them lovable people — loved by God and therefore to be loved by them, whatever the risk.

Don and Carol managed to befriend the tribe, even earning a welcome to live among them. They learned the native language and began teaching the gospel. However, nothing the Sawi learned about Jesus moved them — until they heard about Judas, His betrayer!

As recounted in the book Peace Child, among the highest values of Sawi society was betrayal. Their favorite saying was “fatten with friendship for the slaughter” (quite a mission statement!). The Sawi deceived unsuspecting visitors into imagining they were welcome, while secretly plotting their murder. Then came a fellowship dinner in which they feasted on their victim.

Learning this, the Richardsons had cause to wonder about their own safety as honored guests of the Sawi. They were willing to sacrifice their own lives, if only they could find a way to reach their hardhearted hosts with the gospel of God’s grace.

Things worsened when war began with a neighboring tribe. Day after day, the battle raged outside the Richardsons' little hut.

Then suddenly the fighting stopped. A young Sawi warrior ran between the warring armies carrying a bundle. The fighting paused as he ceremonially presented the bundle to the opposing tribe. Immediately hostilities ended.

What was that bundle? His son. In that society, if someone offered his son to the enemy and that gift was accepted, peace would reign between the tribes. War was no more as long as that child lived.

And so the war was over — not through defeat of the enemy but through the gift of a peace child. Immediately the Richardsons seized their opportunity to present the gospel of God’s Peace Child.

Long ago in Bethlehem, God gave His only Son as our Prince of Peace, so that anyone who believed and received His gift would not perish but have everlasting life. “For Christ himself has made peace … by making us all one people. He has broken down the wall of hostility that used to separate us” (Eph. 2:14, NLT). When Jesus hung on the cross, He not only reconciled us to God but to each other. His outstretched arms welcome us all into sharing God’s saving love.

God’s Peace Child came to us free, but at infinite cost: “The heart of the human father yearns over his son. He looks into the face of his little child, and trembles at the thought of life's peril. He longs to shield his dear one from Satan's power, to hold him back from temptation and conflict. To meet a bitterer conflict and a more fearful risk, God gave His only-begotten Son, that the path of life might be made sure for our little ones. ‘Herein is love.’ Wonder, O heavens! and be astonished, O earth! (Ellen G. White, Desire of Ages, p. 49).

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift” (2 Cor. 9:15). Nothing we do can deserve or repay Him. The psalmist asked, “What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will take up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord” (Ps. 116:12–13).

So all we can do is receive God’s grace and share it. Some Northwest Adventists will devote their holiday break to a short-term mission trip. Others remain home and minister within their own communities, feeding the homeless or providing Christmas gifts for children with a parent in prison.

If you are wondering how to share God’s gift of Jesus this season, look no further than the widows and single mothers of your own congregation. Home-cooked hospitality this Christmas will bless them with their most memorable day of an otherwise lonesome year.

Love in action that responds to God’s gift of Jesus is the true Christmas spirit. Long ago He opened heaven’s gates, sending forth His Peace Child to save us from their sins. Soon heaven’s gates will open again, welcoming us to our eternal home.

Meanwhile, here below in this terribly troubled world, may God help us all to receive and then share the blessings of this Christmas season.

December 29, 2015 / Perspective
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