A Christmas Meditation
The hymn writer tells us that it was a “silent” night, a “holy” night. But it was also a cold night, as the shepherds huddled together seeking warmth from the fire. To them it seemed like every other night. The crackling of wood, the occasional bleating of a lamb, were the only sounds that disturbed the otherwise routine silence.
Then suddenly an angel of the Lord “stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened” (Luke 2:9). Unlike the shepherds, we live in an age of high-tech special effects where such happenings are a commonplace in the movies or on TV. But for these first-century peasants it was a frightening shock as the whole of heaven burst ablaze with the blinding glory of God! The Bible literally says, “they feared a great fear.” Simply put, they were scared out of their wits!
But the announcement that night was designed to evoke joy, not fear, “for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Yes, Jesus is an example for us, as well as a teacher, a counselor and a friend. But above all else he is a Savior. The joy of Christmas is not in toys and tinsel, not in gifts and goodies, but in redemption from slavery to sin. The message of the season is not frivolity and fellowship. It is the good news that One has come whose death and resurrection have set his people free from guilt and condemnation.
Such glorious news is too much for one angel to utter. There is need for a heavenly host of voices to proclaim this momentous event. “And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased’” (Luke 2:13-14).
Peace! But what kind of peace? Surely not merely that peace for which we are striving in Iraq. Far more than the cessation of external or military strife is in view. Nor does it mean that we temporarily suspend our dislike for others, decline to exact our revenge, ignore long-held grudges, or the like. The peace that came with Christ is peace with God (Romans 5:1). It is the peace of salvation, the end of all spiritual enmity, the glorious harmony that comes from the propitiation of divine wrath.
But for whom is this peace designed? The angelic chorus leaves no doubt. The Lord God bestows the peace of redemption on those “with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14). Perhaps a better translation would be, “those on whom His favor rests.” The angels are not proclaiming the merits of mankind, but the sovereign grace of God! The point is that true peace is the experience of those who are the saving focus of God’s distinguishing love. The angelic emphasis is on God’s free choice of His people and the peace He sovereignly bestows on them through the redemptive sufferings of his Son.
Those on whom God’s favor rests, his elect, delight themselves in the peace that Christ alone makes possible. Our response must be no other than that of the hosts of heaven. Let us join with them this season in singing, “Glory to God in the highest!”