14 Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors!
This is a famous verse during the holiday season. You see it on Christmas cards. We sing it in our Christmas carols. Today, I want us to try to understand this verse in the context of the first Christmas. I think this verse captures what we all want, not just during Christmas, but every day. We all want peace, don’t we?
Do you feel at peace today? If you do, praise the Lord? This is one sign that His favor rests upon you. Notice v14 – the peace mentioned here is not a blanket peace for all people. The Lord’s peace comes to the earth, but it is not given to everyone. It is given to people whom He favors.
The peace of the Lord is reserved for the people of God. Many in the world wrongly think that on Christmas Day, peace is something they can manufacture by spending time with family and taking a break from work and watching movies. Peace is more than the absence of work and relaxing on a couch with stockings hung beside a chimney and chestnuts roasting over an open fire. For some, Rudolph and TV specials like “Prep and Landing” can provide some degree of emotional peace. These traditions may stir up nostalgic sentiments of our youth. But this kind of peace is like a mist that is here in the morning and gone by mid-morning. This peace is temporary.
Also, this peace is shallow. It’s a peace that lasts as long as things in your life are going well. What if Christmas for you is lonely because you don’t have family? Or what if you just lost a job – will your Christmas be peaceful then? I highly doubt it. This kind of peace based on circumstances is here one moment, then, poof, it vanishes. Because the peace was shallow to begin with. The peace was paper thin. One issue, one problem and the peace is gone. It doesn’t take much to poke through this kind of shallow peace.
What if you are struggling with some addiction or destructive habit or character flaw, will you be able to have a peaceful Christmas? No, because even in your own skin, there is no peace.
When we say we want peace, I think all of us want a deep, robust peace, one that can weather the storms of life. Jesus is called the Prince of Peace and this kind of deep, robust peace can only be enjoyed through Jesus. He has to give it to you.
Even churches, I believe, we are guilty of promoting a false sense of peace in our re-enactment of Christmas. Most nativity scenes I have watched consist of little kids dressed up as Mary and Joseph and they look so cute as they embrace a doll posing as baby Jesus and the scene seems so peaceful, so serene, so angelic. And Christians are buying into the lie that just because December 25th is approaching, suddenly all is peaceful. All will be well.
If we understood what the first Christmas was really like, I think it would give us some pause before we settle for a temporary, surface level peace and I think we would gain a better grasp of the deep, robust, lasting, godly peace that the birth of Christ offers.
On the surface, the first Christmas was anything but peaceful. It was a spiritual battle. The first Christmas involved angels and demons. It was a spiritually charged time in history. When you pay attention to the Christmas account in the gospels, it reads more like a fantasy novel than it does reality. There are so many supernatural elements. If you pause to consider what is happening, this stuff is straight out of a Lord of the Rings novel. There is even a mention of a dragon for you Hobbit fans in Revelation.
Let’s start there. Rev 12:13-18 [READ]
Not sure if Revelation comes to mind when you think about Christmas. This is a picture of what is happening in the spiritual realm. You have Satan depicted as a fiery serpent, a dragon. He is persecuting the woman. Who is the woman? Mary, the mother of Jesus. God protects Mary and Mary gets away from Satan. This makes Satan angry and what does he do? He wages war against Mary’s offspring. Who is Mary’s offspring? Us. Christians. We are under attack by a fire breathing dragon. This is Christmas from the perspective of the spiritual realm. It was anything but peaceful. It was a spiritual battle.
This is the invisible, spiritual realm. What about in the visible, physical realm? Was it a peaceful Christmas? No, far from it. For Mary and Joseph, it was a fearful Christmas at first. Luke 1:26-29 [READ]
Mary was deeply troubled, it says. That’s a euphemism. A modern day translation would be, Mary is freaking out. How would you like it if you were home and out of nowhere, an angel appears in your living room. The first Christmas was anything but peaceful. Mary is deeply troubled, she is freaking out, she is afraid. She probably thought, why me? I am about to get married. I just want to enjoy a quiet life with my husband-to-be, have 2.5 kids and then live happily after. But an angel visits and this dream is shattered.
Luke 1:30-38 [READ]
Mary encounters an angel. At first, she is freaking out of her mind, but she ends in a state of peace. She confesses, I am the Lord’s slave. May it be done to me according to your word. She can express peace in the moment, but Mary is not super human. She is like the rest of us. Put yourself in her shoes. Imagine having to tell your parents and your family members and friends that you were visited by an angel and now through the Holy Spirit, you have a baby in your belly. Do you think anyone would believe her? There was a handful of people who did believe her story, but I would wager that the vast majority thought she was crazy. On the surface, this first Christmas must not have been very “peaceful” for Mary.