“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” This was the proclamation made by a great company of the heavenly host that appeared to a group of shepherds one otherwise ordinary night as they tended to their flock. Luke 2:8-14 records for us this amazing event that first Christmas night.
Today, more than 2,000 years later, this same message of peace still permeates shopping centres and many public places as Christmas carols are being played (although notably less these days, in my opinion). To many, I suppose the carols are just background music to create the right atmosphere for buying and giving. But to others who are more discerning, perhaps may ask, “Peace on earth? What does that even mean to us today?” We do not even need to get beyond the first few pages of the newspaper, or the first few minutes into the news on TV or radio, to know that the world is not at peace. Political strife, military conflicts, economic instability, rise of religious fanaticism, erratic climate changes, fall of leaders due to personal indiscretion, breaking down of relationships within families – the list goes on in our increasingly troubled world.
So what is meant by this peace that the angels proclaimed? To understand this, we need to first understand that the world is such a mess because of sin and its effects: greed for power, rebelliousness, selfishness, hate, and so on. Sin rejects God and puts self first. Sin turns people against one another. And in our sinful state, there is no way that we can get ourselves out of this downward spiral.
That first Christmas, the angels could proclaim peace on earth because they were heralding the God’s solution to sin – the coming of Jesus to bring peace between us and God. In Isaiah 9:6, the prophet spoke of the coming Messiah as the Prince of Peace. We are by nature opposed to God and cannot find the way back to God by ourselves. Without God, we are doomed to a life of conflict and distress. Only Jesus can restore our peace with God.
But that peace had to come at great cost. Sin must be atoned – the debt erased only by the shedding of blood. While the priests in the Old Testament carried out this atonement through sacrifice of animals on a regular basis, these rituals were only a foreshadow of what Jesus would do for us once and for all. Colossians 1:20-22 says, “and through Him [Jesus] to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation”.
When a person believes and accepts this sacrifice, God forgives his/her sins and makes peace with him/her. Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”. And this is the peace that surpasses all understanding. Having our relationship with God restored, this is the peace that comes through fully resting in His love, knowing that He is now in charge of our lives, knowing that no matter what, He will never let go of us and we can trust Him completely to meet all our needs. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You [God] will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You.”
Brothers and sisters, are you troubled in your heart? Do the worries over your health, or broken relationship, or your financial situation weigh heavily on your heart? Have you lost this perfect peace? Have you strayed because of sin in your life? This Advent season, rededicate yourself to Christ, our Prince of Peace, and ask Him to restore you into right relationship with God again. Trust Him to meet all your needs.
For those who have yet to know this peace, today God our loving Heavenly Father invites you to come to Him. Real peace can only be found through Him. If you come to Him with a repentant heart and acknowledge your need for His forgiveness, He will never turn you away. You just need to pray like this sincerely:
Dear God, thank you for loving me. I’m praying this because I need You. I acknowledge that I have been running my life my own way and that, as a result, I have sinned against You. I want to ask for Your forgiveness and I believe in my heart that You will because of what Christ Jesus did for me on the cross where He paid for my sins through the shedding of His blood. I now invite Christ to again take control of the throne of my life and restore my relationship with You and give me the peace that I so badly need in my heart. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.
May the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace this day and always.