Two thousand years ago, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, came down from heaven to earth and was born as a helpless babe. “Peace on earth”, the angels sang.
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This Christmas, millions of Christians around the world will sing Carols and tell a saccharine-rich story of a lovely stable, a star shining, and a multitude of angels appearing to shepherds in a field: ‘Peace on earth’, they sing, and everyone will feel warm. Forgetting that the angels’ song was delivered at night to a group of shepherds in a field in a poor agrarian nation oppressed by an occupying political powerhouse.
This Christmas, we will celebrate his coming against the backdrop of the horrific suffering and loss of life in Israel and Gaza through the war against Hamas and remember the war in Ukraine. (We tend to be less conscious of other conflicts being waged in non-western nations.)
As for many previous generations, it doesn’t look a lot like Christmas-promise-fulfilled.
Does the angel’s song really promise peace on earth, or is it a delusion?
To consider it delusional, we would have to show that what was promised failed to materialise. So, let’s clarify exactly what it was that was promised.
The message the angels sang in joy because Jesus had come is often misquoted as we may tend to remember the outdated King James version, or misleading because it is only quoted in part. Modern translations are more helpful.
This is what the angels sang:
‘On earth, peace to those on whom his favour rests’. NIV (emphasis mine.)
‘On earth, peace among those with whom he is pleased.’ ESV (emphasis mine.)
The angels’ song was not proclaiming a fairy-tale change for the life of the world. It was the announcement of an invasion of peace into a world of darkness, available for those who had eyes to see, ears to hear and hearts that inclined towards the light.
Jesus is realistic about life, as always. Here’s what he said himself:
‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth’. Matt 10:34 That’s pretty clear.
‘And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars. See to it that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.’ Matt 24:6
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Jesus warns us of what we should expect.
- Trouble, wars, tribulation. Things are going to get worse in the world, not better. Our own life experience shows this to be true.
- At the same time, a supernatural gift of life-transforming Peace is available right now for every heart that has turned towards him and is following him within a dark and troubled world.
- Things will not continue as they are forever. They will come to an end. A day will come when Jesus returns again, not hidden, but as the conquering king. Every eye shall see him. An end to an age. Then comes judgement.
The angel’s song speaks of promised peace on earth, now, not for the world but for all those ‘who receive him still’.
There Is Promised Peace on Earth – for YOU. Today! In your heart.
We have an extraordinary gift made available by God. Through him, peace has broken in for those who turn to him and are saved. It is an inward experience, a coming into fellowship with the Father who has reconciled us to himself. I’m not an outsider anymore. I have peace with God.
Not only that; I am at peace with myself. God has accepted me, forgiven my sins, washed me clean, and made me a member of his elect family. Not because I am good but because I am forgiven. Furthermore, I am no longer at enmity with those around me. Instead of retaliating, or seeking vengeance, I now forgive those who wound me because God has forgiven me who wounded him.
“Peace I leave with you,” says Jesus; “my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27
Lord Jesus, thank you for coming to earth as the Light of the World. Shine brightly into me. Please deepen my sense of inner peace in a troubled world; touch my soul, spirit and body with your peace. Lord, as I look at the horrific images of war, speak peace into my heart. Integrate me in peace. Show me how to carry your peace and become a peacemaker.
In Jesus’ name.
I speak to every troubled heart and mind in Jesus name and say to you: Peace! Peace! Peace! The peace of the Lord be with you.
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© Roy Godwin 2023
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