Not sure about you, but “peace” is one of the last things I’m feeling at Christmastime.
You’ve got a bazillion gifts, parties and other plans to get done by one specific date – Dec. 25. It’s not like you can really put it off to the day after. It’s one of the most recognizable deadlines known to man.
The Christmas season holds about as much peace for me as those Billy Jack movies from the 70s. You remember, where the hero does what any good pacifist should do when he sees injustice – he goes into a Karate-chopping hissy-fit! I’m still not sure everyone saw the irony in those films that preached so fervently against war, but settled the argument with huge fight scenes. Their unintended solution was less “give peace a chance” than a more Reganesque “peace through strength” policy. Just think what Gandhi could have accomplished if he had just “bulked up” a bit more!
With all the pain and violence recently in our world, these next words may seem a bit ironic…
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men”. – Luke 2:14
It’s funny how we seem to miss the whole point of Christmas, at least the Advent of Christ presented in the Bible. For years I’ve heard people talk about this verse in Luke 2:14 as if it were God’s personal “anti-war statement”. While I’m not here to debate what God thought of the Iraq war…or the World War II…or the War of 1812, I’m pretty sure that’s not what the angels were singing about.
As far as “ending war” anytime soon, I think God knows better than that. He knows what we humans are like, and He has no expectation that war will cease…at least not as long as we’re in charge. Though we keep trying to reform ourselves through education or “sensitivity training”, God said we were truly in need of “transformation”, not “reformation”.
Transformation is what Jesus was all about – He called it being “born again” in John chapter 3. According to Him, a complete makeover is humanity’s only hope
From God’s point of view, we are hopeless when left to ourselves. Our pride bristles at that, and preachers who proclaim that truth are becoming fewer and farther between. But we are incapable of redeeming ourselves, which is the whole reason God came down at Christmastime.
Christmas is the ultimate example of a frustrated, loving Father getting up from His chair, saying, “If you want something done right…”
So what did the angels mean by “peace on earth”? They meant that finally, through the incarnation of Jesus Christ, mankind had the opportunity to find peace with God. And only when He, the Prince of Peace, is in charge can we ever expect peace in our world. And that happens after His “second coming”, not the first.
But peace like “get on the peace train”, “everyone-hold-hands-and-sing-Kum-Ba-Yah” kind of peace now? Not a chance. It will take a second trip down to earth from Him before true peace is reached. Yeah, I know, we “just need more education”, “more understanding”, blah blah blah…
Sorry, not gonna happen. Not in this life, at least.
The Bible paints us very clearly as “enemies of God”, “rebels against the rightful King”. We are in His world, but trying to live as if we are its kings and queens. We continually rationalize our own sins and feel indignant when reminded of His laws.
Any other king would have us kicked out or executed us. But not this King. He is a very good and unbelievably loving king.
So when we couldn’t help ourselves, the King Himself stepped out of heaven and came down to the earth we’d ransacked. He sets about putting things aright again, beginning with the human heart. And while He is at it, He must satisfy His own sense of justice by paying for the damage we have caused. Like any responsible father, He sets out to pay for all we have stolen and destroyed, knowing that we are too far gone and incapable of paying for it ourselves.
Again, we are not reformable, only transformable. And only through His sacrifice on the cross can we be made right with a Holy God. God cannot just say “no problem” to our breaking His laws and rebellion. If so, He would be saying His own righteousness and glory is “really no big deal”. He would be denying His own nature as being truly “good”.
No, He must make it all truly right. And He must make us “right’ in the process, giving us the capacity to truly live like Jesus by putting His own Spirit within us. Now He empowers us so that when we chose to, we can actually overcome evil and our own selfishness and truly, finally be holy as He is holy.
Christmas was the first shot fired in the greatest battle of all. It is a Father coming to a foreign planet to rescue His wayward children from themselves. It is the most daring display of extravagant, flamboyant love ever imagined in human history.
And He did it all for you. So you would be at peace with Him. And also so you could finally find peace in your own life. Not a peace coming from no wars or conflicts – unfortunately, they will always be around in this sin-sick world.
But His peace is one found even “in the midst of the storm”, when chaos is all around. A peace that makes no sense to anyone unless they have first met a Jewish carpenter from Nazareth. The one angels sang of, shepherd bowed to, and wise men were in search of.
This Christmas, God is declaring an armistice in your battle with Him. Will you stop fighting Him?
“Peace on earth”. In your heart. A Christmas gift from a Father that’s realistic about how sick our present world is. In a place this messed up, it’s good to know God’s willing to set up housekeeping…and peacekeeping, within us where no war can ever destroy it!
And that beats a chorus of Kum Ba Yah any day ;0)