By Melissa McLaughlin
Joy to the world, the Lord is come! (Sung Here By David Phelps)
One of the sweet joys of the Christmas season for me is the sound of Christmas carols flooding the air. Joyful songs that tell of the birth of Jesus our Savior, played in the stores, in the workplace and freely released on the radio waves. Beneath the hustle and bustle of shoppers, undergirding the gift purchases and wrapping is the life-sustaining hum of Jesus.
Recently while standing in the checkout line at Home Depot, there it was again. The Glorias of heaven caught my attention and warmed my soul.
Angels we have heard on high sweetly singing o’er the plains
And the mountains in reply echoing their joyous strains
Gloria, in excelsis Deo! (Sung Here By Christendom College Choir and Schola Gregoriana)
Right there among the hammers and nails, among the sandpaper and paint, among the doorknobs and light fixtures, there He was. Jesus, was welcomed into my heart and mind through silvery Christmas melodies radiating through the speaker systems of a hardware store!
To think that songs of angels accompany us through our days at this time of year! When we pause for a moment and consider the typical lyrics one might hear in passing secular music, this is no small miracle and we can rejoice in this delightful respite while it lasts.
Many of these beloved Christmas songs include lyrics that feature Bible verses from passages like that found in Luke, Chapter 2, a standard and treasured passage of scripture for Christmas. This excerpt reads:
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And 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!”
One of the heartwarming refrains we hear both in music and in greetings is “Peace on earth, Good will to men” as heard in this treasured song:
I heard the bells on Christmas day their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat of peace on earth, good will to men. (Sung Here By Millenial Choirs and Orchestra)
There are a few questions, however, that linger with this matter of peace.
First, let’s look again at the scripture passage above, in particular note the final few words of Luke 2:14: “on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased”. Some versions of the Bible state “on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests”. No matter the version of the Bible that is used, clearly the only way that there can be good will between God and mankind, is through the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. There is no other way.
As we consider this matter of peace on earth, let us also take a second look at Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:34-39.
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
This is a hard passage indeed! What happened to our Savior meek and mild, sleeping in heavenly peace?
Though sometimes we would like to contain Jesus as a docile baby in the manger that we can hold and hold back, the truth is He is a mighty King and Champion of heaven.
We know from Ephesians 6:17 that the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God, the Bible. Furthermore, we know from John 1 that Jesus is the Word. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword.
When Jesus comes into our lives He brings a sword, a truth that divides the finest nuances of deception and the most minute traces of darkness, self-lies and half-truths, even those which have settled deep within us, almost impossible for us to discern. He sees it all. He exposes it all to the truth of His perfect, holy Word and the pure light of His presence. Light which cannot be bent or tarnished with our desires to meet selfish or fleshly demands.
In the end, after Jesus exposes the darkness of our sinful hearts, He leaves us with only one choice. Either we accept Him or we reject Him. There is no middle ground. If we choose to accept Jesus, this requires an acknowledgement that we are sinners in need of a Savior. Cutting away any self-pride, piercing any self-effort, carving off any self-importance, slashing away any self-rule, removing any gods we have made of human affection. Without Jesus we are nothing more than dust of the earth and without Jesus to that that we will return. With Jesus, we have the deep peace that comes from complete forgiveness and the steady assurance of heaven.
Though at times we may rebel against the righteous truth of God’s Word, the fact is our souls will not be at peace until we find our peace in Jesus as our Savior and Lord and in the truth of His Word. Then the ultimate peace on earth will be ours. The good will between God and mankind is only made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus. That is why the peace that Jesus brings, though extended to all, is only enjoyed by those who choose to receive and fully surrender their lives to Him. Those who receive Jesus are the ones on whom God’s favor rests, those with whom God is pleased. It is Jesus who makes us pleasing to the Lord, as in the words of Tim Keller, Jesus didn’t die for us because we were lovely; He died to make us lovely.
The lyrics of this carol, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing by Charles Wesley capture the message fully.
Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled! (Sung Here By CeCe Winans)
There is true peace on earth and peace in our hearts when we accept the gift of salvation through Christ. Real peace begins between God and the believer, as we rest in the perfect sacrifice made for our sins through Jesus. Next, we have peace within, as we now live for God out of gratitude, not out of condemnation. Finally, we can then extend peace to others as we forgive in the manner He forgave us and as we share the good news of Jesus.
As we sing along and enjoy the Christmas carols this season, let us tune in more intently to the glorious truths of these songs, remembering that surely, Jesus did bring peace on earth. However, this peace is unlike anyone imagined. Farther reaching than bonds of family, farther reaching than kindness between neighbors, farther reaching than nations declaring peace treaties. This is a peace that goes beyond any human peace. Jesus brought peace between God and mankind, for any who will receive it. And this is a peace that lasts for all eternity. For in the words of the Hallelujah Chorus of Handel’s Messiah based on Revelation 11:15, “He shall reign forever and ever.” (Sung Here By Royal Choral Society)
May we remember that Jesus is our Prince of Peace, but His is not a peace like the world gives. The peace of Jesus is immeasurably and infinitely more.
John 14:27 – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
*Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com.
Additional songs and resources to enjoy: