The Advent Season would not feel like advent if it were not for the true story that included, the shepherds…the angels…the shining star…the wise men…the inn…the manger…and, of course, baby Jesus, his mother, Mary, and Joseph. And one word that is often associated with this story is peace.
When the angels heralded the birth of Christ, their theme was Peace. They appeared in peace to the shepherds. They praised God with a proclamation of peace. And they gave hope that the newborn child would one day bring peace to all the world. Here is what Luke records in Luke 2:8-15,
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” (New American Standard Bible, NASB)
All throughout the ages, ever since the angels proclaimed, “peace on earth, good will toward men,” the hearts and minds of people everywhere have been affected. We talk of it, sing of it, dream of it. Men, women, and children around the world hunger for peace, pray for peace, hope for peace. Peace-loving nations around the world diligently yearn for it. Political leaders seek ways to make a “deal” to achieve it.
In fact, the historical announcement that President Donald Trump has officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel (signed on Dec. 6, 2017) has led some to believe that a pathway to peace is more possible now. In spite of those who fear that the eventual move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem will be “catastrophic” and hinder the peace process, there are others who believe that this could lead to the pathway toward a two-state solution between the Palestinians and the Israelis resulting in peace.
The White House says the U.S. remains “deeply committed” toward achieving Mideast peace. Trump said that he intends “to do everything” in his power to help forge a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians. He has instructed the State Department to begin the long process of moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. But Trump is fully aware of the opposition to his plans: “There will of course be disagreement and dissent regarding this announcement. But we are confident that ultimately, as we work through these disagreements, we will arrive at a place of greater understanding and cooperation.”
Long before peace was on the lips of those want to achieve it in the Middle East today, the heavenly hosts announced it at the birth of Christ. The Good News they were declaring was the fact that “peace and good will toward men” will come through the One born in the city of David. Yet, even before the shepherds heard the words of the angels that holy night, peace was prophesied over 700 years earlier by the prophet Isaiah: “For unto us a child is born, to us a Son is given…and his name shall be called…Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of his government or of peace…” (Isaiah 9:6-7a).
Jesus’ role as Prince of Peace will be fulfilled not only as our Peace Maker, but our Peace Bringer, as well. Jesus said to his followers, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, not let it be fearful,” (John 14:27). Jesus left us with the promise of peace and peace he will give us, not like the world gives. The world gives us false peace. It makes promises but doesn’t keep them. It makes treaties and breaks them. It makes claims that personal peace comes through self-indulgence yet it never fully satisfies. So, in reality, the peace the world gives is not really peace at all.
True peace is the kind that Jesus gives. Such peace continues to be received for those who find peace with God. Christ Jesus entered the world for this purpose according to Colossians 1:20-23. At his first advent, Jesus’ mission was to reconcile us to God, “having made peace through the blood of the cross.” Jesus was, indeed, born to die so that we might live ” holy and blameless and beyond reproach” and “not moved away from the hope of the gospel….”
The fact that Jesus is “first-born of all creation” (Col. 1:15) and “first born from the dead” (Col. 1:18) is proof why we can have peace. As “first born” he is entitled to bring us into a personal relationship with God so that we are no longer alienated from him because of sin. This is what it means to be reconciled to God. When we accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we are no longer natural born enemies of God because of sin. Rather, when we give our lives to Christ, we become friends of God through reconciliation and receive forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:13-18). This paves the way for providing true peace in our lives.
The Puritan, Thomas Watson, put it this way:
[Jesus] came into the world with a song of peace: “On earth, peace…” He went out of the world with a legacy of peace, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you.” Christ’s earnest prayer was for peace; He prayed that his people might be one. Christ not only prayed for peace, but bled for peace: “Having made peace through the blood of his cross.” He died not only to make peace between God and man, but between man and man. Christ suffered on the cross, that he might cement Christians together with his blood; as he prayed for peace, so he paid for peace.
Until one enters into that relationship of peace, one will have what could be called “a ruptured or shattered relationship.” It’s compared to a broken bone or dislocated joint. Sin causes our lives to be out of joint with God. That’s the problem with this sinful world which does not recognize the truth concerning Jesus Christ. It does not know lasting peace because it does not know the One who brings peace. Peace in the world will only come when it finds peace with God through peace in Christ. Like it’s been said, “No God, no peace; Know God, know peace.”
Peace with God is possible IF we make room for him in our hearts. One of our Christmas songs says, “let every heart prepare him room.” And yet, without peace WITH God through Christ, one’s heart cannot BE prepared. Sarah W. Stephen is quoted, “Peace, when ‘ruling’ the heart and ‘ruling’ the mind, opens in both EVERY avenue of joy.”
No wonder that when the shepherds heard the word “peace” upon learning of the Good News, they were filled with excitement and joy. They didn’t waste any time to get down to Bethlehem to see this new bundle of joy: “Let us go straight to Bethlehem and see this for ourselves…and they came in haste…” (Luke 2:15-16). Then, after they saw this future Prince of Peace, they “went back, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.” I imagine they were never the same since; their lives forever changed. And so it is with us when we encounter this Prince of Peace in our lives. The peace WITH God that comes through his Son changes us so that we can have the peace OF God.
Here’s the classic song, “Let There Be Peace on Earth”: http://youtu.be/1BkoaPTeZM0
Good News to YOU!