Before we go there, I'd like to take today's post to consider a phrase we hear & read often this time of year:
Have you ever considered just what that phrase might mean - and specifically the word "peace"? For some, it may be a state of calmness or serenity, for others it may mean simply the absence (or opposite) of war. "Good will toward men"... doesn't that just mean we should all be nice to one another during the holidays (could've saved this man's life)?
This phrase is actually a portion of what the angels said to the shepherds, recorded in Luke's gospel account, as they announced the birth of the Savior:
“Glory to God in the highest,and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
First, the angels look to Heaven, i.e., they look to God. They announce that there is "glory [given] to God in the highest (highest place, or the heavens)." Secondly, only after looking unto God above, they consider man below. In other words, if the first half declares praise being given to God in Heaven, the second half describes a promise being given to man on earth.
Looking up: glory(praise) - TO God - IN Heaven
Looking down: peace - TO men - ON Earth
The first part is the purpose, the second part is the plan. Purpose for what? Plan for what? Well, we are hearing God's messengers announcing God's plan to save God's people - all for God's glory. We learn from Matthew chapter one that Jesus came to "save his people from their sins," this is God's plan. And it's being done all for God's glory, that is, for God's fame - or to display His great worth (see John 17:1-5 and Philippians 2:9-11.)
Now, if Christ came to "save" His people, this seems to assume that there are people who need saving, but saving from what? Maybe a better question is "saving from Whom?" This is where the "peace on earth" phrase comes into play. Again there is a presupposition - if "peace" is being promised on earth, we can presume that there is an absence of peace. There is in fact a war going on. But it has nothing to do with Iraq.
The war, my friend, is between us... and God. Consider these passages from the Bible:
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men"
"For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son..."
"You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?"
It's pretty bad news... because of our inherent sin and rebellion against God, we are His enemies. His wrath is set against us. But here's where the good news begins - Christ - the God-Man, was born to die for God's enemies. He came to bear the wrath of God's anger toward us, on Himself. To put it another way - we are saved BY God, FROM God. Believers are saved by God's holy Son, from God's holy wrath. Amazing isn't it?! Here it is plainly stated in Romans chapter 5:
When the angels announced the promise of peace on earth toward those with whom God is pleased, this was the news that everyone was waiting for. This news was announced and even anticipated by a people who had no way of dealing with their sin. Though the Jews (the original recipients of the Bible message) performed daily temple sacrifices and rituals that pointed symbolically to what Christ would soon accomplish, these sacrifices could not take away their sin and they couldn't satisfy the wrath of a holy God against such sin.
Christ was given a lowly birth, lived a sinless life, died a sacrifical death, and displayed a death-defeating resurrection all for 2 reasons. First and foremost, to bring glory to the Father, and secondly to bring peace to those of us who will place all our trust (our hope, our confidence, our faith) in Him.
Peace on earth? You bet! You can have peace - here on Earth - with God in Heaven - through His Son Jesus Christ (see Romans 5:1). I can think of no greater Gift to receive than a promise of eternal peace with a glorious God.
May Christ truly be yours this Christmas and always.