Summary: Peace on earth? With wars and rumors of wars what possible peace could the angels be announcing? And how does the baby Jesus fit into all this?
OPEN: I love to sing Christmas Carols, so this morning I want you to stand and sing 3 verses of “Silent Night” with me.
1. “Silent night, holy night! All is calm, all is bright.
Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child. Holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace
2. Silent night, holy night! Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven afar; Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia,
Christ the Savior is born! Christ the Savior is born
3. Silent night, holy night! Son of God love's pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face - with dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth, Jesus Lord, at Thy birth”
The first verse of that carol tells of the Christ Child sleeping in “heavenly peace”, but in our text this morning the angels were declaring that somebody else would be at peace: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth PEACE among those with whom he is pleased!" Luke 2:14
The message of the angelic chorus was – there was something about the birth of THIS baby that was going to bring us peace.
ILLUS: Have you ever heard of Travis Tritt? Most of you have. He is a famous Country & Western singer - but he hasn’t always been famous. Back before he was well-known he spent years playing in small out of the way places, and he spent a lot of time performing in bars. He said that the bars were dangerous. Lots of drunks starting lots of bar fights. But he found a unique way to keep the peace in such situations. He said “Just when [bar fights] started getting out of hand, when bikers were reaching for their pool cues and rednecks were heading for the gun rack, I'd start playing 'Silent Night.' It could be the middle of July…Sometimes they'd even start crying" ("Twang! The Ultimate Book of Country Music Quotations," compiled by Raymond Obstfeld and Sheila Burgener [New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1997], 47.)
There’s something about "Silent Night" (a song that tells about Jesus in the manger) that brings peace even to bikers, and rednecks and drunks. But when the angels declared there would be peace were they talking about Jesus stopping bar fights?
Well there IS something to that. Proverbs 16:7 “When a man’s ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be AT PEACE with him.” So you could argue that singing about Jesus pleases the LORD and therefore - God rewarded Tritt for singing about Jesus in bars. I mean, you could argue that. But that would miss the point of what the angels were ACTUALLY saying.
Notice how their declaration begins: “Glory to God in the highest…” Now I have to admit I’ve heard that part of the angel chorus practically every year since I was a baby, but I’ve never given it a 2nd thought. It always seemed kind of like a “throw-a-way” line. Kind of like saying “In Jesus name Amen” at the end of a prayer – there are lots of folks say that at the end of their prayers without giving a thought to what it means. And that’s how this phrase the angels sang always struck me. But when the angels sang “Glory to God in the highest” that was NOT a throwaway line. Oh no. Instead it was the KEY to the whole message they are singing about.
You see, the peace the angels promised was NOT a promise that there’d be no more conflict or war. I mean - it’s pretty obvious that the birth of Christ didn’t bring an end to those things. In fact Jesus himself warned that there’d be wars and rumors of wars and that they’d go on and on until the end of the world. So the angels weren’t talking about the absence of wars and conflicts.
What they were talking about was a peace that only Jesus could bring. And the peace Jesus was born to give us was peace with God.
The Bible tells us that, because of our sin and our tendency to rebel against God “you… were once were alienated and enemies (of God) (NKJV) Col. 1:21
And Ephesians 2:1-3 declared “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.”
In short, the root of our problem with God is our sin. And our sin made us objects of wrath and enemies of God.