Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Luke 2:14b (Holman) “And peace on earth . . . “
Jesus came to give us peace on three fronts. One, the child brokered peace between God and sinners. The little One’s swaddling clothes were a white flag of truce, a signal of God’s desire to reconcile sinners to Himself.
Sin caused war between God and us. We who were but clay pots had the audacity to rebel against our Potter. In Jesus, our wrestling against God could end, and our allegiance to Him be restored.
Two, the stranger in the manger came to give us peace with one another. Sadly, for any passionate lover of peace, reading church history is depressing, a cynical satire. Peace “person to person” has eluded us.
In the midst of our own barbarous Civil War, Henry Longfellow captured the despair of the Christmas/peace paradox.
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
Ever since the Garden of Eden, sin has marred interpersonal relationships. God created us to be at peace with each other, but something went bad wrong real quick. After Adam and Eve sinned, they immediately argued over who was the guiltiest. Our story of forfeited peace has continued to grind on in discord.
The first death was fratricide; to make it worse, the murdering brother felt no remorse whatsoever. Later, Abraham and Lot had to part ways, Isaac quarreled with Ishmael, Jacob with Esau, and Joseph with his brothers. The chaos goes on and on to this very day.
Christ-followers take consolation in knowing this gloomy arguing will finally dissipate. We shall someday enjoy external peace with others. When our Prince of Peace returns, this time not as a child but as a conquering King, He will break the weapons of war across His knees.
“He will settle disputes among the nations and provide arbitration for many peoples. They will turn their swords into plows and their spears into pruning knives. Nations will not take up the sword against [other] nations, and they will never again train for war” (Isaiah 2:4).
We live with assured confidence; the nations will eventually learn war no more. In the meantime, may God make us people of peace. We realize war is sometimes necessary, but Christ-followers must not revel in it.
Hear a personal word. Not only at the national level, but also at the individual level, we need to hear this Christmas call for peace again, afresh and anew. I urge us to use this Christmastide as a time to seek reconciliation with those we have quarreled with or are estranged from.
Three, the baby came to give us peace inside ourselves. We crave release from guilt. It is a universal malady. Guilt gnaws in the gut of everyone.
We fear death. Before Jesus came, we knew little about life after the grave. People died blindly and stoically indifferent. Suicide was deemed a boon. Jesus brought us a better peace.
Sometimes the glad sounds of Christmas conflict with the bitterness of a bereavement, the sorrow of a sick bed, or the loneliness of a broken relationship. The Yuletide message of peace can sound dissonant in times of inner unrest. But here is the blessed reminder Christmas brings us. Even when the heavens surround us with black angry storms, a voice deep inside can speak peace to us. “The baby has come. He lived, died, and rose. It is well with my soul.”
As we leave this blessed Christmas passage about peace, maybe we could take with us a daily prayer to help us.
Lord, let me be at peace
With others, Thee, and me
Before I go to sleep.