For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. - Isaiah 9:6
The surname Lloyd Webber would be hard to have escaped in the second part of the twentieth century, either the composer Andrew or the cellist Julian. Their father, William, became director of music at Methodist Central Hall Westminster in 1958, and both Andrew and Julian regularly attended worship at Central Hall during this period.
Here is Julian talking about this period of his life on an episode of Songs of Praise, that was repeated this past week on BBC1:
During his time at Central Hall, William Lloyd Webber composed a mass based on the words from Isaiah at the top of this page, the Missa Princeps Pacis (Mass Prince of Peace). Although perhaps not as famous the setting from Handel’s Messiah this piece of music is a significant one, not least for us because of the connection to the Methodist Church.
Our Lord, this passage makes clear to us, loves His people as His children. The use of this word peace, we are told by the Bible commentators, implies prosperity as well as tranquility. As Christians, we understand this passage to be something of a prediction of the Messiah that was to come that would usher in this prosperity and tranquility.
It tells us that there is only one way we can live a well-ordered and balanced life in this world, and that is through Jesus. He knows our needs: physical, emotional and spiritual. To only focus on one, or to get the balance wrong, as we so often do, will never lead to satisfactory or peaceful living, either within ourselves or in our relationships with others.
Philippians 4:6-7 tells us: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
So if we focus on Jesus, the Prince of Peace, and talk to God in prayer, then we too can be partakers in that peace of God.
Here is that mass performed by the Westminster Singers and the City of London Sinfonia conducted by Richard Hickox, a chance to meditate on God's peace:
The reflections here are written by members of our congregation.