In Today’s War-Torn World, What Exactly Does ‘Peace On Earth’ Have To Do With Christmas, Anyway?

Written by Wes Walker on December 25, 2019

It’s a fair question, one that deserves an answer.

Right at the heart of the Christmas message are those words from the angel, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

Ok… now what?

I mean, that was 2000 years ago, and it doesn’t take a super-sleuth to figure out that war is still very much a thing in the world.

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And looking around at our political situation it doesn’t seem like bickering has been done away with yet either.

So… what’s the deal with this ‘Peace on Earth’ bit, anyway? What are we supposed to do with THAT?

Is it some kind of a broken promise? Wishful thinking? Happy thoughts?

No.

It was talking about something else entirely. Something deeper.

Peace on earth, goodwill toward men isn’t a change in how people deal with each other — that will be messed up for as long as this world as we know it keeps spinning.

It’s about how the One whose message the angel bore deals with all of humanity.

As the familiar Carol tells us:

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled. ”
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’ angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem.”
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

God and Sinners reconciled.

Jesus’ birth was the beginning of a new relationship between God and men.

He came not to be forever remembered as a child in a manger, but as he was to become… as described to us in the words of John the Baptist — ‘The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’.

Sin. Isn’t that just an old-timey word?

No, it’s not.

Sin is that malice we react to when we see the powerful abusing the weak; when we see the innocent wrongly punished; when we see the Epstines of this world leave a trail of victims in their wake.

But it’s more than ‘just’ that.

Sin is also that regret that haunts us for those words we can never take back. Those promises we’ve broken. Those loved ones we’ve failed again and again.

The things we’ve done and failed to do that prick our conscience and fill our hearts with shame.

Christ came to bear that shame, that guilt, upon himself — not the accusing stare of our friends and neighbors, but the just wrath of a holy God toward sin, by absorbing on himself the unpaid debt those sins accrued against that holy God.

Not only did he live the sinless life that was required of us, he took upon his own body the divine judgment our sins would demand.

The new life he calls us to into isn’t about rule-keeping at all. It’s about a restored relationship with God, that encumbering weight of guilt having fallen away. It’s about righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.

It’s about — as the hymn said — acknowledging Christ as King because he is truly worthy of the honor.

THAT, not some rigid, dour rule-keeping — is the good news Christ came to proclaim and sent his followers to share abroad.

 

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