Travelling in the car today and listening to the radio this song came on:
“I’m not dreaming of a white Christmas
I’m not dreaming of a white Christmas
All I’m dreaming of the whole day long
Is a peaceful world”
Do you remember it? It’s sung by Gilbert O’Sullivan, remembered just as much for his cloth cap, short trousers and hob-nailed boots as is he is for his singing. Hugely successful in the 1970s he still performs today at the age of 75. The lyrics above are fairly typical of the cheesy Christmas songs from the 70s which still get sung every year. As the song develops it becomes clear that O’Sullivan lacks awareness that the peace for which he is yearning is tied up with the baby born in Bethlehem, on what we traditionally call the first Christmas day. In this respect, Gilbert O’Sullivan’s song is typical of the genre, and his understanding is similar to many people. We want peace, we sense that Christmas has something to do with peace, but we don’t know what the connection is.
Maybe we should start with the angel appearing to shepherds bringing an amazing message, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (1) All Jews knew about the Messiah. The Messiah is the Chosen One and the Jews had long hoped for God’s Chosen One to rescue them from oppression. At the time of the shepherds, they wanted to be rescued from Roman rule and had no idea that what they truly needed rescuing from was sin. No Jew would have expected what the shepherd later discovers, a baby wrapped in cloths lying in a manger. The angel was joined by others who joined together in praising God, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.” (2) You see the word peace. The birth of this baby is inextricably linked to peace on earth. Without him, there can never be lasting peace because he alone can establish peace on earth.
The Bible book of Isaiah tells us a little more about who this baby, born of Mary, really is. He was no ordinary baby. Isaiah, in a wonderful declaration, tells us that, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (3)
This baby is the mighty God and he is also the Prince of Peace. The government will be on his shoulders means that he will one day reign on earth as its rightful King, and when he does so he will bring peace to a world that has been devastated by war throughout its history. He will change the whole nature of existence. Instead of fighting, “They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” (4) The writer speaks of weapons of which he is familiar but whatever weapons exist when Jesus returns, they will be disarmed and refashioned for agricultural purposes. Alongside peace, Jesus will usher in a world where no one will ever again go hungry.
It’s hard to imagine that the baby of Bethlehem is truly the mighty God, in fact, God’s Son, and it’s even harder to imagine him reigning over a peaceful world as its King but that’s what the Bible tells us. He was born to deal with our greatest enemy, not the Romans of his day nor the Islamic State of ours. Russia is not our greatest enemy, neither is China. It’s sin that separates us from God. Jesus was born to die, taking the punishment for our sins. He did that, then he rose from the dead and went back to heaven. He is coming back to bring peace, do not doubt it, so make sure you’re ready for him. He died for you but you are only saved from punishment if you recognise your sin, ask God for forgiveness and commit your life to Jesus. Do that and a wonderful future lies ahead of you, made possible by Bethlehem’s baby.
- Luke 2:10,11
- Luke 2:14
- Isaiah 9:6
- Isaiah 2:4