Christmas Jesus Devotional

Advent: The Problem With “Peace on Earth”

Jesus didn’t come to establish world peace.

This may come as a surprise, but Jesus never promised this. Any claim that he did is a misleading overreach that does no one any good.

He made it pretty clear: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34)

This second week of Advent highlights the virtue of peace, but it sounds to me like Jesus came to wage a war.

He goes on to say, “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. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.”

Now he’s talking about breaking up families? This doesn’t seem like the meek and mild baby Jesus that we like to sing about at Christmastime.

This guy seems a little angry. A little harsh. A little violent. Not exactly the peacemaker that he has been characterized as in devotional books and small group Bible studies galore.

“Jesus didn’t come to establish world peace.”

I’m not saying that Jesus is anti-peace. The Bible calls him the “Prince of Peace”. But why did the Prince of Peace come wielding a sword intent on causing division in families? And how do we reconcile these two truths?

I am still wrestling with this, but I think it’s important to distinguish who he is from what he has.

Jesus didn’t come to bring peace. He came to be peace. Peace is not something he has, it’s the very essence of who he is.

As Paul writes in Ephesians 2:14, “For he himself is our peace.”

The phrase “peace on earth” seems to come from Luke 2:14 when the multitude of angels appeared to the shepherds. Their shout of praise is usually translated to this (or something very close):

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” -Luke 2:14

But this isn’t about peace on earth in the sense of a world without war, strife, or discord. The Bible says that these things are in the hearts of men, and they will continue—even increase—until Jesus comes again. The peace that the angels are celebrating is Jesus himself. The peace between man and God—peace within the souls of all who are reconciled to him.

The only war that this Peace is promising to end is the war between God and the world he created. The war between us sinners and our Maker.

The only time when peace was “on earth” were the 33 years Jesus lived in the flesh. Other than that, the peace of God is simply something that exists in the hearts of men, women, and children who have been reconciled to God by putting their faith in Christ.

Sure, we can be “at peace” with one another. And we should strive to be. In fact, the Bible calls us to be at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18, Hebrews 12:14). But being faithful to this command is a far cry from the Charlie Brown kind of “peace on earth” that misses the mission of Jesus entirely.

Jesus came as a personal plea from the Father. An olive branch laid at the doorstep of every human heart. Calling us to turn our backs on everything that leads us away from him. To draw near to him and experience what it is to have real Peace—peace with God.

I see it as a homecoming. Maybe you know the feeling of walking back into the house you grew up in, and everything is different and the same all at once. There might be new furniture or different photos hanging on the walls, but it’s still so comfortable and familiar.

Nothing speaks to us like home does, and peace is its native tongue.

Every year in this season, Jesus calls us to come home. Where everything is right between us and him; and we sit together, taking in the beauty of the season as his presence speaks peace into our hearts.

This gives a new meaning to the old adage, “home for Christmas,” and I’m all the way here for it.

I’ll admit that I still have my parents landline labeled as “Home” in my cell phone. But I recognize that my true home is not where mother and father live. Coming home for Christmas isn’t about my family at all, it’s about my faith. My faith in a God who could have left me high and dry in my sin, but instead chose to send forth his Son to save me.

This is such a radical way for God to orchestrate salvation that it requires a radical response.

Jesus came to draw a line in the sand. Or, in keeping with the season, a line in the snow (*wink). And on Christmas morning when the Christ child appears, we each have a decision to make. Which side of the line we are on?

In some cases, those we love the most, even our blood family, won’t be standing on the same side as us. When we choose Jesus, we have to accept that all other relationships are subject to change, even end if necessary. The Peace of God came at a high price, and that cost trickles down to us in less-than-desireable ways.

But the trade off is a no-brainer. The consequences of enmity with God are eternally more severe than the fallout from a broken human relationship. Jesus said that those in our very own households may become our enemies, and I believe he meant it. But it’s not because he is a harsh, uncaring God. He knows that receiving him—our Peace—in exchange is well worth it.

This Christmas season, may we be reminded that Jesus isn’t “Mr. Peace On Earth”, making it rain warm fuzzies so that all war and strife will end at once. Rather, may we know him as our personal Peace, the one who invites us home to reunite with the Father we had once disowned.

Shalom!

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