It’s really easy during the Christmas season to get the order of events wrong. With Christ’s coming, the order of the whole world was turned upside down, and this includes the relationship between work and rest, normal days and holidays, war and peace.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 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, good will toward men.Luke 2:8-14
The Peace of God
The message of the Angel choir is a striking one. A baby, wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger is a sign of something. It is a sign that Israel’s Savior had come. And this sign is accompanied with an angelic crescendo proclaiming that this child was bringing peace on earth, and good will toward men.
But what sort of peace does the Bible mean? For the answer to that question we need to go back to the OT. The Hebrew word for peace is shalom. This peace is not the rickety lawn chair of UN councils and agreements. It isn’t the numb mindlessness of the hippies who relax around a campfire with their drugs and aimless songs.
Rather, the Psalms give us a clear picture of this “shalom” of God:
Psa 29:11 KJV – The LORD will give strength unto his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace.
Psa 37:37 KJV – Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.
Psa 85:10 KJV – Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
Psa 119:165 KJV – Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.
Peace is a result of God choosing to bless His people. The blessing of God isn’t something we earn or haggle over, it is something we freely receive from God who gives it freely. Peace is the end of the perfect/upright man; viewing that verse through the NT we can conclude that Christ’s righteousness/perfection resulted in true peace. Righteousness & peace can go together because of all this. And in God’s Law is great peace.
Putting all this together we can see that peace comes from being in covenant with God. Or as another Psalm puts it: happy is that people, whose God is the LORD. Christ came, and this brought great joy, because finally there would be a man who perfectly fulfilled God’s Law and so brought peace between God and man. Outside of Christ, there is no peace. There’s only the bitterness of the weight of unforgiven sin and shame upon your shoulders. Outside of Christ is like being in a desert and endlessly crawling towards that oasis only to find that every time it’s only a mirage.
Peace then Work
So then, it is important for us to get the order right. This peace of God is not something that you can work hard enough to earn. As we prepare for this Christmas, we should remember last Christmas…or more accurately, the first Christmas. We don’t scurry to get ready for Christmas, but rather Christ’s coming brought us peace, so that we might dwell under all the covenant mercies and blessings of God.
Work is a blessing. Your schoolwork is rewarding. Your chores are a delight. But only if you get this order right. God has made peace with you by sending His Son to live a righteous life and die a bloody death on our behalf. The peace comes before the work. And this is because Christ came to do the work to bring us peace.
So this peace makes it such that we can truly imitate our Father in His creative work. When you work on your grammar you are imitating the one who made a play on words so glorious that the word “light” which he spoke become light itself. When you puzzle over how to divide 37 by 14, you are borrowing the logic and logic with which God created this world with. You are subcreating.
Orcs and monsters take this world and try to make it work for them. They make machines that try to bring us peace without first coming to Christ. They want to control everything, to make everything comfortable without humbling themselves before God.
So then, it goes Christmas then work. It goes Lord’s Day worship each Sunday, and then joyful imitation of our Father in His wondrous work.
And this takes faith. It is isn’t your grades, or being on your best behavior (being nice instead of naughty), or by working hard enough. All this peace comes to you because God first gave you Christ.
You rest in the Glad Tidings of the Gospel, that God has made peace with us through the blood of Christ, and then offer up good works to God. As you celebrate Christmas this year, think of it as one more gracious gift of God’s peace. This is similar to what Paul exhorted the Colossian church: “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful (Col 3:15).”