And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men
I believe that one of the most misunderstood passages in the Christmas story is right here, with the angel’s wonderful message to the shepherds in the field, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward all.” We ask, where is this peace that the angels sing of?
We don’t have to look far in our world to know that peace does not rest on us. From Afghanistan to Pakistan, NYC to Fergunson, we do not live in a time of peace rather a time of tension and warfare, rioting and terror.
We don’t have to look far outside our own homes and neighborhoods to know that peace doesn’t always rest on us, especially during the holidays, families can get really on edge with all of the expectations of the season, trying to see everyone, get to everyone, buy something for everyone, feeling cranky and on edge and sometimes just wanting the whole holiday season to be over so you can get some peace!
We don’t have to look far outside our own hearts to know that peace doesn’t always rest inside of us. Some days we simply struggle with so much inner conflict and turmoil, from our own painful actions and guilt, from hurt caused by others, from a tension we feel about God and our place in this great big world. Peace is something we would like very much to have.
Where is this peace that the angels are sharing with the shepherds? It’s not some fuzzy kind of wish, like when someone says, “have a good day” or a pie in the sky notion, if we all just get along. Instead this peace the angels sing about is all centered around someone very specific, in the one that the shepherds go and see, the babe born in Bethlehem. God’s peace is found in Jesus born on Christmas day.
Peace begins with God coming to us. The most important relationship we will ever have is the relationship with our God. We were created by God out of love so that we could have friendship with God, the one who created and sustains us. God gave us freedom so we could love freely, love God freely and love each other freely. We become more and more of who we are, fully human, full loved, when we live in the love of God. But in that freedom given we have also used it to go away from God and from each other, the peace that we don’t see in our lives and in our world is because of us. The first relationship we break is our relationship with God and everything that is done in hurt and selfishness is done against God first and its consequences reverberate throughout our lives. In our own brokenness we break the peace with God who made us to live at peace with Him and that is something we can never put right ourselves.
That is why the news the angels sing is such good news for all people. God has given us His peace in Jesus. In Jesus we have all that we were meant to have in friendship with God. We have access to God, he hears our every thought, every prayer. He knows our heart and forgives our sins. God safeguards our souls and keeps us safe, even when we die, in His eternal peace.
God came to give us peace in Jesus and friendship with God. But even so, God still gives us freedom, to walk away from the peace God gives and live as if God does not exist. But that is the world we live in, the world that does not have that peace we would so desperately love to have. This simple phrase is true, “no God, no peace. Know God, know peace.” That is the world you already live in, is that the kind of gift you want to give to your world, to your loved ones?
But before we can think about bringing peace to even our small corner of the world, peace has to begin with me. This Christmas, receive God’s peace and know that it is for you. Because of Jesus you have peace with God, your fighting is over, God is not angry with you but loves you, all of your sins are forgiven, you are at peace with God. This Christmas receive God’s peace because of Jesus.
As you receive that Christmas peace, its time to be at peace with yourself. If God has already given to you his love from eternity and peace with Him, how can you withhold that from yourself? Right now especially, during the holiday, be kind to yourself, forgive yourself as God in Jesus has forgiven you. Come to the manger like those Wise men from the east of old who laid down their gifts for the newborn king. Lay down all that you have in front of Jesus, give to Him your hurt and pain, your guilt and brokenness, all of those times you beat yourself up, lay it down there before Jesus and let him bring you God’s peace into your life. This Christmas be at peace because of Jesus.
Let God’s peace flow from your life, knowing that you have peace with God and learning to have peace in yourself, God’s peace starts to come out of us to our world. Just like those angels of old that sang of God’s peace, because you have God’s peace in your life, God calls you this Christmas to be His messenger of peace. How beautiful are the words of peace in a world where so little is found, more beautiful than wrapping or tinsel or bows, God’s peace from your lips, from your hands and from your heart is the best Christmas present you can ever give.
This Christmas, this is all done, for you, because of Jesus, you are the reason for the season, so in faith in Jesus you can receive God’s peace, be at peace, and share that Christmas peace with your corner of the world. Merry Christmas, Amen.