What Kind of Peace at Christmas?

Title: What Kind of Peace at Christmas?

Text: Luke 2:8-20

Time: December 20th, 2009

Every year during the Christmas season we hear politicians and celebrities talk about Christmas and its promise of “peace on earth.” This understanding of Christmas is also heard in popular songs, such as Stevie Wonder’s “Someday at Christmas:

Someday at Christmas men won’t be boys
Playing with bombs like kids play with toys
One warm December our hearts will see
A world where men are free
Someday at Christmas there’ll be no wars
When we have learned what Christmas is for
When we have found what life’s really worth
There’ll be peace on earth
Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you and me
But someday at Christmastime
Someday at Christmas we’ll see a land
with no hungry children, no empty hands
One happy morning people will share
a world where people care
Someday at Christmas there’ll be no tears
All men are equal and no man has fears
One shining moment, my heart ran away
From our world today
Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you and me
But someday at Christmastime
Someday at Christmas man will not fail
hate would be gone and love will prevail
Someday a new world that we can start
With hope in every heart
Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you and me
But someday at Christmastime
Someday at Christmastime

Now the theme of popular culture in words and songs is “peace on earth” at Christmas, but is that the real meaning of Christmas? The prevailing idea today is that Jesus was born into the world at Christmas to bring world peace, but is that idea true? We’ll look at the passage where people get the idea of peace at Christmastime and find out what it really means. Luke 2: 8-20 (read). Let’s focus on this specific verse, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests,” Luke 2:14, NIV. Or, as the old King James Version says, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” The word “peace” is used, but from the context it’s used differently than the popular understanding today. Let’s explore this issue further and find out what we can learn so that we really grasp what God is trying to say to us at Christmastime.

First, is there any truth to the idea that Jesus came to bring peace on earth at Christmastime? Luke 2:14,  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Like I said before, the prevailing view in popular culture is Christmastime is really about calling us all to a vision of peace on earth using more or less the words of the angels to the shepherds, “Peace on earth good will toward men.” As I’ll point out later, the emphasis of the angels’ message isn’t world peace , but peace with God for everyone who receives Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior. But even though soul salvation is the main point of the angelic announcement, isn’t there anything in the passage that speaks to world peace, as is the popular notion in our culture today? Yes, but with qualification.  The pop culture idea of world peace at Christmastime is mostly a humanistic dream or vision, not a vision of the Kingdom of God bringing about peace on earth. If you listen to the words of the songs closely you’ll find them explaining how there can be peace on earth through human effort and accomplishment and not much about turning to God for peace. For example, in the song by Stevie Wonder I mentioned above, one of the stanzas says, “Someday at Christmas there’ll be no wars, When we have learned what Christmas is for, When we have found what life’s really worth, There’ll be peace on earth.” The emphasis is on what humans can accomplish if they’d only get together and follow the same world vision. Nothing about turning to God, repenting of sin and selfishness, or obeying God’s will. So the popular notion of peace on earth at Christmastime is secular and humanistic, but be that as it may, isn’t there anything in the biblical verse that could encourage us in the hope of world peace? Again, yes, but not the kind popular culture thinks, nor at the time secular culture thinks either. There will be a time, during the end times, when Jesus Christ returns yet for a second time and sets up and establishes his 1,000-year reign on earth; this is called the millennial reign of Christ (Revelations 20). For one thousand years there will be peace on earth and good will among men, but this will happen only after Christ returns at his second coming. There won’t be peace on earth and good will among men until that time because, just as the Bible describes, all men and women are sinners. Sin and selfishness prevents there ever being peace on earth apart from the rule and reign of God, because sinners can’t keep peace among themselves on their own.  There will be “wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 10:24) all the way up to very return of Christ according to the Bible. So it’s pure fantasy and romantic idealism to seriously suppose that man can usher in world peace. At Christ’s first coming, at his birth in Bethlehem at Christmastime, the angels never promised the baby Jesus would usher in world peace, but we do have the other biblical promises, such as Micah 4:1-5, that one day he’ll return a second time to usher in a time of peace and prosperity the world has never known. So in this sense, there is hope for world peace at Christmastime. But now, let’s turn to the real promise of Christmas.

