These are the days of the years of Abraham’s life, 175 years. Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people. Isaac and Ishmael his sons buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, east of Mamre, the field that Abraham purchased from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried, with Sarah his wife. Genesis 25:7-10 ESV
Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. Ephesians 2:11-18 ESV
Early during World War I, the Germans were fighting the French and the British. They dug themselves into trenches to try to avoid enemy fire. But at Christmas in 1914, an unofficial ceasefire happened. Soldiers from both sides came out of the trenches and stopped fighting. They observed the peace of Christmas together.
When Abraham died, his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him together. Ishmael had been far away from his father and younger brother, but he came home to bury his father. Perhaps Abraham sent for his older son so he could see him one more time before he died. Or perhaps Isaac sent for him to help with the burial. Either way, the old hostility between the brothers was put aside at this time. It was kind of like a ceasefire.
After that Christmas, World War I continued. After Abraham was buried, Ishmael returned to his own place. But the Bible talks about something even better than a temporary ceasefire. It talks about how another death, Jesus’ death on the cross, made permanent peace between two groups of people. There was hostility between Jewish people, who were the people of God’s promise, and all the other people, who are called Gentiles. But faith in Jesus takes that wall down permanently and makes these two groups of people one. Faith in Jesus also opens the door to other people who are outsiders. It invites them to join the family of God because of the love Jesus showed them on the cross.
Jesus’ death on the cross broke down the biggest wall of hostility of all. That was the wall between all the people in the world and God. Sin is the cause of this wall, and Jesus’ death took the wall of sin away. Now we can come to God as his children and know his love and forgiveness. Jesus gives us a peace with God that lasts forever.
Dear Jesus, thank you for taking away the hostility between us and God. Help us to welcome others into your family. Amen.