Where’s the PEACE in Christmas?
Posted on 22 Dec 2020 by Chloe Lim
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…
Ohhh Christmas… that time of the year where you can’t help but get that warm, jolly feeling as you stroll through beautifully-decorated malls (I hear Mid Valley Megamall’s decorations are pretty nice this time around) and get recommended specially-curated Christmas playlists on Spotify (Mariah Carey’s annual time to shine is here!). Somehow, we’re just in better spirits during the Christmas season, even during a global pandemic.
After all, how could we not be? With the spirit of festivity in the air and the ambience of love, hope and peace heavily present, Christmas has been presented as a time for family and friends, for generous gift giving and ultimately, for spreading goodwill to all.
So, at Christmas gatherings, don’t talk about the bad things. Like how Aunty Erica is still not on talking terms with her son given her disapproval of his girlfriend. Or how with rising cases, there seems to be no end to COVID-19 in sight. Just sweep those thoughts under the carpet, and let the Christmas spirit overwhelm you as you eat, drink and be merry. If not, you may be accused of “ruining the Christmas mood”.
The sad thing is that once Christmas is over, that temporary “peace” is gone, and we’re back to reality. Crime rates are rising, wars abound, and abuse is rampant, even in first world countries. In our own lives, we experience this – we hurt each other with just a slip of the tongue or an “enter” on the keyboard. We think the world can become a better place by each of us being a little kinder and nicer. Yet, this ideal, peaceful world we dream of seems to slip further and further away each day as we read the news.
This really begs the question: This “peace” that Christmas seems to promise – what is it really all about?
Here’s how everyone’s favourite search engine would define “peace”:
It’s not too far from how most of us would understand it. But to truly understand whether this is the peace Christmas is about, we need to look at what the Bible says. Christian or not, most of us would be somewhat familiar with the Nativity story often referenced to in popular Christmas songs. The example below may ring a bell:
Away in a manger,
No crib for His bed,
The little Lord Jesus
Laid down His sweet head;
The baby in the manger is usually the highlight of the scene, but what most do not realize is that another miraculous event happened shortly after baby Jesus was born. In Luke’s Gospel, an angel appears to some shepherds in the same region to announce His birth! It’s a pretty big deal if you think about it, given the only births announced in official proclamations today are usually those of the royal family. For an actual angel to descend to earth just to announce a birth? The baby involved has to be someone of extreme importance.
So what exactly does the angel proclaim about baby Jesus?
10And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there was 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 those with whom he is pleased!”
“A Savior, who is Christ the Lord” – Pretty weighty words for a newborn.It’s also worthwhile to note that:
- The heavenly host praised God in response to the angel’s announcement, hence the “peace on earth” is a result of the God-sent baby Savior, as mentioned by the angel (verse 11).
- Peace is not mentioned to be for all, but rather those whom God is pleased with. This suggests that the people whom God is not pleased with would not enjoy that peace.
Both these points allude to a similar disconcerting notion – Peace is more complex than a “kumbaya” around the campfire, given that not just anyone will enjoy this peace. Furthermore, given a “saviour’s” role is to rescue one from a life-threatening situation, if God Himself needed to send a saviour for there to be peace, there must be something seriously wrong with the world.
A world at war, against God
To understand what went wrong, we must go back to the beginning in the book of Genesis (Genesis 1:1ff), where we see God creating the world out of nothing. From the dawn lights that paint our sky to the breathtaking mountain views in Borneo to the animals both big and small, He made them all. And in the place of an earthly ruler to take care of all of these in the Garden of Eden, He made man. Adam and Eve were made in the image of God to love and enjoy life under Him in His good rule as His creation (Genesis 1:27-28). It was a paradise, with man living under God in perfect harmony.
However, there was a problem – Adam and Eve were revealed as people who instead of wanting God, wanted to BE God. They decided to go against God, and as a result, sin entered the world (this is also known as “the Fall”). For rebelling against a good God, the consequences were dire, being in proportion to the nature of the crime. from this moment onwards, man would have a severed relationship with God and had to be separated from Him.
