We celebrate Christmas this year in a world that has been riven with terror, carnage and unrest, often very close to home. The war that rages in sinful man’s being against a holy God spills out in hatred toward others, with conflict and lawless killing as by-products of that fundamental enmity. In the midst of all this our political ‘saviours’ promise a peace and security that they cannot deliver, and people, knowing instinctively their precarious situation, cast about anxiously for something to hold onto. The result is restlessness and anxiety all around.
At that first nativity our Lord was born into a hostile world filled with terror and false promises of peace. The Roman emperor Augustus (Octavian) had declared himself a political saviour, author and delivererof the Pax Romana (the Peace of Rome), yet the Roman empire was a vicious and brutal world filled with every kind of vice, terror and oppression. That reality did not trouble Augustus in his claim to be the ‘Son of God,’ with a promise of political salvation.
The birth of the Lord Jesus was also greeted by King Herod with hostility and rage, resulting in a killing-fest aimed at the young; he terrorized the city of David in the hope of killing the Prince of Peace. Yet it was into this hostile world that the angels declared, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased ” (Luke 2:14). Paul tells us that when the Messiah came, "he proclaimed the good news of peace to you who are far away and peace to those who were near” (Eph. 2:17).
There lying in the manger was the royal Prince of Peace who had come to offer to a violent, sin-ravaged world, peace with God. That world killed the Lord of Glory, the divine peacemaker, but, in the wisdom of God, it was by this that God was reconciling people to himself. He turned the evil and violence of the cross into the means of our salvation.
In our anxious and restless age where men prey upon each other, we have been commissioned with the glorious task of heralding, as God’s messengers, the gospel of peace. The message of reconciliation has been committed to us. The current state of affairs in our culture is nothing new. It is a context where God can once again overrule all the wickedness of men, and through his faithful people advance his purpose of reconciling all things to himself.
The great gift of Christmas is not a mere emotional feeling of well-being, nor is it a political pact, an insecure armistice or truce; it is the fact that lying in the manger is God’s peace envoy, who makes peace by the blood of his cross. As Paul puts it, “For He himself is our peace.” Christ is the peace! Let us use this Christmas season to put on the shoes of the gospel of peace, and call an angry world to throw down its arms and surrender to the saviour who is Christ the Lord.