Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!
The angels announced Jesus’ birth in Luke 2:14 and made reference to peace on earth. What did they mean?
We hear a lot about peace during Advent and Christmas, don’t we? Advertisers would have us believe that buying presents for ourselves and others will make us happy and will bring us peace. There is a vague notion of ‘peace on earth’, but what does that mean?
Our commercial society would have us believe that it means happiness, family, love, gifts, slowing down and getting what you want. None of these is inherently wrong, but they’re very vague and ultimately not very helpful. Consumerism tells us we must ‘buy now’ and ‘save big on select items’! Your whole family needs new smart phones or tablets so they can be ever present and yet ever distant. But that is not true peace.
The words the Bible uses for ‘peace’, in both the Old and New Testaments, mean completeness, wholeness, welfare, well-being. It has to do with the essential characteristic of the Messianic era, that is total ceasing of any kind of sin, warfare, strife, brokenness in this world.
In fact as I type this, I am listening to ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’, which reminds us of the longing for this wholeness we so deeply desire that is brought up during the Advent and Christmas seasons.
The Bible presents peace as an ultimate, overarching theme of Jesus’ reign. Consider the following passages:
Isaiah 11:6 tells us, “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.”
Verse 8 takes this idea even further. “The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den.”
These pictures present a world where there simply is no violence, death or warfare of any kind. This is what Isaiah describes in chapter 65:17 and 20.
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.” In other words, those in the new heavens and new earth will not even remember the strife and sin that marred the former earth. Verse 20 puts it this way, “No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old.” No more death.
And then, the Bible’s grand finale, Revelation 21:3-5 describes the time when Christ will rule in peace this way, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
It's not simply that God has eradicated Satan and the forces of evil or sin, but that Jesus, reigning as our king, is our peace. Recall Ephesians 2:14, “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility”.
Jesus came to earth to save his people, defeat his and our enemies and make real, lasting peace.
Now that is something to celebrate!