Remembering What “Peace on Earth” Means

 
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“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)

For most of us, “peace on earth” is a great, hopeful thought. It moves us to pray for wars and conflict to cease, broken families and relationships to reconcile, and anyone we know (ourselves included) who is struggling with stress, grief, and turmoil to find comfort and calm. Goodness knows this world needs some peace.

But let’s remember what those angels were singing about at the first Christmas. They weren’t just announcing some generic blessing on the planet. They were announcing a peace that had been promised.

The Jews at that time were watching and waiting for this peace to come. Centuries before, Israel had experienced a golden age during the forty-year reign of David’s son Solomon—the “son of peace”—under whose leadership they had enjoyed “peace on all sides” (1 Kings 4:24). Unfaithfulness to their covenant with God had resulted in the loss of the kingdom and exile from the land, yet God Himself had promised that another golden age was coming in which the Son of David would yet again sit on the throne:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. (Isa. 9:6-7a)

He had also promised that He would make “covenant of peace” with His people:

“For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD your Redeemer . . . “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you. (Isa. 54:7-8, 10)

I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. (Ezek. 37:26)

However, no one—Jews included—had any idea of what that peace was or how those promises would be fulfilled. The Jews were all looking for another David or Solomon to rise again—a mighty warrior king who would succeed where Solomon had failed to keep their covenant and restore sovereignty to the nation. They thought the promises were about political peace for their people.

But the Prince of Peace had a much bigger agenda. Paul encapsulates it in Ephesians:

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. (Eph. 2:14-17)

Sin divided man from God. The old covenant divided Jew from Gentile. Between both of these relationships—man to God, and man to man—existed bitter, seemingly permanent walls of hostility. We were enemies of God and enemies of each other. This great spiritual rift was the true war in the universe, and the cause of all human suffering, injustice, oppression, and bondage.

In His death on the cross, Christ reconciled these divides—the vertical and the horizontal. Somehow, as He was killed, He killed the thing that kept these relationships broken, the root of all hatred, hostility, and enmity. He became our peace, and in doing so, peace was forever established on earth.  

Yes, as we look around we see plenty of evidence that peace on earth has not yet been realized. This is because true peace—the peace we celebrate at Christmas—is the peace we can only experience inside this covenant of peace with God. This peace is far more than a lack of stress and strife. It is shalom—relational wholeness. It brings healing from sickness, disease, and all forms of mental, emotional, and spiritual torment. It brings harmony of body, soul, and spirit, safety and prosperity, and the reconciliation and restoration of relationships. It gives us the ability to look to the future with hope and confidence, knowing that God has forever positioned us in this place of favor, provision, and protection. This peace is good news. That is why the New Testament calls the gospel “the gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:15).

This Christmas, I encourage you to ask yourself a few questions:

How fully am I living in this covenant of peace? What areas of my life need to come under the influence of the Prince of Peace and experience wholeness, harmony, safety, prosperity, and confidence?

How is Christ inviting me to be a peacemaker and minister of reconciliation to those around me? How is His love compelling me, as Paul wrote, to plead with people to be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20)? How does He want me to pray, intercede, and bring the kingdom into the lives of people?

Let’s celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace and receive the gift of reconciliation and peace He brings. We don’t have to come under the chaos in our lives or in the world around us. We have authority and an assignment to take our place as ministers of reconciliation wherever we go. In every circumstance where we see disconnection, anxiety, and brokenness, let’s declare as the angels did: “And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14). May this be the Christmas when His powerful, transforming peace breaks into our heart and relationships, and into our nation and the world, in miraculous ways.

 

Merry Christmas!

Peace,

 
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