We see it on Christmas cards. We hear it in song. Despite mankind's cultural differences or religious preferences, it seems this time of year most everyone can agree to promote the special message of "peace on earth, good will to men" - of Christmastime as a reminder to be considerate of the neighbor, to take care of the needy, to find common ground, to seek peace. And that, indeed, is a SPECIAL message!
However, when the company of angels who first spoke this message uttered those words of peace, I believe they had something far grander in mind - something more akin to a Hero saving His Bride.
Into the darkness, God spoke light - fashioned the heavens, the earth, creatures great and small - and called it "good." He reached to the earth to gather dust from the ground and form man, breathing life into his nostrils. There in the garden, man walked with God in the cool of the day, experienced the comfort and nearness of His presence, and knew His fellowship. We were intended for this perfect intimacy with the Creator.
But, this intimacy was broken. By man's disobedience, sin and death entered the world. One act of disobedience wrought an eternal consequence - separation from God.
Thankfully, God is equally holy, just, and loving. He began to share pieces of His redemptive plan. Through the prophets of the Old Testament, He told of One who would come - a ruler, a son, a savior.
"But you, Bethlehem, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times." ---Micah 5:2
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." ---Isaiah 9:6
For thousands of years, these messages of a future hope, of relationship restored, poured from heaven. Creation longed to be reconciled to its Creator and the angelic host longed to proclaim that the Savior had come.
Finally, on a quiet night in Bethlehem, Jesus Christ - Son of God - left His heavenly home and entered our world, clothed in flesh as a humble babe. God had sent His only Son to this earth to live a perfect life and die an undeserving death - OUR death. Jesus would willingly accept OUR punishment by sacrificing Himself to death on the cross. His death would atone for our sins. His death would be our redemption...our reconciliation...our peace!
How overjoyed the angel must have been to proclaim this highly anticipated arrival to the shepherds keeping watch over their flock that night:
"But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.' Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.'" ---Luke 2:10-14
How magnificent the sight! The skies opened and all of heaven shouted the triumphant news: Our gracious and holy God is worthy of praise! Your Savior has come to rescue you!
"For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Christ], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." ---Colossians 1:20
"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." ---Romans 5:1
Baby Jesus was the peace offering, the sacrifice that would reconcile our souls back to God. "Peace on earth" is the proclamation that God loves YOU and made a way for you to return to Him.
To live in peace with fellow man is a special, Biblical message (Romans 12:18, Hebrews 12:14). However, we should be careful not to emphasize relational peace over salvational peace. The true, eternal peace proclaimed in Luke 2 can only be found in Christ. This is the peace I pray you know this Christmas!
Hark, how all the welkin rings,
"Glory to the King of kings;
peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!"
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
join the triumph of the skies;
universal nature say,
"Christ the Lord is born today!"