Peace on Earth is a common phrase at Christmas time. And it is nearly Christmas. Soon you will see chubby old men in red suits, pine trees covered in fake snow and occasionally a manger scene with the caption “Peace on Earth”. As we lead into the holiday season, I want to examine what this caption is really talking about, because most people would suggest that seeing Peace on earth for mankind is something of a false hope.
Luke 2:10-15 (ESV Strong's)
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. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”
As human beings, it seems we know nothing about peace at all!
Over the past 3,400 years of human history, there have only been a reported 268 years of peace. In the twentieth century alone more than 105 million people have been killed in wars, and even as we speak today men, women and children are losing their lives in conflicts across the globe, many of which are so mundane they fail to rate a mention in our news.
Mankind loves conflict. Just look at families! When the Bible says Peace on earth, what on earth is it talking about?
PIECES ON EARTH, NOT PEACE ON EARTH
We live in a fallen world, where we talk often about peace but never obtain it. We strive for peace, but only ever grasp at the illusion of peace, like a mirage where the closer we get to peace, the further away it actually seems.
Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain visited Munich in 1938 to meet with Hitler, who was continually posturing towards war by taking land from surrounding countries like Czechoslovakia. He was given an assurance that no more demands would be made, and he returned to Britain holding aloft the written assurance and proclaiming “Peace in our time.” A year later, the largest and most devastating war in human history erupted… Peace was never further away!
Even today Peace is illusive. I remember watching the wall come down in Berlin, seeing the demise of Communism and thinking, “Now we will have peace.” The Cold War was over, but enter militant Islam and the war on terror replaces it. And here’s the joke… Islam actually means peace, but I have never seen a less peace loving crowd than Islamists!
We don’t have peace on earth, we have pieces! Let’a look at the passage
Luke 2:14 (KJV Strong's)
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
The KJV, which some believe is the true translation, gets this very, confusingly wrong. It implies that peace and good will is proclaimed to all men, but this is not the meaning of the passage.
Luke 2:14 (ESV Strong's)
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
This passage is proclaiming peace to those with whom He (God) is well pleased. The peace that the angels offer isn’t for everyone, it is only for those with whom God is please, those who have received Jesus Christ into their lives as Lord and Saviour.
We live in an evil world, controlled by evil people, so there cannot and will never be Peace on earth for all men until Jesus returns.
When these words were spoken by the angels to the shepherds, Roman Peace (Pax Romana) had been in effect since 27 BC. Prior to this, the Romans had invaded countries, slaughtered some people, enslaved the rest and declared peace! But the absence of war does not guarantee peace.
The Stoic philosopher Epictetus said, “While the emperor may give peace from war on land and sea, he is unable to give peace from passion, grief, and envy. He cannot give peace of heart for which man yearns more than even for outward peace.”
The Jewish word shalom (peace) means much more than a truce in the battles of life. It means well-being, health, prosperity, security, soundness, and completeness. It has to do more with character than circumstances, and it is more about inner peace than the absence of external conflict. Life at this time was difficult, just as it is today. Taxes were high, unemployment was high, morals were slipping lower, and the military state was in control. Roman law, Greek philosophy, and even Jewish religion could not meet the needs of men’s hearts. So, God sent His Son!
I WANT A PEACE OF IT!
Look at our society today. There is war across the globe, but there is war here in our society as well.
We face a war against morality, where militant gay activists have just won a battle. It’s a war against the sexes, it’s a war against our children. There’s no peace here. Those of us who hold to God’s view of marriage and the family are attacked constantly, but even among the LGBT community, is there peace?
According to their own figures, and even with the media totally on their side, gay young people are 5 times more likely to attempt suicide, and transgenders are 11 times more likely. Almost half of transgenders attempt suicide, whether they make the transition or not, so you cannot tell me that these folk have peace on earth. They proclaim their sexual freedom, but inside they are torn to pieces by conflict, guilt and shame.
Families are torn apart more than ever before… that’s not Peace on earth is it? Unions and employers bicker, husbands and wife’s fight, kids and parents argue… there is no peace in our society, even at Christmas!
And Advertising screams at us all the time, “Buy this, get this, do this,” but none of it gives a feeling of peace that lasts. You might have the most wonderful holiday, and you still have to come home to reality, right?
The way to inner peace is not demanding and getting your own way! One of life’s great paradoxes is that more you fight, the more you claw and scratch, the more you demand, the less peace you get.
Isaiah 48:22 (ESV)
“There is no peace,” says the Lord, “for the wicked.”
In the absence of God, if you do not know Jesus, there is no peace! I didn’t say it, God says it. And if you look around at this world this Christmas, you can verify that it is 100% true.
But Paul writes this…
Romans 5:1 (ESV)
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
True peace, peace with God, and peace within ourselves. That’s what the angels proclaimed at the first Christmas… Find the promised child and you will find true peace. Look at what was predicted for the birth of Jesus…
Isaiah 9:6 (KJV Strong's)
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder:
and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God,
The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
There’s that word again… Peace! In a world full of conflict, full of fear for ourselves, our nation, our futures, our country’s morals, our finances, our families, in a world full of selfishness and sin and fear, we can find peace. This Christmas, you can experience true peace, inner peace, lasting peace.
