For many the holidays are a time of joy and merry-making with family and friends. We all have our own traditions. My family enjoys going to the local science center to view the amazing lights. We also enjoy taking carriage rides in a neighboring Mayberry. I shouldn’t forget the food. We love to consume some seriously good eats. And would it be Christmas without watching the classics? Elf. Miracle on 34th Street. It’s a Wonderful Life. Home Alone.
However, not everyone’s traditions and family time is joyful. It may the first holiday season after the loss of a spouse. Or because of a divorce, it may be one where children are with the other parent. Or maybe the family gets together but it’s guerrilla warfare.
What if Christmas isn’t very merry? What if Advent doesn’t feel hopeful?
A PRINCE OF PEACE ARRIVES
For those of you who approach the holidays with fear, or doubt, or anger, or anxiety, hear the word of the Lord in Isaiah 9:6-7,
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
A child was born who brings peace. God offers terms of peace that He meets in the arrival of His Son. Isaiah, as we read, calls Jesus the “Prince of Peace” (9:6). Hear what the angels say when they announce the arrival of Jesus:
“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 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!’” (Lk 2:8-14)
ON EARTH PEACE
I love how the KJV renders this announcement: “[O]n earth peace, good will toward men.” There’s a gospel expectancy. We know the peace is delivered in Jesus Christ, but how? This advent proclamation of peace is the foundation for Paul’s theology of justification. Without this proclamation there’s no justification! So let’s read what Paul writes about peace:
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ [cultic and covenantal language]. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (Eph 2:13-16 see also 6:14-15 “the gospel of peace”).
“For in him [Jesus] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Col 1:19-20).
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom 5:1-2).
It’s in Paul’s magnum opus, the letter to the Romans, that he makes the connection undeniable between peace and justification.
So when someone asks Paul “How can a righteous God make peace with man through Jesus?” Paul would say, in shorthand, justification. Study the ministry of Jesus—it’s centered on bringing peace to those who are sinners, sick, scandalized, and in dire straits. Jesus embodies and acts out the divine peace through justification by faith in the Gospels, whereas Paul explores and mines these truths systematically.
PEACE FOR FAMILIES
Jesus’s arrival marks the proclamation of good tidings for everyone whom God is pleased with by offering peace with God by His blood! And isn’t that good news for families who are hurting this holiday season? The beauty of God’s peace is that it’s not just an individual thing. This peace is covenantal and forms a community of people who have received peace and who can share that peace with others. For the family in conflict there can be peace in Him. For family ruptured by divorce there can be peace. For the family separated by death there can be peace. For those who feel the weight of loneliness during this season there can be peace.
Men, I encourage you to be dispensers of peace this week. Plead and pray and trust that His peace will be with you and that others might see and receive this blood-bought peace this Advent season. Come alongside those who are hurting. Lead your families well and if there’s ruptures in your family lead with peace and grace and mercy. As Luke says, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”
Assistant Editor, Manual
Mathew is the author of A Household Gospel: Fulfilling the Great Commission in Our Homes and contributor in Make, Mature, Multiply (GCD Books). He’s the Managing Editor at Gospel-Centered Discipleship. He’s married to LeAnn and they have three daughters. They enjoy traveling, relaxing at the beach, and wandering in the woods. Mathew regularly blogs at Grace for Sinners. The Sims are members at Downtown Presbyterian Church in Greenville, SC.