Peace on Earth–A Christmas Homily

image_of_angels_burne_jones_mosaic“Glory to God in the highest,

And on earth peace among men of favour.” ~ Luke 2:14

Peace on earth. You’ve heard these words time and again. It is the clichéd request of beauty pageant contestants. They’ve been inscribed on Christmas cards you’ve received and projected into the ether of the stores you have visited while you did your Christmas shopping this year. We sing, and speak, and hear about peace, but the world does not seem particularly peaceful to me.

When I was growing up, most stores were closed on Sundays. You couldn’t shop if you wanted to. Rest was written into the city bylaws of my hometown. But today stores are open continually—except on Christmas Day. From having one day of rest each week, now we have one day of rest each year. But what has happened is that now we’re so busy getting ready for the one day of rest that all the busyness of the rest of our time creeps into the day, and Christmas feels like more and more work each year. It is supposed to be a time of peace, but it is not very peaceful.

When I speak with people I hear about their disappointments, their sadnesses, their angers. I hear about the angst of frustrated dreams. I see men and women striving to achieve more and more—slaving at work to maintain a difficult mortgage, a car payment, life in Vancouver. All that work is supposed to create happiness, but few people seem very peaceful to me.

Turn on the news and the horror stories stream continually into our minds. War. Invasion. Plague. ISIS. Near weekly school shootings. Abuse. Tragedy. The narrative of our newscasts is one of perpetual misery, and here there is little hope of peace, either.

There is un-peace within each of our hearts, too. We each have regrets, fears, and mistakes. We’ve had fights with our children, with our spouses, with our parents and friends. We’ve not killed, but we’ve been at war within ourselves and against our peers and families. We desire peace, but few of us truly know it.

Shepherds in their field by nightTo such a people—a people just like us—the angels announced their message of peace all those years ago. To such a people—shepherds who also longed for rest from their labor, for resolution to their disappointments, for peace from their conflicts, and for peace within themselves—the angels pronounced the birth of the King of Peace, Jesus.

This is the King who announces to we who overwork, “Come to me, you who are weary and heavily burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:29-30)

This is the King who challenges our anxieties and acquisitions by saying, “What good is it to gain the whole world but lose your soul?” (Matthew 16:26)

This is the King who is overthrowing all the authorities and powers in the world, of whom it is written, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)

And he is the King who announces to those who feel the un-peace in our own hearts, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Rev 21:5)

The peace he offers, if it is true, is really good news. And the even better news is that the open hand of peace is offered to all men and women who will take it. This child-king, Christ Jesus, born in a stable in Bethlehem during the time of the Roman Empire, offers you a nail-pierced hand and says, “Come and see.” He came to bring peace, and to place His peace inside each of us—peace from our labors, peace from our anxieties, peace from our conflicts, and peace within ourselves.

And yet there is something strange about the Peace offered by King Jesus. It does not take us out of our circumstances. There are still bills to pay, work to complete, wars and conflicts in the world, mistakes and regrets. Christ does not take us out of the world—he gives us a peace at the very epicenter of our lives that transforms us within the world. Our circumstances may or may not change, but we are certainly changed within our circumstances. Sometimes we call this change “New Birth,” because it is such a radical change in the heart of the individual. In Christ, your whole outlook on life changes. This New Birth happens when an individual chooses to become a follower of Jesus, a citizen of his Kingdom of Peace, and we do this by allowing the personality of the King to enter into your life and change you from the inside out. It’s a very simple process, really, involving talking to the King—and that’s part of the story, too, because the King born all those many years ago is still alive and reigning today. You see, he died on a Roman cross—died as punishment for sins he didn’t commit, our sins—but then came back to life. In his new life he offers to share that life, and his eternal peace, with us. His hand is open—will you reach out and accept it?

If you would like this peace—the peace offered by King Jesus—then I want to encourage you to pray for that peace now. If you’ve never prayed before, don’t worry—you can repeat these words in your own heart now:

King Jesus, I want the peace you offer. You have extended your hand to me, and I’d like to take it. I admit that I cannot do this on my own, but I need your help. I want your death for my sins to apply to me, and your eternal life to be planted in me. King Jesus, King of Peace, cause your peace to live in me and my life, and transform me from the inside out. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.