4th Sunday of Advent - peace

4th Sunday of Advent: Where is the Promised Peace on Earth?

We all know how the Christmas story goes in Luke chapter 2. We’ve all heard it and/or read it dozens of times before. Why do we say and sing about “peace on earth”, when life on earth is anything but peaceful? Where is the promised peace on earth? Do we have to do anything to help make it happen? Just as a refresher…

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

Luke 2:8-14 NLT

Peace on Earth? To Whom?

The angels said, “Peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” That really doesn’t mean everyone, does it? Which begs the question, “Is God pleased with you?”

I’ll let you think about that for a bit while we talk about a Christmas Carol from a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow at the time of the American Civil War. A search on YouTube revealed the story about this carol as well as a performance by Casting Crowns. First its story…

One of the most familiar carols we hear during the holidays is “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” The story behind the song, based on a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, is very interesting.

In 1860, Longfellow was at the peak of his success as a poet. Abraham Lincoln had just been elected President, giving hope to many in the nation. But things soon turned dark for America and for Longfellow, personally. The Civil War began the following year, and Longfellow’s wife died of severe burns after her dress caught fire. Longfellow sustained severe burns on his hands and face from trying to save his wife. He was so badly burned that he could not even attend her funeral. In his diary for Christmas Day 1861, he wrote, “How inexpressibly sad are the holidays.”

In 1862, the Civil War escalated and the death toll from the war began to mount. In his diary for that year, Longfellow wrote of Christmas, “‘A merry Christmas,’ say the children, but that is no more for me.” In 1863, Longfellow’s son, who had run away to join the Union Army, was severely wounded and returned home in December. There is no entry in Longfellow’s diary for that Christmas.

For Christmas Day that year, Longfellow wanted to pull out of his despair, so he decided to try to capture the joy of Christmas. He began:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men.

As Longfellow came to the sixth stanza, he was stopped by the thought of the condition of his beloved country. The Battle of Gettysburg was not long past. Days looked dark, and he probably asked himself the question, “How can I write about peace on earth, goodwill to men in this war-torn country, where brother fights against brother and father against son?” But he kept writing and what did he write?

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men
There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

That could be said of our day as well. But then, catching an eternal perspective and the real message of Christmas and Christ Himself, he wrote:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep;
“God is not dead;
nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Historical Comments by “BrotherEarl1944

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Christmas Day 2020 for me will be the first anniversary of my mom’s death. I can relate to Longfellow’s comment on how sad the holidays can be. But…

“God is not dead nor does He sleep!”

And we have to remember that! Turn off the news and read your Bible. Pray each morning when you get up and each night before you go to bed. Pray during the day, too! Just talk to God! He is available 24/7 for you. If you’re born again, He lives in your heart. That alone should give you peace. God speaks to us in His Word — the Bible…

God tells us…

10 “Be still, and know that I am God!
    I will be honored by every nation.
    I will be honored throughout the world.”

Psalm 46:10 NLT

The word “peace” in Hebrew is “shalom”, which means more than just “peace”. It means “wholeness” and “completion”. We throw the word “peace” around like…

  • peace and quiet — silence
  • peace of mind — no worries or stress
  • world peace — no war anywhere on earth

Imagine all those together — that’s “shalom”. That’s the peace that the angels were talking about when they announced the birth of the Messiah to the shepherds.

14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

Luke 2:14 NLT

Jesus tells us…

27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

John 14:27

Paul tells us…

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7 NLT

Now let’s go back to my question — is God pleased with you?

One thing’s for sure, if you’re NOT right with God, you’ll never feel the peace that the angels, Jesus, or Paul talked about.

How many times is the word “peace” found in the Bible? In the New Living Translation (NLT), it comes up 273 times in the Old Testament and 89 times in the New Testament.

Peace can be a real thing in your life even if there is no “peace on earth” yet. But you HAVE TO GET RIGHT WITH GOD!

Repent of your sins and STOP SINNING!

If you’re not sure if you’re saved or not, if you truly want to be born again and have the assurance of salvation, receive the Holy Spirit, feel His Shalom — a peace that surpasses all understanding, and get a 1-way, non-stop ticket to Heaven after you die, or that you won’t be left behind at the Rapture, which can happen at any moment, this is what you have to do…

Invite Jesus into Your Heart and Receive the Gift of Grace, Joy, Peace, and the Confident Hope of Eternal Life…

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite modern Christmas carols…

How Many Kings

Soli Deo Gloria — To God Alone Be The Glory!

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