Ever since sin was introduced to the world that day, we are all affected by it, as demonstrated throughout the Bible. This is known as “total depravity”. This does not mean all humans are as evil as they can possibly be, but it does mean that sin affects our entire being in our hearts, minds and souls. We are enslaved to our hearts’ desires, rather than God’s will. We seek to please ourselves instead of our Creator. In other words, there is something sick and broken about us. Regardless of our social status or where we are in life right now, in our natural state we are enemies of God because of our opposition to His presence and purposes in this world. This is why no matter how hard we try to strive for peace in our lives today, it can never be achieved because we are not at peace with our Creator.
The matter with sin
When we think of sin, we could be thinking of immoral acts or wrongdoings, But in reality, sin, at its root, is substituting God with anything else but God. It is a rebellion against the Creator by the creation. This is us in our natural state. Just like Adam and Eve, we live our lives according to what we think is right and not once do we think, “Is this what God desires? Would God be pleased with the way I’ve lived my life?”
Hence, when we sin, we are essentially saying “God, I don’t want you.” Then we strip Him of His rightful place, kick Him off His throne and on it, we place everything else – our careers, our partners, our finances, ourselves… the list is endless. We become our own gods as we desire and we don’t think that’s a problem.
John Piper, a pastor rightly summed it up:
“Why is it that people can become emotionally and morally indignant over poverty and exploitation and prejudice and abortion and the infractions of religious liberty and the manifold injustices of man against man, and yet feel little, or no, remorse or indignation or outrage that God is disregarded, disbelieved, disobeyed, dishonored, and thus belittled, by millions and millions of people in the world? And the answer is: sin. And that is the ultimate outrage of the universe.“
In spite of how we’ve treated Him, God has been merciful. He hasn’t sent lighting bolts to blast us off the face of the earth. In fact, most of us do live comfortably, with a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. Ironically, He still allows us to enjoy the good things in life despite our rebellion. All things good that we are able to enjoy, come from Him.
Yet, this does not mean God is at peace with us.
Being a good God, He has promised that one day, He will make things right for our broken world. He will deal with the injustice and evil and ensure that the unrighteous will get what they deserve. The final judgement that He will bring includes an eternal punishment for those who are against Him and everlasting comfort for those who are for Him and love Him.
This is our problem: With our sin, we are not on God’s side. God is still angry at us and the relationship we have is still broken. Even with the “good” acts we’ve done in our lives, there is nothing we can do that can ultimately resolve the problem of sin, once and for all. Like a cup of water contaminated by a drop of ink, adding more water does not remove its presence. Similarly, as corrupted people, there’s nothing we can do to earn our right standing with God.
This means that the peace we need will always be out of grasp, if God is not the one who grants it.
If that is the case, what hope do we have?
The Prince of Peace paid the price of peace
The book of Romans has this to say to us:
8but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
In seeing our hopeless state, God acted by His own initiative to give us hope. Instead of leaving us to rightly suffer the consequences of our rebellion, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ to Earth to die for our sins. Jesus loved God and had the perfect relationship with His Father. He lived a life that was fully pleasing and obedient to God, all the way to the cross.
Jesus did not deserve to die because He was sinless. Yet, He became a substitute for us by bearing our sins and dying in our place on the cross, so that we can be made right with God (also see 1 Peter 3:18). By His blood, we are reconciled to God. In other words, Jesus secured true, lasting peace between us and God. As a result, Christians are transformed into new persons who now can love and serve God with all that they are. They can enjoy true peace as promised by God – a peace that is not shaken by circumstance – and trust in a good God instead of themselves.
The Peace of Christmas
The peace Christians all around the world celebrate during Christmas is far greater than the empty promises of the superficial, temporal, peace that the world offers.
It is an everlasting peace – an assurance that we have undeservedly been made right with God because of what Jesus has done and that we can now live lives that glorify Him. No matter what happens, we rest in His plans and purposes for the world, knowing that a day is coming where God will make all things right, in gathering His people to Him and putting an end to evil once and for all.
The only true peace that matters is one that the world cannot usher in by its own might or effort. Rather, it is one that was won by Jesus on the cross and what is available to all who respond to Him and His call to live life as we should.
And that’s where the peace of Christmas is found – in being in right standing with the God of Christmas, on account of what His Son has done.