However, the first mentions of God giving peace (shalom) come well before the Christmas story. The desire for peace and wholeness has been with us a very long time, and the blessing God told Aaron and the priest to place on the people in Numbers 6:24-26 includes peace:
The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.
As I was pondering this blessing I noticed that each of the three statements begin with "the LORD," the word for God that means he is the faithful promise keeper, the personal being "I AM." The source of this series of blessings is important because we so often seek peace and blessing elsewhere.
Each of the three statements contains two gifts that God is bestowing on the people, for a total of six gifts.
- blessing (well-being)
- keeping (preserving our lives, guarding our steps)
- his face shining upon us (favour, like a smile that fills us with a sense of belonging)
- grace (something we do not deserve in the least)
- his face turned toward us (attentiveness, we are noticed, we are not just a number)
- peace (harmony in our relationship to Him and others around us)
One thing my grandmother used to stress about going to church, even when you might not get anything out of the sermon or even if you were a foreigner and the service was held in a language you did not know, was that at very least you would receive "the blessing" pronounced by the pastor at the closing of the service. At the end of the liturgy I have grown up with, the Benediction is given by the pastor with upraised arms.
Attending a church service Sunday after Sunday is a way that we ask God to "give us peace." And when that Blessing is pronounced, we may open our hands to receive it.