Can Christmas Bring Peace?

“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14, KJV)

Friends, these words, spoken by angels to the shepherds the night Jesus was born, have been the source of great encouragement and hope. However, the peace and goodwill they seem to promise have been somewhat elusive. War and violent conflict have plagued humanity since the birth of Christ, just as they did before. In our day, there is conflict and violence in the Middle East and in other parts of the world, including American cities. Political tensions in our country have disrupted relationships between family members and friends. Peace and goodwill often seem in rather short supply. Was it a gross exaggeration for the angels to suggest that the coming of Jesus would significantly change the human experience?

We should note, however, that more modern versions of the Bible translate the angel’s words differently. “Peace on earth to those with whom He is pleased,” (English Standard Version) or “Peace on earth to people He favors,” (Christian Standard Bible) are typical renderings of the phrase. The significance is that the promise of peace and goodwill is not really universal. Only “those with whom God is pleased” or only those whom God “favors” can expect to experience these blessings. This seems to clearly refer to Christians, those who are believers in Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches (Hebrews 11:6) that it is impossible to please God without faith and tells us that our faith in Jesus Christ is a result of God’s grace and favor (Ephesians 2:8-9). The Christmas promise of peace through the coming of Jesus belongs to those who by God’s grace trust and follow Jesus.

A few years ago, I attended the performance of “All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914,” presented by Theater Latte Da. I thought it was a wonderful depiction of the remarkable true story of a spontaneous “cease fire” which occurred during World War I. On Christmas Eve, British troops heard German soldiers in the opposite trenches singing Silent Night in German and responded by singing Silent Night in English. The troops then left the trenches, exchanged Christmas greetings, and even presented gifts to each other. That event was a vivid illustration of the power of “Christmas peace.” Yet that peace was very short-lived. By December 26th, British and German soldiers were once again trying to kill each other. There was not another truce in the three subsequent Christmases which occurred during that war.

Friends, I believe this reflects the fact that the celebration of Christmas can give us a taste of peace, but a true experience of that peace belongs to those who trust and follow the one whom the prophet Isaiah called the “Prince of Peace.” Jesus, the Messiah sent by God the Father, is the source of peace for troubled men and women today. He has promised to someday return to this earth and establish a kingdom that is characterized by complete peace and justice. However, only those pleasing to God, favored by God and trusting in Jesus, will be a part of His Kingdom. Peace, true peace, is a wonderful gift from the Lord. All of us can get a taste of it through celebrating Christmas. A full experience of that peace comes to those who, by God’s grace, trust, love, and follow Jesus Christ. Friends, may the Lord enable you to find that peace in your life.
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Pastor Dan Erickson