Peace is one of the promises of Christmas. The angels who took part in praising God after the announcement to the shepherds that Messiah was born particularly included the blessing of peace. “Glory to God in the highest,” they said, “and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
We miss the qualifying phrase—the part about peace belonging to those with whom God is pleased, which is certainly not the whole world—in part because of an earlier translation of the Bible and in part because of wishful thinking. We’d love it if God would snap His fingers and bring an end to wars and arguments and political division and domestic disquiet.
Sadly some atheists have used the occasion to mock the idea that God brings peace through Jesus. Someone put together a video that shows a Christmas tree breaking into flames. Soon fire engulfs the room, all the while a Christmas carol about peace on earth is playing. Ha-ha-ha, the video seems to say. Here’s your peace from your pretend God. In other words, if there’s no peace, then there’s no God.
It’s heartbreaking to see that video because it’s so clear that the people who put it up and those who share it have no idea what the angels meant by “peace on earth.” The real problem is that they don’t realize they are at war with God.
Paul, who isn’t always the easiest New Testament writer to understand, put it pretty bluntly in Romans 8:
For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (vv 6-8)
In reality, we were all at war with God at one time. But God did the unthinkable. He called a truce. More than that. He sued for peace; He paid the reparations.
For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach—if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister. (Col. 1:19-23, emphasis mine)
The peace believers enjoy is not dependent on our physical circumstances. It’s all about our relationship with the God who in His sovereignty rules over all. When we have peace with Him, everything is right, though it may seem on the outside to be wrong. He is, after all, the God who can do the impossible:
If God can do the impossible, then He could take on human flesh and be born as a baby. If God can do the impossible, then He could die, once for all, the just for the unjust. If God can do the impossible, then no sin is too great for Him to forgive, no person so far from Him that He can’t reach them.