Lately, my heart has been meditating on peace. I’ve listened to some great teachings on peace, I’ve contemplated what it means to experience God’s peace, and I’ve read verses about peace, even during most hectic time of year. It is ironic that we associate peace with Christmas, when in reality it is one of the busiest times of the year. Of course, Christmas is replete with opportunities for moments of peace unlike any other time of year. Maybe it is because unlike other times of the year, we take more intentional moments to find peace. Some of us find peace in serving meals to less fortunate families. Some of us find peace in donating our excess to people who are in need. And some of us find peace in simple acts of kindness to anyone they encounter. Peace can be found if we look for it.
Interestingly enough, this year I noticed something about God’s peace that I never noticed before. In church this morning we read from Luke chapter two about the experience of the shepherds that first Christmas night. Luke 2:14 is so familiar for me (and many of us) that it garners little attention when I hear it or read it. But this year it grabbed me. The angelic host appeared to the shepherds and proclaimed:
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” (NASB)
Many of us probably have the King James Version imprinted in our minds that reads “peace, good will toward men.” When I read it this morning, I had to do a double take. Later at home I looked it up in a few different translations to make sure that it wasn’t a fluke. I checked the ESV, the NIV, and they all read similar.
What is the deal? Read what it says again. To whom does God’s peace go? It goes to the men “with whom He is pleased.” The ESV says, “among those with whom He is pleased.” God’s peace, His shalom, is only for those with whom He is pleased. So it isn’t for all humanity, but instead His peace is only for those men and women who please Him. Doesn’t this change the mood of the Christmas narrative? The world tries to grab ahold of the idea of peace on earth, goodwill toward men, but they miss it because they miss the Gospel. The Gospel is called the Gospel of Peace (Ephesians 6:15) because it is the good news that God has made peace with humanity through Jesus Christ and through Him alone. Only when we receive Jesus do we receive God’s peace.
“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6 ESV)
To be one with whom God is pleased, we must be people of faith. Faith placed in Jesus Christ is the only faith that pleases God. And when God is pleased with us, He grants us His peace. So many times we speak of peace as if it is an emotional state we are trying to find. We must realize that peace is a gift that is given. This is why we often find peace in giving. It’s why Christmas is one of the most charitable times of the year. People get a taste of peace through giving. But any peace that is not gifted from God does not last.
We all find ourselves chasing after things in life that we think will grant us peace. But when we finally attain that which we have pursued, it never quite lives up to its promise. The promise of peace is never quite fulfilled as fully as we had hoped. We are longing for a home that we have never had, a relationship that we have never known, a love that we have never experienced, and nothing in this world will suffice. The peace we seek only comes as a gift from God when we allow the Gospel of Christ to permeate our being. He is the love we have waited for, He offers a relationship that knows us completely, and He is building the home that we have long desired. Peace comes and makes a home with those who rest in the grace of God offered through Jesus Christ.
I pray that this Christmas, you receive God’s peace, His shalom, because you rest in his grace offered to you through your faith in Jesus Christ. And if you have not placed your faith in Jesus Christ, I beg you consider Him this Christmas. I am always available to help you understand faith in Jesus and what that means. God be with us.