PEACE FROM WHAT?
Life is full of worries and anxieties. As Christmas approaches, do you feel anxious? Worried about finances, worried about family interaction, worried about being alone this Christmas?
People fear all kinds of things. When this is focussed and irrational, we call it a phobia. And phobias come in bewildering variety…
Xanthophobia- fear of the colour yellow
Turophobia- fear of cheese
Omphalophobia- fear of bellybuttons
Pogonophobia- fear of beards
Frigatriskaideaphobia- fear of long words (ironic)
Papa phobia- fear of the pope
Hylophobia- fear of trees and woods
Coulrophobia- fear of clowns (I think we can all relate to that), and here’s a modern one…
Nomophobia- fear of being without mobile phone coverage, and according to experts, more than half the people in our country suffer from this!
Some of you here fear many things as Christmas approaches. Who among us does not have financial fear, worried that we have enough money to celebrate Christmas and get presents for the kids or grandkids. Many have anxiety about getting the family together and the inevitable conflicts.
John 14:27 (ESV Strong's)
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
HOW CAN YOU FIND REAL PEACE THIS CHRISTMAS?
You won’t find peace on earth in this world. Politicians cannot debate and give us peace, lawmakers cannot legislate Peace. Pop stars can’t give it to you by songs, actors cannot fool you into it, and even religion can’t create peace in your life (even if it calls itself peace while it’s blowing you up!).
Only Jesus, only a relationship with Him, only having His Holy Spirit living within you can give you peace. So let’s have a look at some of the anxieties you face this Christmas, and not what I say about peace, but what Jesus offers you this morning…
1. PEACE IN LACK
If you are worried about finances this Christmas, and I number myself among these, then Jesus knows and understands. We worry so much about acquiring and enjoying the things of this world, but worry is like a rocking horse… it keeps your mind occupied, but you don’t actually get anywhere.
Matthew 6:25-27 (ESV Strong's)
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
Stop, look at your life right now. Can you add even a single hour to it by worrying? Nope, no one can. But I have discovered a great key towards stopping worry and anxiety about money and stuff in my life. And I’m not even that clever, because a few verses later, Jesus tells us the answer…
Matthew 6:31-33 (ESV Strong's)
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
This is a Christian paradox that I have proven true many times… if you worry about, obsess about and strive for money, things, clothes and food, they seem to elude you. If you seek first His Kingdom, if you set your mind on loving and drawing close to God, these things seem to come along almost miraculously. And if they don’t, you don’t care because you are more concerned with God!
Philippians 4:11-12 (ESV Strong's)
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
You can have peace on earth, true peace on earth and contentment whether you have a lot or a little this Christmas!
2. PEACE IN CONFLICT
For those worrying about family conflict, whatever is arrayed against you, you can have peace in the midst of all that conflict. Do not fear this Christmas, but listen to what the Lord says about conflict…
2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV Strong's)
for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
A sound mind is self control. How many of you know that, when the family gets together, it only takes one misplaced word and things escalate from there. Listen, some of you have to learn the power of shutting your mouth. The power of holding your tongue, no matter how offended you might be!
No matter what others are saying around you, you can choose to remain silent and not escalate the situation. This Christmas, if you are worried about conflict, try being self controlled and remaining silent. Let them rant and rage… if you focus on Christ you will be an island of peace is a sea of stressed out conflict!
3. PEACE IN BEING OVERLOOKED
Every Christmas many of you feel overlooked. Overlooked by family, maybe kids who have their own family. Some of you are dealing with broken families, separation, and some of you here just feel desperately, desperately lonely, especially at Christmas time.
Psalms 68:5-6 (NIV-WS)
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.
If you are feeling lonely and overlooked this Christmas, defenderless, fatherless, lonely, remember that, whatever your family situation, you have a church family who loves you, right here at Ignite.
Please don’t be consumed with worry and loneliness this Christmas. You are important, and you will not be overlooked forever. God says,
1 Peter 5:6-7 (ESV Strong's)
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
So today, if you are lonely or overlooked, don’t look at those around you, look up at He who gave His life for you! And cast your anxieties on Him.
4. PEACE IN PAIN
Hurt people hurt people, and if you are in pain, or close to someone who is, chances are you’ve been tempted to or have already blamed God and attacked others around you. I’ve seen people struggling with health problems, or dealing with separation and broken relationships, blame God, when it is His expressed desire to prosper you, not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope.
Pain, hurt, sickness and separation are not God’s fault. The devil and man’s sinful nature are responsible for all the evil and pain you see around you. Sometimes God allows this to happen, but He always has a greater plan to build your life and your character.
But this Christmas, how can you find peace on earth, even in physical or psychological pain?
