Christmas Day 2016
Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests. Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, in the name of Jesus, our newborn Savior, dear friends in Christ,
Peace. Everybody is longing for peace. We want international peace where there are no more terroristic Islamists killing and murdering and bombing. We want national peace- we live in a country sharply divided by political ideals and we long to be united again and healed from the deep wounds. We long for an end to the riots and the protests and the bloodshed. We want national peace. But we also want relationship peace. We want peace between family members and relatives and coworkers. And finally we want internal peace. We want peace inside ourselves. Peace from worry, peace from anxiety, peace from confusion, peace from frustration. Everybody to some degree or another is looking for peace.
But none of those are the peace that the angels are talking about on Christmas – Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests. You see, the opposite of peace is war. And we are at war. But the worst war we’re in is not one with another country, it’s not a war within ourselves, it’s not a war with Satan and the world. We’re at war with God.
It’s a war that began in the Garden of Eden and has been passed down all the way through history to you and me. We were born at war with God; the Bible puts it this way: The sinful mind is hostile to God it does not submit to God’s law nor can it do so. How come we’re enemies of God? God’s Word is absolutely clear about God’s absolute holiness and God’s absolute justice. God is absolutely holy and God is absolutely just. He must punish all who are not perfect and holy like Him. The Bible is also clear about us- we’re wretched, filthy, born in sin. In short, by nature we are God’s complete opposite- He’s holy, we’re sinful; He’s perfect, we’re filthy. And because of that we’re God’s enemies, we’re at war with God.
And we need to be clear about that. Why so? Because if you’re going to receive a gift you first have to admit that you need it. I’ve had to learn this (and still am) with my wife Katie. Over the years I’ve bought her various different gifts and presents for different occasions. There’s been certain gifts that I’ve bought for her, she smiles, she kindly thanks me, she puts it back in the box and at some point it just disappears J. You see, to receive a gift you first have to admit you need it. If someone is very overweight but doesn’t want to admit it, someone gives them a book on weight loss, they’ll look at the book, put it in the box and say, “I don’t need that.” Or someone gives a bald person a bottle of shampoo, they’ll put it in the box and say, “I don’t need that.”
You see, to receive the gift from God, we first have to admit that we need it. That’s the work of God’s law. We’re sinful. We’re corrupt. We’re failures. We can’t save ourselves. We’re at war, we’re at war with God.
But then there’s Christmas. There’s angels who announce: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
What does that mean? In the great Christmas hymn “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” We sing about this: “Peace on earth and mercy mild; God and sinners reconciled.” There it is! What is this peace? It’s mercy mild, God and sinners at war, now at peace, reconciled. This peace is true peace, real peace, absolute peace.
You see, every other peace we have in life will only be partial peace. We can enjoy a time of peace in the world, but give it time and there’ll be another war. We can enjoy partial peace in our families, but sooner or later something is going to happen and there will be conflict. We can enjoy a partial peace in ourselves, but then something will happen to disrupt that peace- a difficulty, challenge, hardship, etc.
But the peace that the angels announce on Christmas is absolute peace. Peace with God is absolute peace. Forgiveness is absolute. “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” and again in Colossians “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies…but now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.”
That’s why Jesus came. That’s why the eternal God took on physical human flesh, he did so to end the war, he did so to die, to go to a cross, to pay your debt and to give you His perfect life. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” That means, because of this baby born in Bethlehem, God right now sees you as perfect, as holy, as without blemish. And you can’t be more perfect, more holy, more blemishless in God’s sight than you are right now!
That’s the peace you have because of Christmas. “Peace on earth and mercy mild; God and sinners reconciled.” And you know what that means? That means you can forgive that person who wronged you, because you have peace with God! That means you can stop worrying about the future because you have peace with God – He will take care of it! That means you can be at peace no matter what’s going on around you- because you have the most important thing in all of eternity- peace with God. That’s true Christmas peace!
So we too sing with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Amen.