Peace on Earth?

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” -Luke 2:14

Over 2,000 years ago the heavens opened for a moment and shepherds on a hillside saw and heard a choir of angels proclaiming peace on earth, for the Prince of Peace had come. What a glorious sight and moment that must have been!

Yet, looking at the world since then to this day, where is that peace on earth?

Our pastor at our “Christmas Eve Eve” service (yes, you read that right!) shared with us about the man who wrote the Christmas hymn “I heard the Bells on Christmas Day” and how one stanza speaks to this seeming illusion and false hope:

And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men

So, what’s the deal with this promise of peace on earth? Why after so many years, if Jesus truly is the Prince of Peace, has peace not come or stayed? And it’s not just wars around the world between nations, it’s the fighting, conflicts and destructive wake of broken relationships we have all experienced and been contributors towards.

Has this promise failed? Is Jesus who He claimed to be?

The answer lies in reading more closely what the heavenly host actually said and promised. It was not a promise of universal peace to all without condition. The promise of peace one earth has one condition that first must be met and application to only one kind of person: those on whom his favor rests. And on whom does his favor rest? Those who bring glory to God through their faith in Him.

God’s blessing or favor is available to all for this peace to become a reality, but people must first bring glory to God by turning to him in faith. Until we are personally reconciled to God and find peace with him through faith in Christ, we will not discover the power of reconciliation and peace in human relationships.

Jesus came as the Savior of the world, born in a wooden feeding trough, to become a man who would die on a splintered cross on our behalf.

The cross first of all extends from earth to sky; pointing to relationship with God. Christ has made possible reconciliation with the One True and Living God that we have sinned against and become separated from. Scripture in fact says, we were enemies of God, alienated from him by our evil behavior (Colossians 1:21). But because of his death on the cross, and through our faith in Him, we have been reconciled to God (Romans 5:10).

But this is not where the message of the cross ends.

The cross also extends outward. Peace with God paves the way for peace with others. Salvation enables us to imitate Christ in extending forgiveness, mercy and grace even to our enemies. It calls us to the heart of Christ in becoming “peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9) and seeking reconciliation in broken relationships.

Only when the reality of Jesus and message of the Gospel becomes the focal point of our relationships will we experience peace on earth in relationship with others.

However, this will only occur on a small scale until Christ returns to rule and to reign. Jesus’ entrance into our world over 2,000 years ago was not his last, but his first. He was born in obscurity and humility, but he will return in glory and power. He came the first time as the Lamb of God to be slain to bring peace between God and man. He will come a second time as Prince of Peace to bring peace on earth by judging the wicked and rewarding the righteous. He will return to set right what is wrong.

The question for us as individuals today is whether we know first of all the beauty and power of Christ’s promise of peace by bringing glory to God on high through faith in him. The message of Christmas is one of “good news of great joy for all people”…for all who will believe (Luke 2:10, John 3:16). Have you been reconciled to God through faith in Christ?

If you have, this reality will begin to change your relationships with others. We now have the Spirit of Peace at work inside us. the Apostle Paul would put it this way: And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:19-21).

As Ambassadors of Christ, called to call people to peace with God, we are to model that spirit of reconciliation in our relationships with one another. This requires the spiritual effort to seek unity, peace and reconciliation. It demands that we who know Christ’s forgiveness, mercy and grace; extend that same forgiveness, mercy and grace to one another. It calls us to the noble task of turning from fighting with one another, to fighting for peace with each other.

This is the only hope for the world to know what peace on earth can look like. It’s up the church, God’s people chosen out of the world, to model something different in relationship with one another irrespective of our backgrounds, races, experiences, social status, gender, political views or differences.

Christmas must go further than a reminder of an historical event long ago or holiday traditions we partake in once a year. It must become an ongoing reality we enter into through faith in Christ. Only then, will God be glorified and peace on earth be more than a wishful song we sing each year.

But the bells are ringing (peace on earth)
Like a choir singing (peace on earth)
Does anybody hear them? (peace on earth)
Peace on earth, good will to men
Then rang the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor does he sleep (peace on earth, peace on earth)
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men
Then ringing singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men
And the bells they’re ringing (peace on earth)
Like a choir they’re singing (peace on earth)
And with our hearts we’ll hear them (peace on earth)
Peace on earth, good will to men
Do you hear the bells they’re ringing? (peace on earth)
The life the angels singing (peace on earth)
Open up your heart and hear them (peace on earth)
Peace on earth, good will to men