Another year draws to a close. When we think of Christmastime our thoughts are often drawn to something most of us long for: peace. Yet, when we look around us, we don’t see much peace in the world. The conflict in the Ukraine continues. For the past couple of months we are reminded daily of the conflict in Israel between Hamas and the Israeli forces. And we hear of other conflicts throughout the world. We might well ask ourselves, “did Jesus not come to bring peace? – after all, isn’t this what the angels announced?”
“Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified. The angel said, ‘Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your saviour is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, ‘Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours.’” (Luke 2:8-14 CEB)
What an announcement! There was no need to fear because the Messiah had arrived bringing peace. But what is this peace, because we don’t see much of it around us?
Notice that the angels said that the peace would be “among those whom he favours” (CEB, NIV, NRSVUE). Other translations deal with it this way: “peace among those with whom he is pleased” (ESV, NASB, NET) or “let there be peace among the people who please God” (NCV). Who is it that God favours? Who is it that God is pleased with? Who are the people who please God? It is God’s people, Christians, those who are seeking to follow and obey him.
It wasn’t universal peace throughout the world that the Messiah came to bring – although if the people of the various nations would seek and serve God it would bring peace throughout the world. The peace that Jesus brings isn’t like the peace we find in the world, which is fragile at best as we have seen in the past few years. Notice what Jesus said about the peace he brings.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27 NIV)
Jesus’ peace is not like the worlds because it isn’t based on treaties and compromises. The peace Jesus offers is based on him and his sacrifice on the cross for our forgiveness. Because we are forgiven we can have peace – forgiveness brings peace. We have peace with God and, as we learn to forgive each other, we can have peace in our lives. Jesus’ peace is based on his death, burial and resurrection and the victory these brought for us all.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’’ (John 16:33)
As we end a year in which conflicts have escalated throughout the world, remember who we are because of Jesus. We are a people that he purchased with his blood (Acts 20:28). Because of this we can be forgiven and be at peace with God. Because of our relationship in Jesus we can have peace with each other. This is the message we need to be proclaiming to the world.
“You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.” (Acts 10:36)
Photo of manger scene by Jon Galloway.
Readings for next week: catch up on reading from the year