‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests’.
Luke 2:14 (NIV)
This is one of the most well known, loved and quoted verses in the Bible, especially at this time of year. However, it is often misquoted (particularly by the media) by leaving out the last phrase ‘on whom his favour rests’. The misquoting is usually accompanied by misunderstanding and corresponding misapplication of the meaning of the word ‘Peace’ in the joyous cry of the angel army.
It occurs in the Christmas story where around 2000 years ago an Angel appeared to a few shepherds minding their sheep out on the Judean hills. The Angel announced to the shepherds that the (expected) Saviour had come into the world in the form of a baby.
This event is intended to bring Peace, but not Peace as usually understood. This peace is not a promise of the lack of war, violence, strife in this world, rather it is Peace with God that is intended. It is Peace brought by the removal of the separation, the barrier between every man and woman and God caused by human sinfulness, our rebellion against him shown by the breaching of his laws.
This Peace is not the absence of war, violence, strife, abuse, need, sickness etc, but it is Peace IN those situations. The Peace that comes with the knowledge that God has us in his hands, will hold on to us and never let us go, no matter what our situation in life (John 10:29). It is the Peace that comes with the internal certain knowledge that, no matter what challenges we face, God will lead us through into the New Heaven and Earth, where there will be ‘no more tears, death mourning, crying or pain’ (Revelation 21:4). This is indeed a glorious Peace!
But then there is the sting in the tail, conveniently ignored by many. For this Peace is for those ‘on whom his favour rests’. That is not for everybody! It is not for some category of people whom God considers good enough. No, the salvation, and the Peace, that comes through the baby Jesus who grew up to be the resurrected Christ, the Saviour announced by the Angel, is by Grace, that is as an unmerited, unearned, undeserved Gift from God
‘It is by Grace you are saved as a gift of God,
not because of works’ (i.e. not because of what you do) (Ephesians 2:8,9)
Those upon whom ‘his favour rests’’ are those who as an act of commitment to God accept and confess not just with their lips but in their hearts that the Saviour Jesus is Lord of their life (Romans 10:9) i.e. Lord (owner) of everything they have.
It is only when we ourselves have that God-created Peace, the Christmas present paid for by Christ on the Cross, that Christmas is truly a time for celebration. The important thing is that we know that God’s favour rests on us because of Jesus.
May you have a truly ‘Peaceful’ Christmas.