Second, the real truth of Christmas is Jesus came to bring peace of heart, mind and soul to all who trust and obey him. Luke 2:14,  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” The peace that Jesus brings at Christmas is not world peace in the sense of no more wars and violence or conflicts, but peace with God because of forgiveness of sins and soul salvation through the cross of Christ. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand,” Romans 5:1-2. The peace on earth the angels announced is the peace in the hearts and minds and souls of believers who have trusted in the Savior for forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation. It isn’t the peace of a world without war. It isn’t the peace of a world without violence or conflict. It’s an inner, spiritual peace with God. “My peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth do I give unto you,” says Jesus in John 14:27. Worldly peace is when there are no longer wars or troubles or struggles or conflicts. The world’s peace is based on earthly circumstances – on the financial situation, on the political condition of things, on peace and prosperity in material terms. But the peace that Jesus brings is a peace with God Almighty that nothing can take away; no circumstances on earth can remove it. Once we’ve come to Christ by faith, once we’ve turned away from sin through repentance, once we’ve committed our lives to following God’s will, we receive his spiritual peace in our hearts that nothing on earth can remove. Are you wrongly basing your peace on earthly conditions? Are you saying to yourself, “If only I could make more money at my job,” or “If only my health would improve this year, I’d have peace,” or “If only the financial recession would end and prosperity returns, then I’d have peace” – is this your way of thinking? If it is, you are basing your peace on circumstances. That’s not what the Bible teaches, that’s not what the angels announced, and that’s not what Christ promises. What the Bible teaches, the angels announced and what Christ promises is that you can have peace on earth in your heart and mind by trusting completely in the finished work of Christ on the cross who died and rose again for your salvation. You can have peace with God knowing that your sins are no longer a barrier between you and him, that you’ll never meet God as Judge who condemns you to everlasting punishment for sins, you’ll never experience God’s just wrath. And, you can experience peace with God because you know you’ll experience everlasting life in heaven. The peace the Bible promises is about two things: no more negative consequences from God for sin and positive benefits from God for faith. This is the true peace of Christmas. But the question is, “How can we remain at peace in our hearts while the world carries on in its sin and rebellion against God?”

Third, we should enjoy the peace of God in our hearts and work for peace on earth in life. Luke 2:14,  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Knowing what we know about the sinful nature of humanity, for example, as the Apostle Paul describes in Romans 1; knowing what we know about the terrible end-times scenarios described in the Book of Revelation — it would be easy for Christians to totally give up on the world as far as bringing about peace on earth. The temptation is to say, “True and lasting peace won’t happen until Jesus returns anyway, so why bother struggling in the here and now, because after all it’s all ultimately futile.” When we hear naïve talk such as John Lenin’s song lyrics, “War is over if you want it,” or President Obama saying he’s working hard to bring about a world without nuclear weapons, it’s easy to become cynical. But the truth is, we don’t have to buy into the simplistic, naïve optimism of a secular humanism that believes man can solve the problem of world peace himself; we don’t have to take an unrealistic view of human nature or reality in order to work towards world peace as best we can. We should encourage dialogue over conflict. We should pray for world peace. We should seek to come up with ways to avoid war whenever possible, while at the same time realizing that there will never, ever be lasting world peace until Christ returns and establishes his kingdom on earth. It isn’t that there couldn’t be world peace, it’s that there won’t be world peace as long as sin and sinners remain on the earth. John Lenin’s unrealistic talk about “War is over if you want it” is naïve because of course people are sinners and even though they may talk about wanting peace, their own sin and selfishness prevents it from happening. So while it may be theoretically true that “war is over if we want it,” realistically, as sinners we won’t stop sinning long enough to maintain lasting peace. The same could be said about sin, “Sin is over if you want it.” Yes, if we all wanted to stop sinning we could, but that’s the catch, we won’t stop sinning because we don’t really want to stop sinning due to our sinful nature and our own outright rebellion against God. The whole world could trust and obey God if it would, but it won’t because it doesn’t want to. So we can’t buy into the naïve dreams of humanistic idealism, but on the other hand, we must work to do all we can to bring about peace if not in our world, at least in our own little worlds. “Be at peace with all men inasmuch as it is possible,” (Romans 12:18) should be our guiding verse in speaking of world peace. Once we’ve made peace with God through Jesus Christ, we must strive to be at peace with all others too, personally, socially, in our communities, nationally and also internationally.

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One Response to “What Kind of Peace at Christmas?”

  1. JC Says:

    Peace on Earth???

    Aren’t humans amazing Animals? They kill wildlife – birds, deer, all kinds of cats, coyotes, beavers, groundhogs, mice and foxes by the million in order to protect their domestic animals and their feed.

    Then they kill domestic animals by the billion and eat them. This in turn kills people by the million, because eating all those animals leads to degenerative – and fatal – – health conditions like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and cancer.

    So then humans spend billions of dollars torturing and killing millions of more animals to look for cures for these diseases.

    Elsewhere, millions of other human beings are being killed by hunger and malnutrition because food they could eat is being used to fatten domestic animals.

    Meanwhile, few people recognize the absurdity of humans, who kill so easily and violently, and once a year send out cards praying for “Peace on Earth.”

    ~Revised Preface to Old MacDonald’s Factory Farm by C. David Coates~

    Check out this informative and inspiring video on why people choose vegan: http://veganvideo.org/

    Also see Gary Yourofsky: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bagt5L9wXGo

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