The Most Misunderstood Christmas Song

Bible Book: Luke  2 : 13-14
Subject: Christmas; Song, Christmas

Several years ago, during the Christmas season, a friend of mine was driving around Memphis showing his little granddaughter the Christmas decorations. They came to one display which was especially eye-catching. In letters several feet high, brightly lighted, were the words, “Peace on Earth.” That phrase, of course, was from the words which the angels spoke--according to tradition, “sang”--to the shepherds the night Jesus was born, as recorded in Luke 2:13-14--which reads as follows: “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, good will toward men.” As the little girl looked at those words, “Peace on Earth,” she said, “Granddaddy, what does that mean?” He said, “That means that Jesus came down to this world to bring peace.” She was quiet for a long moment; then she looked up and said, “Granddaddy, it didn’t work, did it?”

Probably there are many adults who feel the same way, whether they’ve voiced it or not. We read and hear of terrorist attacks, suicide bombers, innocent people being maimed or killed. Several nations are in the process of trying to develop nuclear weapons. There are repressive dictatorships in numerous countries. In some third-world countries civil wars are raging, and people are dying by droves. All over the globe there is tension and hostility between nations, ethnic groups, and people of conflicting ideologies. In our own country we hear every day of murders, rapes, and other heinous crimes--and when some people read here in Luke about the angels’ peace proclamation, they say--at least to themselves--”It didn’t work, did it?”

But it did work, and it still does work. My friend’s precious little granddaughter, and many adults as well, have simply misunderstood the message of the angels’ song. If we’ll look carefully at that angelic peace proclamation in the context of other Scripture, we’ll see that it not only is true, it is one of the grandest pronouncements in all the Bible.

I. Jesus Came To Offer Peace, Not Impose It

To clear up the misunderstanding, let’s first of all realize that JESUS CAME TO OFFER PEACE, NOT IMPOSE IT.

God didn’t create us as robots, or puppets on a string; we are free moral agents. We have the awesome, God-given power to say yes or no to the gifts of God, including the gift of peace. Throughout the Bible emphasis is given to man’s freedom to choose. For example, Joshua 14:15 tells us, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve.” Hebrews 4:7 says, “...Today, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” Revelation 22:17 says, “whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” The Sovereign God of this universe created man with the ability and responsibility to decide for himself how he will respond to his Creator.

One day two acquaintances were walking down the street, one of them a Christian and the other a skeptic. The skeptic said to the Christian, “Your gospel hasn’t worked.” The Christian said, “What do you mean?” He answered, “Look at all of the sin, corruption, and crime in the world. That proves that the gospel hasn’t worked.”

It so happened that this skeptic was the head of a successful soap manufacturing company. The Christian said, “Your soap doesn’t work--look at all of the filth and disease in the world--that proves that your soap doesn’t work.” The skeptic said, “It proves no such thing. It isn’t the fault of my soap. If people would use my soap, there wouldn’t be so much filth and disease.” The Christian responded, “And the same is true of the gospel. If people would believe the gospel and apply it to their lives, they would be cleansed of their sin and corruption.”

The fact that so many people have rejected it is no reflection upon our Lord’s peace--because he came to offer it, not impose it. You can say yes to Jesus and his peace, to your good and God’s glory, or--alas--you can say no to Jesus and his peace, to your detriment and God’s dishonor.

II. Jesus Came To Offer Three Kinds Of Peace

The second thing to keep in mind, in order to clear up the misunderstanding of the angels’ song, is this: JESUS CAME TO OFFER THREE KINDS OF PEACE--interrelated and intertwined, but each deserving of separate mention.

A. Peace With God

First, Jesus offers us UPWARD PEACE--in other words, PEACE WITH GOD.

Unless or until a person is converted, that person is alienated from God. Isaiah 59:2 says, “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” To be thus alienated means inner turmoil in this life, and eternal hell in the life to come.

But that’s why Jesus came into this world to die on the cross. He came to take the punishment for our sins, that we might be forgiven and have peace with God. Isaiah 53:5 says, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

How do we receive that peace with God, which Jesus died to make available? Notice again the last part of the angels’ song in Luke 2:14; the King James Version renders it, “peace on earth, good will toward men.” But the American Standard Version translates it like this: “on earth peace among men in whom he is well pleased.”

How does a person please God? Hebrews 6:11 gives the answer: “But without faith it is impossible to please him.” Romans 5:1 declares, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Colossians 1:20 speaks of Jesus having “made peace through the blood of his cross.” Verses 21-22 continue: “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death....”

Sometimes this peace with God is called positional peace. Once you’ve repented of your sins and in faith surrendered your life to Christ, your spiritual position is dramatically changed. Whereas you were previously in the position of being separated from God and condemned to hell, your position now that you’ve been converted is that you are forever a child of God, a joint heir with Christ, and bound for heaven when you die.

In Luke 7:48-50 Jesus said to a repentant woman, “Thy sins are forgiven. And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.”

