Hello NWIBA and NWI Pastors and Leaders:
December is upon us and it’s one of our favorite months because it means Christmas time is here! It’s during Christmas that we hear much talk about “peace on earth and good will toward men.” There is this very real, but largely superficial call for peace in our world. And the reason is that there is this intrinsic understanding in people that the world that is, is not the world that should be – that the world that should be is one of peace, justice and goodwill. But obviously, we live in a world that is anything but that – a world ravaged by war and conflict. So Christmas comes and the world echoes the distant refrain of a Christmas Story they barely understand - peace on earth and goodwill toward men. In a sense, Christmas prompts people to contemplate, if only for a brief season, God’s original design – that we were meant to love one another (John 13:35); that everything and everybody were to fit together in harmony (Genesis 1:31), and that humanity was made with a purpose (Genesis 3:8). The mystique and aura of Christmas generates utopian feelings and longings among many for an Eden before the Fall – although they may be ignorant of the object of their longing.
However, as Christ-followers we know this utopian “Eden” cannot be achieved by humanity - although the attempt has been made since the Fall when Adam and Eve tried to recreate their Eden by covering themselves with fig leaves. But through thousands of years of history the evidence is clearly in – with humanity, there will be no peace on earth…there will be no return to Eden. However, the promise of that first Christmas was not an immediate return to Eden…it wasn’t an announcement of instant and generalized peace on earth. In fact, the “Christmas card” angelic chorus to the shepherds actually says in the best translations, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” The peace that Christmas brings is real, but it is selective and conditional…it comes to those with whom His favor rests! Jesus was the announcement of peace and He through His virgin birth, His virtuous life, vicarious death, and victorious resurrection provided a way of peace and reconciliation between God and sinful humanity. Those who God has placed His favor on are those who have repented of their sin and placed their hope and trust in Jesus.
What does this mean to us practically this Christmas season 2018? It should arouse our sensitivities to peoples broken lives. Christmas not only awakens peoples innate awareness of God’s perfect design, but for many, it reveals the painful reality that their lives are broken and far from God. Peace on earth and goodwill toward men rings very hollow for them…the distance between the idyllic feelings of Christmas and the sad brokenness of their lives is immense and insurmountable in their eyes. This is why the Christmas season provides a terrific platform for our witness…we can tell people in the midst of their brokenness, who are yearning for peace, that they can have peace with God and begin a journey that will ultimately take them to God’s perfect design!
In writing this article I’m reminded of the Christmas carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”. The lyrics speak to both the perceived problem and the promised hope of Christmas:
And in despair I bowed my head
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men."
Yes, this Christmas 2018 we know that hate is strong and seemingly mocks the song - but we know that God’s invasion into this world through the Incarnation created a beachhead from which His peace would spread through His gospel into a world long laying in sin and error pining. Two thousand years after that beachhead was established, the battle continues to rage and the front advances. We are on the frontlines of that battle and our weapon is the Gospel of peace. Let’s wage war this Christmas season and beyond for the souls of people in the midst of their brokenness who cry out “there is no peace on earth.”
Paula and I want to wish each of you a very Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year.
In His Service,
Director of Missions
Northwest Indiana Baptist Association