To a large extend the Christmas carols and cards that declare peace on earth or the nativity plays that repeat the angels’ announcement to the shepherds, including the angelic host shouting, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace” have been relegated to the mythology heap. They are nice sentiments reminding us of traditions of old, but there’s no connection to reality.
Further, the words are so familiar, we’ve stopped really listening to them, stopped thinking what exactly they mean. They are part of the Christmas trappings, not something real that’s meant to be believed in the twenty-first century.
Not at all. Those words, unlike some of the other lyrics in the songs, are straight from Scripture.
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.”
(Luke 2:8-14, emphasis added)
Scripture, all of it, is inspired by God. It’s profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness. There are no verses designed to make us feel good during the holidays. There is power in what God says.
Recently our Sunday teacher said something about the passage we know as the Lord’s prayer. He specifically mentioned what comes right after the opening address:
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
God has a specific will which is actualized in Heaven. What happens here on earth is a mixed bag, a result of our made-in-God’s-image personhood but our fallen-and-rebellious nature. We are not yet what we will be.
But we are to pray for God’s will here and now.
Christ’s coming has made this prayer possible. With His birth came glory to God and peace to those reconciled to God.
Like all the gifts of God, however, they aren’t dispensed with a wave of His magic wand. Peace first starts with us confessing our rebellion against God because the true absence of peace is our declaration of war against God.
Oh, few people actually say, I’m going to war against God. Most do so through subtle means—ignoring Him, His Word, His way. It’s really quite passive aggressive. A few declare war on God by asserting His nonexistence. Whichever, all of us like sheep have gone astray. That’s us, at enmity with God. He says, Over here. This way. Follow me. And we say, I didn’t hear anything, did you? Nope. Nothing at all. Probably there’s no one there. Besides, I didn’t want to go that way. I want to go this way.
When we confess that we’ve gone our own way, and turn to follow Him by trusting in the fact that Jesus has paid for our rebellion and we are forgiven because of His shed blood, then we become those men with whom He is well pleased. We become those who enjoy the peace the angels trumpeted.
Too many people assume Jesus’s coming was supposed to put an end to wars and domestic violence and bickering and hatred and prejudice and murders and terrorism and arguments and all forms of non-peaceful behavior. In reality, if all people believed in Him, that’s exactly what would happen. God would give all people His forgiveness, which prompts us to turn around and forgive those who offend us.
And if all people were praying, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, and all people were offering themselves to God to be instruments of that peace, then we would see peace on earth in all its completeness.
The reality is, so many are still straying like sheep. They haven’t sought out the Shepherd and Guardian of their souls. They haven’t humbled themselves before Him and come to Him to be gathered in His arms, to be carried in His bosom.
So far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men, Romans 12:18 says. It’s not up to us so many times. If it were up to me, I’d sit down with the fighters in Syria and tell them about Jesus, the One who sacrificed His life for them. I’d tell the abortion doctors about how God values life so that they’d stop raining terror down on the smallest, most helpless babies.
So far as it depends on me, I’d bring world peace. But of course, those things don’t depend on me and I can do little to affect change.
Nevertheless, there are things I can do—like praying for God’s will to be done here on earth as it is in heaven. Like loving my neighbor and forgiving those who misuse and abuse and badmouth me.
After all, peace with God puts all the stuff I’m inclined to fight about into perspective.