Psalms 34:18-19 (ESV Strong's)
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
Turn to Jesus this Christmas and allow Him to save your crushed spirit. Though you may have many afflictions, God can be relied upon to deliver you from all of them, so you can have perfect peace even in pain and suffering this Christmas. Trust Him, and take your eyes off the pain!
5. PEACE IN UNEXPLAINED FEAR
Some of us only ever feel fear when we think of Christmas, not peace on earth! Sometimes we are overwhelmed by worry, and we are not even sure what it is that’s causing it!
When Franklin D Roosevelt came to power in 1933, he faced the depths of the Great Depression. In his inaugural speech, he said these words… “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” and this is the very nature of the fears and anxiety that plagues us this and every Christmas.
Psalms 91:5-7 (ESV Strong's)
You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.
If you feel like you are fearful of just about everything, maybe you’re not even sure why you fear, then you need to come before the Lord in prayer and ask Him to conquer the fears and anxieties and surround you with peace on earth…
HOW TO FIND PEACE ON EARTH IN YOUR HEART AND MIND
Peace on earth is as elusive for us to find in our own heads as it is to find it out there in the world. It is like chasing a rainbow… if there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the closer you get, the further it seems to be away.
So this Christmas, how can you find perfect peace no matter what the holiday season brings?
Picture this… it’s late at night, you are worried about tomorrow’s troubles, you can’t sleep. You try to still your mind, but it races at 100 miles an hour.
Does this ever happen to you? You know that 90% of what you worry about never even occurs, but you cannot tell your brain that, right?
Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV Strong's)
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
So step 1 is to pray, when you are worried and anxious, take your eyes off the circumstances and place them firmly in Jesus. Praying is just talking to God, but when you start to pray, when you confess your worries (because after all, they are sin), and when you hand the whole situation over to God, you can experience perfect peace flooding your soul.
The very next verse in Philippians shows you how to obtain this perfect peace. It’s not by watching TV, it’s not by taking medication. The peace that actually guards your hearts and minds and protects you against worry and anxiety…
Philippians 4:8 (ESV Strong's)
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
If you read His Word, if you meditate on all those things. You begin to think about what it says. Then you take your eyes off the circumstances and place them on Christ, and you will experience peace. Reading the Bible every day slowly but surely changes how you think, speak and behave. Having Scripture in your heart guards it against attack, and allows peace to settle.
It sets your mind on God, and when you turn your eyes upon Him, everything around you grows strangely dim.
Isaiah 26:3 (ESV Strong's)
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
How can you trust someone you do not know? If some guy in the street asks me for $50, I’m likely to say no. If my wife asks me, I’m likely, indeed compelled to say yes. What’s the difference? One I know and trust, the other is unknown.
Read God’s Word and get to know Him, and peace will flow through you this Christmas.
When we join our hearts together, there is a supernatural strength. That is what Church is about. It’s not about singing, preaching or raising money, it is about worshipping together and supporting one another.
People often say to me, “I love Jesus but hate Church.” I understand this , but they are missing out on a level of faith and peace you just cannot find by yourself. God made us to become His body, joined together. So this Christmas, don’t hate Church, just find the right one because your peace will be increased if you do.
People often think Church is about a great experience, and large churches have lights, smoke machines and world class entertainment. You can attend, sneak out afterwards and not have to do anything. But that’s Christian entertainment, folks, not Church. Church is about being connected, not being a consumer!
But what many people today really need is not a great experience , they need a family of believers who stand with them. The believer is encouraged to put on the full armour of God…
Ephesians 6:16 (ESV Strong's)
In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;
The shield Paul has in mind is a Roman shield, which was not used by itself but with other soldiers, forming a wall of shields. Your faith can protect you a little when you are isolated and by yourself, but when joined with others in the church you have some serious protection from the enemies flaming darts.
PEACE, MAN, PEACE
So this Christmas, the world cannot offer you peace on earth, but God can. You can let the peace on earth which passes understanding guard your heart and your mind right now.
But you must understand this… The peace of God is a gift; it is not something we can manipulate and it’s not something we can preorder from a catalogue or a website, because it is the fruit of being one with Him. It is the result of letting go and letting God control and worry about what is happening in your life.
When our relationship with Jesus is strong and adversity strikes, we do not have to fall apart or give in to worry and anxiety. We can choose, and notice that it is a choice, we can choose to live in the steadfast and rock solid confidence of His love, His wisdom, His power, and His provision.
This is the basis of His unshakable peace on earth—not that we are capable of controlling circumstances, but that His help is ever-present and perfect to deliver us in every challenge we face. True peace is inner peace with God, regardless of the circumstances, and even in war we can be at peace.
So this Christmas, let not your heart be troubled. Let the peace of God flood your life.
If you are dreading something about this Christmas, if you have fear, anxiety, worry or anything else, this is you moment to have us stand with you and pray for peace on earth to those with whom He is pleased.
But if you don’t think God is pleased with you, if you don’t know Him or if you have been running from Him, or ignoring a Him, then we need to solve that first. If you are far from God, or have never asked Him into your life, this is your moment