Peace on earth. Really?! This year, of all years, seems like a poor time to be talking about that. Just look around. Do you see peace on earth? Or is the earth, rather, in pieces!?
Everywhere we look on our planet, peace seems to have fled, leaving behind only the pieces of broken dreams. (Name some evidence of this, updating the rest of this paragraph as necessary.) There’s the damage Hurricane Dorian left behind on the east coast of the United States and, much worse, in Bermuda. Political turmoil in our country and in others around the world tears friends apart; some families don’t even want to sit down for Christmas dinner together for fear of the shouting matches that may erupt! For decades now, city after city, village after village in the Middle East and in Africa lie in ruins or in flames. Warlords. Drug cartels. Drones. Missiles. Christians persecuted for their faith in every corner of the world.
Peace on earth? Hardly!
Yet, there these words are, right there in the sacred text. This verse lies not on the periphery but right there in the middle of what is perhaps the most beloved story in the entire Bible. We see this text, hear this text, and read this text every Christmas. Most of us can recite these words—first spoken by the Christmas angel—from memory:
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace (Luke 2:14 ESV).
That’s easy for the angel to say. He was on his way back to heaven, back to where God—in glory, love, and power—enforces peace! Yet if the angel’s words leave us skeptical or even cynical, we would do well to remember that the angel is not and has never been the disturber of peace on earth. And certainly God, the King of highest heaven, is not disturbing peace on earth.
No, we ourselves are the ones who disrupt the peace our heavenly Father intends for his human children. We are the ones who lose our tempers. We are the ones who fight and quarrel. We are the greedy, the jealous, the vengeful ones. We are the ones who gossip. We see the needs around us and reach for our wallets—not to help, but to get a tighter grip on the money we think keeps us secure. We are the ones who disturb our own peace by worrying and fretting, by believing the lie that we are somehow in control of our own lives. Peace on earth? Never! At least, not if peace is up to us.
But listen to another of the Bible’s promises of peace in Jesus, the promised Savior:
The peace of God . . . will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7 ESV).
This is no command to make peace. This is no admonition just to get along. There is no hint here that God’s sinful, warring creatures are capable of making peace, or that we are responsible for bringing it about. Instead, this is a promise of peace!
Our Creator-God could have come into our sinful world, into our own rebellious lives declaring war. It would have been a just war. It would have been what we deserved. But that’s not what happened. Jesus did come. But he came promising peace—by his grace through faith in himself, our Savior!
Jesus Christ is himself the Prince of Peace. He came to earth to live the holy life we could not live, so that his holiness could be credited to us. He came to earth, born as a baby to die as a criminal, to die in our place, taking the punishment for sin that we had so fully deserved. Jesus was born to die and then to rise from death, defeating death so that each day you and I can rest in peace, free from the fear of death and freed from death’s power to harm or hold us.
For now, we live amidst war’s rubble. We endure the pain and destruction caused by human sin—our own sins and the sins of other sinful people. But even now, the peace of God stands sentry around our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Reread Philippians 4:7.) Even now, God’s promise spoken centuries ago to the prophet Isaiah is true. (Read Isaiah 26:3.) Even now, Jesus is our Prince of Peace.
And one day soon, we will enjoy peace in the new heavens and new earth that the apostle Peter describes. (Read 2 Peter 3:13.) Wherever true righteousness dwells, true peace is never far behind. (Read Psalm 85:10–13.)
Do you know someone who needs that peace this Christmas? Are you praying that the Holy Spirit will convince that person to take God at his word? that he or she will believe the declaration of peace that was sealed at the manger and in the cross of our Savior?
Then keep praying! Keep asking God to provide opportunities for you to share the peace of Christmas with that person. Keep trusting him to give you the right words at the right time—and the courage to speak those words. Imagine your friend at peace, both now and always. What a Christmas gift that would be!
Editor’s note: Today’s devotion comes from one of CTA’s latest Ministry Messages for Christmas. You can find the ornament that matches this theme at ctainc.com. While you’re there, check off the final the gifts on your list. Hurry—December 12 is the last day to order and receive your gifts by December 25!
You are welcome to copy this article for one-time use when you include this credit line and receive no monetary benefit from it: © 2019 CTA, Inc. Used with permission.