At Christmas time, there are many references made to the concept of peace on earth. Until a few years ago my understanding of this concept was rather hazy due to the way the biblical perspective of peace on earth is mixed together with the secular perspective during this time of year. The Christmas hymns that our culture has traditionally embraced are played on secular radio stations and used in Christmas movies that have nothing to do with Jesus, and even tidbits of the story of Jesus’ birth are sprinkled throughout this season’s festivities. Consequently, many people (Christians included) have developed a kind of “peace on earth” hybrid in their minds which includes elements from the both the Bible and culture. It looks something like this: we believe Christmas is a magical time of year when we remember the people we should be, put aside our conflicts, and give of ourselves to each other…. and Jesus, this little baby born in a stable in the still of the night, is somehow a symbol of this kind of spirit.
The “peace on earth” hybrid is good at creating warm fuzzy feelings and making us tear up a bit, but what does the Bible say about the subject? If we go to Luke chapter 2, we’ll find that the answer is laid out plainly for us. As the account goes, an angel appears before some shepherds who are watching over their flocks at night. The lone angel tells the shepherds that a Savior has been born in Bethlehem and then a multitude of angels appear in the sky together and say, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased (vv. 10-14)!”
The words that follow “on earth peace” are crucial: among those with whom he is pleased. This is not a peace that everyone on earth can experience but only those with whom God is pleased. So, with whom is God pleased? It is only those whom God has chosen to set his love upon and save through faith in his Son. This is why God sent Jesus to be born, to live and to die, so that the conflict we created with God through our sin would be taken out of the way as Jesus took the punishment we deserved (Romans 5:1). But this is only promised to those who turn from their sin and trust Jesus alone to save them (Romans 10:9-10). Peace on earth is not something that can be accomplished when, for a few weeks out of the year, we decide to stop being so selfish and give a little bit more. Jesus is not just a symbol of peace on earth, he is the only way that anyone can experience it. Embracing Jesus by faith brings us peace with God so that we can pursue peace with others for his sake (Matthew 5:9).
Church, the good news of the child who was born to die is what brings peace, so Christmas should not just be a season for giving but for gospel-telling. Can I hear an “amen”?