The word peace in the Hebrew language is shalom, and it means much more than the absence of war or other disturbances. When two orthodox Jews meet, they greet each other with “Shalom,” and when they depart, they also say, “Shalom.” Along with peace, the word carries the ideas of health, prosperity, safety, completeness, harmony, and fulfillment. It speaks of a full and satisfying life.
We associate Christmas with peace. The priest Zechariah saw in the birth of Messiah the coming of God’s light “to guide our feet into the path of peace” (Luke 1:79). But “shalom” touches death as well as life, for old Simeon prayed, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace” (2:29). Perhaps the most familiar “Christmas peace” statement in Scripture is the Authorized Version’s translation of Luke 2:14, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” To enjoy Christmas peace in our own hearts and homes, we must understand four “peace announcements” found in Scripture.
The Announcement of the Angels
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” This translation of Luke 2:14 is a bit awkward and gives the impression that the peace Jesus brings is only for those who show “good will” to others. The New International Version reads: “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests’ ” (vv. 13–14). The word translated “men” is anthropos and means “people in general, both men and women.” The angels brought their good news “for all the people” (v. 10), and yet God’s peace is only for “those on whom God’s favor [grace] rests.” More about this later.
Before the Lord created the first man and woman, He created the angels to worship and serve Him; and some of them rebelled and were cast out of heaven (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6). Jesus didn’t come to save the fallen angels (Heb. 2:16) but to save sinful people, and yet the angels praised God for His grace to humans! The Pax Romana (Roman Peace) had begun in AD 27, but though it brought a truce among the nations, it could not bring peace to the human heart. There has not been much “peace on earth” in recorded history and there certainly isn’t much today. During the centuries, it’s estimated that there has been world peace less than 10 percent of the time and that thousands of treaties have been signed and broken by national leaders.
David W. Wiersbe and Warren W. Wiersbe, C Is for Christmas: The History, Personalities, and Meaning of Christ’s Birth: An A to Z Guide (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2012), 151–153.
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