Hark! the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the new born King,
peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!"
How often have you sung this Christmas hymn? In church it is a Christmas staple, and when I was younger we used to sing it in Christmas programs at school (when we were still allowed to sing Christmas songs and still call it Christmas instead of "the holidays"). But one line in that hymn really stands out to me, God and sinners reconciled. Christmas has become, culturally, all about the giving and receiving. We think about the babe in the manger as God's gift to the world. But I am afraid that we have lost sight of the cross because of the manger. Jesus coming in a miraculous birth to a virgin, in and of itself, accomplished very little other than fulfilling one part of the prophecy. It was at the cross where the Christ child was destined to ascend that the full reality of the gift of God to His people was realized. It was there, on the cross, where He brought peace between God and sinners.
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:19-20)
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Col 1:19-20)
What all of this tells me is the depths to which we once were His enemies. Our separation was so severe, the gulf so unbridgeable that peace between God and His people could only come at a terrible cost, the cost of the life of His Son. We have no peace in this life because we have no peace with God. It was an enmity that our sin has caused and it was a separation that outside of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit we are unaware of. Sure we know something is wrong in the world, but we don't realize that what is wrong with the world is not global warming, or capitalism, or war, or those people over there. What is wrong with the world is us. We were unable and unwilling to make peace with God, so God had to send His beloved Son to make peace with us. Don't buy that Total Depravity stuff? Think we are just generally good people who needed a little nudge in the right direction? Think again...
Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:9-11)
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1-3)
So we are all depraved, wicked sinners. But didn't Jesus come to bring peace? Certainly, but not the peace we usually think of.
The peace that Christ brings is not an earthly peace, a time of peace and goodwill. 2000 years of human history have proven that. There are wars, famine, hatred. The world is certainly not a peaceful place by any stretch of the imagination. So what is all of this peace talk about anyway? We read in Isaiah 9:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
We see on the glorious night that Christ was born:
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 among those with whom he is pleased!" (Luke 2:13-14)
But yet we don't see peace in the world nor should we expect to. The peace that Christ brought is peace with His Father, a peace treaty signed in His blood.
We are cynically called to remember "The reason for the season", but the reason for the season is not the manger, it is the cross. It is not the three wise men, it is the centurion who said: "Truly this was the Son of God!". It is not the adoring shepherds, it is the crowd screaming "Crucify Him!". The reason for the season is that:
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (Joh 1:14)
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and by His stripes we are healed. That is reason to celebrate. Not for iPods or gift cards, but the eternal Word condescended to dwell among sinners who hated and rejected Him. But we also read that while we were yet sinners, He came and died for us. Celebrate that on Christmas day, celebrate that God and sinners are reconciled by the cross and because of that we have peace with God for all eternity.
Now that is deserving of a...