Then a very large group of angels from heaven joined the first angel, praising God and saying: “Give glory to God in heaven, and on earth let there be peace among the people who please God.” Luke 2:13-14 (New Century Version)
I find it interesting that God would say peace to all men and women on earth at the incarnation of the Son of God, the ultimate delivery in human history. No wonder there was a huge angelic party worshiping God; God has slipped into the human race, fulfilling millenium-sized prophecies. Fully human, yet divine. And so the angel army shouts peace. Think about how significant that is. They said peace, not happiness, to all men. Not hope. Not faith. Not healthy self-esteem. But peace to all who would seek to please God, rather than themselves. The peace-gift doesn’t come to those who have it together, to those who are successful, to the clever, to the fastest, or the most significant. It comes to those who turn from being self-focused and decide that pleasing God is the highest vocation on the planet.
Let me tell you a true story.
Once upon a December there was a young musician living with a group of players all struggling to be something/somebody. He had dropped out of college, confused, sharply lonely, all the stuff that supposedly fuels the creative tortured soul. It’s the stuff of artistry, right? But a tortured soul is still a tortured soul. With no more than a few dollars in his pocket, he went out that night and stole a Christmas tree, put it up in his room, and sat on the edge of the bed staring at it for hours while he got hammered alone on cheap wine. What’s worse than a lonely drunk? But his problems weren’t circumstantial. His problem was that he didn’t have a big enough reason to exist. As Franklin succinctly put it, “A man wrapped up in himself is a small bundle.” Here is a simple truth: there is nothing more significant than personally knowing the Creator of the universe. Now that's a name to drop. In less than four months after that Christmas, the Prince of Peace, as Isaiah called Jesus, would come crashing into this young man’s life, forever changing the way he lived.
It’s been thirty-three years and I haven’t been the same since.
I made a soul journey from believing that God might possibly exist…to God may have some interaction with the universe…to God might actually interface with human beings…to God might actually know me…to God knows my name and wants to personally rescue me from my own private hell. All of a sudden, it became real when it became personal. God didn’t send His Son into the world for some faceless herd of humanity—He slipped into this world to find me. Christmas is all about a specific search-and-rescue mission. For you and me.
The significance of God coming as a helpless baby lying in a feeding trough for barn animals for me supremely affects the way I treat others and myself. Peace comes to all men and women who come alive with a desire to please God.
The word we translate peace usually comes from the Greek word eirene. It shows up in about every book in the New Testament, and in most cases it refers to relationships. It’s rooted in the Greek verb eiro, which means to join. In other words, peace has more to do with the integrity and the joining of our relationships than anything else. How much of your stress and anxiety in life is caused by relationships? Like, uh, practically all of it?
Our relationships are as healthy as we are healthy. And the primal relationship is with God. When the wall comes down between us and God and we are joined, then we become one. And peace comes. Out of a peaceful heart come relationships that are healthy inasmuch as it falls upon us, as in: Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy... Hebrews 12:12-14a (New International Version). I like that the writer happens to talk about becoming healthy ourselves first before having peace with all men.
I wish peace could be waved over the Third Rock from the Sun with some magic wand and everyone could suddenly be happy, like the proverbial Miss America line. I fear it doesn’t work like that; my trust in God is such that I’m fairly sure He would have tried if it were that simple. Besides, it seems there’s a world of difference between happiness and peace.
Instead, joining each heart to Himself seems to be the peace-plan. And it started with a baby wrapped in Jewish skin.
Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Romans 5:1 (New Living Translation)
Merry Christmas, friends. And peace to all.