B. Peace Of God

Closely related to that upward peace, and growing out of it, is a second kind of peace that Jesus gives to those who trust him: INWARD PEACE--in other words, the PEACE OF GOD--peace within the heart.

Paul wrote in Philippians 4:6-7, “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Jesus said, in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

A contest was held among a group of artists. An award was to be given for the best painting on the theme of “peace.” It was narrowed down to a few finalists. One of those had painted a quiet valley, with trees growing and flowers blooming. Not a sign of movement was evident; that was his rendition of “Peace.” Another painted a picture of a farm. The cows were quietly grazing, and the farmer was good-naturedly making his way to the house, where his wife and children were awaiting him on the porch. That was the second artist’s idea of “peace.” Still another artist’s picture showed a priest, withdrawn from the world, secluded in a little room, meditating. As did the others, he entitled his picture, “peace.”

But then there was one more artist. His painting portrayed a roaring waterfall. It was plunging downward, roaring and splashing on the sharp rocks below. The viewer could almost feel the cold, penetrating spray The first impression given was one of danger and turmoil. But then, upon closer examination, you could see the branch of a tree extending out over that rushing current. In a fork of that branch was a bird’s nest; and in that nest, unruffled and unperturbed, sat a mother robin on her eggs. Though the water roared beneath her, she sat there in complete serenity. That artist also entitled his picture “peace”--and he won the award.

Jesus said, in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Jesus gives inward peace, in spite of the turbulence around us.

We do need to realize, though, that this inner peace can be fretted. The author of Isaiah 26:3 said to God: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” If we take the focus off of Jesus, the devil can rob us of that inward peace.

C. Peace Among Men

Jesus also came to offer a third kind of peace: OUTWARD PEACE--in other words, PEACE AMONG MEN.

Universal peace will never be a reality until after Jesus comes and sets up his millennial reign upon the earth. The word “millennium” is a Latin word which means “a thousand.”

Revelation 20 tells us that following Christ’s return Satan will be bound for a thousand years, and peace will prevail. There are numerous Old Testament prophecies regarding that thousand year earthly reign of our Lord. No doubt Isaiah 2:4 is such a prophecy. It says: “And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

But even though universal peace is impossible until Jesus returns, in the meantime there does nevertheless exist the prospect of outward peace--and we who believe in Christ are commanded to be promoters of peace. Jesus said, in Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” We become children of God through faith in Christ--but one of the major ways that we are recognized as children of God is by our functioning as peacemakers.

How can you and I be peacemakers? Two ways, at least. First, having gotten right with God ourselves, we can then endeavor to relate to other people peacefully. Paul wrote, in Romans 12:18, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” Paul is certainly not advocating peace at any price. He clearly implies that peace will not always be possible. Indeed, there are some philosophies and movements with which we as believers dare not be at peace. For example, we dare not be at peace with the abortion industry, or with the movement to remove God from every vestige of our society. But whenever and wherever peace is possible, we’re to do our best to attain it.

There’s also a second way we can be peacemakers: we can endeavor to win the lost to Christ, in order that they might then have a foundation on which to build peaceful relations with others. In Ephesians 2 Paul spoke of the hostility that existed in his day between Jews and Gentiles--but then he spoke of how some Jews and Gentiles had surrendered to Christ and thereby had been reconciled not only to God but also to one another. In verse 14 Paul wrote: “For he [Christ] is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.”

Georges Simenon, who died in 1989, was undoubtedly one of the most prolific writers who ever lived, but apparently he was a very unhappy man. He once wrote these words: “I have only one ambition left, to be completely at peace with myself. I doubt if I shall ever manage it. I do not think it is possible for anyone.”

But how wrong he was. In Isaiah 9:6 Jesus is called “the Prince of peace.” When he reigns in your heart, you have peace within, regardless of the storms that may be raging around you. And he wants to give you that peace--and he will, right now, if you’ll repent and believe.


High up in the Andes Mountains there stands a large, unusual statue of Christ--it is 26 feet tall, and stands 12,000 feet above sea level. The left hand of the statue holds a large cross, and the right hand is raised in blessing. The statue marks the boundary between Argentina and Chile. Here’s the story of the statue:

For many years those two countries had been quarreling over their borders. Both nations had suffered much from the conflict. In 1900 a group of citizens negotiated a treaty and brought the two nations together. A wealthy Argentine lady, who had done much to bring about the reconciliation, conceived the idea of the statue of Christ. She had the statue formed from the very canons that the Argentines had used against the Chileans. The statue was erected in a snow-covered pass, at the point where the two countries meet. Engraved in Spanish on the base of the statue are these words: “Sooner shall these mountains crumble into dust than Argentines and Chileans break the peace sworn at the feet of Christ the Redeemer.” That statue, called “The Christ of the Andes,” still stands today as a reminder that only Jesus Christ can bring real, lasting peace.

There comes to my heart one sweet strain,

A glad and a joyous refrain;

I sing it again and again,

Sweet peace, the gift of God’s love.

Through Christ on the cross peace was made,

My debt by His death was all paid;

No other foundation is laid

For peace, the gift of God’s love.