Peace on Earth, Good Will Towards All Men?


christmas peace decoration

One of the most favorite sayings and happy thoughts that are spoken frequently by people during the Christmas or “holiday” season is the phrase “Peace on Earth good will to men”. There are bumper stickers, signs, shirts, holiday cards, trinkets etc. that seek to capitalize and get out this optimistic and positive message. Even liberal secularists who reject biblical Christianity love to quote this phrase and claim it as their own. Sadly, this phrase is TOTALLY taken out of the biblical context and is perceived from a subjective godless utopian world perspective. This theme is repeated often from secular and even godless sources appearing everywhere, they like to toss around that God is love and that he preached peace on earth and that we all should simply get along.

Is that really the message the angels brought forth that first Christmas day? Let’s take a closer look shall we?

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” (Luke 2:13 and 14 ESV)

I do need to note that only the King James bible quotes Luke 2:14 without the qualifying ‘with whom He is pleased’ or ‘upon whom his favor rests.’ This is an important concept that needs to be addressed. The wicked, then as now, do not find themselves in a peaceful, loving relationship with the almighty God. They, like us before accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior, are lost without hope in the world (Eph 2:12) and separated from God.

They (or us if we turn from Christ) will find themselves facing a righteous and holy God without a remedy for their sinfulness. Their unrighteousness will dam them to an eternity separated from all that is good and right without any hope of rescue, nor peace from suffering. God’s word makes it clear…his wrath will come pouring down upon the head of the wicked.

Jesus reiterated this theme when he called his disciples together before sending them out as ambassadors of the gospel. Here is what he said:

Matthew 10:34-36 (NIV)
34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.
35 For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law–
36  a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

The message of Jesus brings about a great divide, it causes divisions and enmity between members of a household in addition to members of society at large. Paul put it this way in his letter to the Hebrews:

Hebrews 4:12 (HCSB)
12  For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart.

Let us not forget that Jesus came unto His own but His own received him not. Why?  The problem is not with the messenger nor the message the problem lies within us. We have no peace because we chose to live according to our own desires and wants and fail to accept the truth of God’s word. We ignore the gospel of peace and therefore continue to live without peace, and hope in this world.

John 3:16-21 (NIV)
16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
19  This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

Yes peace came into the world that first Christmas night, but only for those who accept the gift of God, sent to us from heaven in the form of a child wrapped in swaddling  clothes and lying in a manger. If we reject this peace of God we will forever be lost without hope, walking around in continued darkness, unable to ever grasp the peace that passes all understanding which can only be found through Christ Jesus. That is what the angels said that first Christmas night… Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to all those upon whom is favor rests.

Peace on Earth and Good Will Toward Men: The Real Meaning of Christmas


A Danish Christmas tree illuminated with burni... 

Image via Wikipedia

Recent news stories reported on refugees seeking asylum, whose boat capsized near Christmas Island off the coast of Australia, costing the lives of more than two dozen people. Australia is a destination for people looking for asylum from as far away as Iraq and Afghanistan, and Christmas Island is also such a popular stop that it has its own refugee detention center.

These refugees where looking for a safe place to live.A place were peace could be found. They sought asylum in a place that would acknowledge their personhood and respect their lives and freedoms. Christmas Island has become a safe haven for many of the displaced Iraqi’s and Afghans seeking peace from the constant torment of daily life in their homeland. Christmas Island to these peace seeking refugees is a welcoming respite from years of torment and pain.

What an apt description of Christmas Island. To the war weary and persecuted Christmas Island is a sought after destination and one worth dying to reach. The hope and peace found there was worth the risks of getting there.

Also in the news we constantly read about the “War on Christmas.” Probably the real war on Christmas began at its conception. The Council of Nicaea in 325 CE established that Christmas should be celebrated on December 25. The celebration of “Christ’s Mass” was to counter the Roman pagan festival held that same day in honor of Sol Invictus (“The Invincible God”). As Christians participated in the celebration of the Eucharist, they would abstain from engaging in the pagan rituals associated with the official sun god of the emperor.

According to David French, a columnist for Patheos , a website dedicated to inter-religious dialogue, we are in our tenth consecutive year regarding the “War on Christmas.” We have moved beyond the standard criticism of this holiday season as one of secularization and merchandising, to an ideological battle of reason versus faith and inclusiveness versus a singular religious identity. The conflicting views cannot be shooed away as inconsequential, for it matters immensely if one refers to this season as a “Happy Holiday” or a “Merry Christmas.”

Catholic theologian Tim Muldoon argued in a recent column for the Washington Post that “At their root, religious holidays are both expressions of a group’s identity and an invitation to others to learn about them. In the case of Christmas, believers are expressing what it means to believe that God became a human being when Jesus was born.” Christmas is a testimony of a religious conviction, unadorned with gold and silver tinsel. Its public celebration is not to coerce, but to inform and invite.

Just like Christmas Island, a beacon of hope and peace for a refugee, so too is Christmas a beacon of hope to the world; the promise of peace on Earth and good will to men. To a weary war refugee the sight of Christmas Island brought with it rejoicing. These refugee knew they had found a place of rest. To many, Christmas is a time to escape from the daily routines, the constant battles of life, the hostilities faced, and the sadness and brokenness life often brings, and to embrace the brighter hope of a better tomorrow. The message of Christmas Island was come find peace, and the message of Christmas is Christ has come to bring peace. Not a temporary peace offered by a refugee camp but a permanent peace that only Christ can give.

Can you imagine the hopelessness of war refugees if there was no Christmas Island to escape to? Can you then imagine a world without a Christmas Island refugee camp? Then imagine that same world without the hope of Christmas. No peace on earth, no good will toward man, no hope of escape, no hope of rescue. This is what Christmas Island means to a refugee and this is what Christmas should mean to all.

From an Iraqi war refugee to the hopelessly lost and afraid, the welcome sign of Christmas Island is hope, to those who are weary of life’s pressures and demands, the signs of Merry Christmas are also a sign of hope. Let the lights of Christmas continue to shine so that all may know there is a place of peace on Earth and goodwill to all men.

And that is this week’s tail feather.

But those who are waiting for the Lord will have new strength; they will get wings like eagles: running, they will not be tired, and walking, they will have no weariness. Isaiah 40:31Open Link in New Window (BBE)

Along for the journey


Christmas List Suggestions


 

To your enemy, forgiveness.

To an opponent, tolerance.

To a friend, your heart.

To a customer, service.

To all, charity.

To every child, a good example.

To yourself, respect.

peace5c

Can you imagine a world where Oren’s gift suggestions are actually put into practice? Wouldn’t it be a much nicer world in which to raise your children? Wouldn’t it be nice to know that everyone was playing by the same rules? Alas this is far from reality, the world has long ago forsaken the ways designed for civilized living. Apart from a full-fledged revival of biblical proportions I fear that perhaps the good old days are just that. Yet I have hope that there remains those who desire to be a light in the darkness, to be an agent of change and a beacon of hope where there is only hopelessness. So as the world spins out of control I pray this Christmas season that once again God would send peace on Earth and goodwill to all men.

 

The Great Awakening: Reviving Faith and Politics in a Post-Religious Right America

The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America

George Whitefield: God’s Anointed Servant in the Great Revival of the Eighteenth Century