Pastor's Briefing: Preparing the Heart for Christmas
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:14
Traditionally, the season of Advent has been observed as a season to prepare ourselves for the coming of Emmanuel, God with us. It can be viewed as a time to ponder anew the meaning of God visiting our planet in the flesh. Advent allows us to celebrate the pivotal and decisive moment in history when God’s Kingdom triumphantly invaded the kingdom of darkness. The consequences of Christ’s first coming have been felt in every nation of the world and individually in the lives of millions.
Advent looks forward to the angel’s announcement of God’s goal to bring “peace to men.” This is often interpreted as the kind of peace enjoyed by peoples and nations that are no longer at war with one another. However, if this were the correct meaning of these words, there would be nothing unique about the angel’s proclamation. The world at that time was experiencing the peace of the Roman Empire referred to historically as the “Pax Romana” (Roman Peace).
The peace about which the angels are singing about is better interpreted as the peace that fallen, sinful people will be able to enjoy as the result of the coming of this new born baby—Jesus. One pagan thinker of the first century, Epictetus, declared, “while the emperor may give peace from war on land and sea, he is unable to give peace from passion, grief and envy. He cannot give peace of heart, for which man yearns more than even for outward peace.”
The peace here in view is principally a lasting peace that frees us from the load of guilt, the burden of condemnation, and the fear of a holy God. With this peace comes rest from anxiety, joy, and the freedom to love others.
The glad tidings of the angels remind us that this kind of peace is both possible and bound up with the life and destiny of the Christ child.
Flowing out of and consistent with this peace is the peace we ought to have with one another. It is hard to have peace with God when we are out of fellowship or alienated from others. To the extent that it is possible in Christ, we should seek to be at peace with all people.
Further, those who claim that Jesus is their Lord and Savior should not expect to be at peace if they are living dissolute lives. There may be areas of our lives that we need to confess and repent as we move through the Advent season.
I believe that one of the ways that we can most honor Christ during this holiday season, is to take the time to examine our hearts to see if we possess the peace that Christ freely offers through His life, death, and resurrection. We can enjoy all the trappings of the season, the caroling, the Christmas decorations, good eggnog, family gatherings, and the like. However, if we go through this season without being strengthened in the peace of Christ, then we are missing the central point in the coming of Christ.