For unto 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 Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. Is 9:6-7
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, 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, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:8-14
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2
In the midst of war, a promise of peace is given. That is often the way God’s word is delivered – unexpected, incongruous, impractical and saturated with hope. To the beleaguered weary nation of Israel, the prophet Isaiah shares the promise that the coming of a child will change everything. A child will usher in a kingdom of peace. Isaiah lavishes names upon the promised child that are now the familiar tones of Christmas. “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” These are hardly the characteristics associated with an infant, but then God has never operated according to human expectations. They speak of an eternal kingdom rooted in righteousness and established in peace – the kingdom we’ve all been longing for through our war-weary days.
The next time words like these are uttered, it’s to a group of shepherds announcing the promise has been fulfilled. We’re not told whether the shepherds recognized the echo of Isaiah in the voice of the angels. I’d like to think they did and that their hearts thrilled with the knowledge that they were witnesses of God’s promise. What we do know is that the shepherds received a personal announcement from heaven that the promised Prince of Peace had been born and the shepherds heard the heartbeat of God: “Peace on earth, goodwill towards men” This Child is destined to bring peace on earth, peace to the earth, peace to us. Imagine the anticipation in the hearts of those who followed Jesus on earth, anxiously awaiting the day when He would rule, bringing peace to the nation and justice to their enemies. Imagine the devastation they felt when the Prince of Peace was cruelly nailed to a cross and died a violent death at the hands of those He was expected to vanquish. There’s no peace and again God does not abide by human expectation. It’s much the same today – we read the words “peace on earth” as the world is exploding in war, terror, and violence. Our reality is not matching up to the promise.
But then these words from Paul whisper into our hearts. “Through Christ we have been justified; we have peace with God” Apparent defeat on the cross fulfilled the very promise of peace. Christ’s death achieved peace and has healed the great schism created from the fall in Eden. Where once we were enemies of God, now we are reconciled. No more do we need to be at war with God, at war with ourselves, at war with each other. Through the peace achieved for us, we have a relationship with God. We can enter His presence and stand secure that His purposes always come to pass. We are invited to join the angel’s song and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Peace on earth is coming as sure as the morning. Standing in this moment of history, we can’t see it any more than Christ’s followers could at the foot of His cross. But the resurrection was coming, and it is coming again. If His death brings about our peace with God, His eternal life and kingship will certainly remake the whole world in righteousness, justice, and peace. The last verse of It Came upon a Midnight Clear sums up this truth beautifully.
For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophets seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold,
When the new heaven and earth shall own
The Prince of Peace, their King,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.
Blessings to you,