With centuries upon centuries of human history behind us, one would tend to think that if we could collectively “get our act together”, we certainly would have by now. After all, people living today are collectively the most highly educated to have ever lived on this planet and enjoy astronomical benefits from technology, medicine and communication that would have seemed “miraculous” to those living even two hundred years ago, let alone two thousand years.
Still, what was characteristic of human nature over 2000 years ago continues to be true today. Human evil has not been cancelled out by what some believe is the innate goodness of mankind. It has not disappeared nor are we watching its demise today. On the contrary, there are people who hate and hurt others for no reason other than it gratifies their savage impulses and gives them a sense of power. People often kill people not because they defend themselves and not even because they are exacting some sort of sick revenge but only because they simply want to see others suffer and die. Despair and discouragement afflict millions today as it becomes clearer and clearer that material things cannot satisfy our deepest needs and desires.
Let’s not tolerate any illusions here: humanity, at its core, is far from the peaceful and noble creature we’d like to imagine. Sin is undeniably a reality and its pervasive influence runs rampant around the world. If we were to look only at things from a human perspective, we would never find any peace.
On the other hand, the eternally steady hand of God has not ceased to work in human history, ill-content as He is with human will heading off on its own into self-destruction. Love and holiness moved the heart of God which then moved the hand of God.
“Who has believed what they heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He (Jesus) grew up before Him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him” (Isaiah 53:1-2 ESV).
The story of Christmas is simply the account of how God, perceiving us as we truly are, was moved by an infinite mercy and grace. He willingly and lovingly laid aside His own glory, and became like us in order to be what we could not be for ourselves: a sinless and perfect sacrifice.
Though Jesus “was in the form of God, (He) did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8 ESV).
In a great Cosmic “rodeo”, He humbly entered His broken creation in order to grab our sin by the horns and throw it to the ground. Doing so meant that He would take into Himself the goring of the awful horn of sin’s power by suffering at the hands of hateful humanity and then the horn of sin’s penalty, as He gave Himself in death for us as a perfect sacrifice, sufficient for all the world for all time… sufficient for the peace for which we so earnestly yearn.
“Hark! The herald angels sing! ‘Glory to the newborn King! Peace on earth and mercy mild; God and sinners reconciled!’” (words by Charles Wesley; melody by Felix Mendelssohn).
Peace is a marvelous and wonderful effect of becoming a child of God. First, we are no longer “at war” with Him because we are no longer willfully living for ourselves (having surrendered the matter of our sin to His atoning work on the Cross of Christ). “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1 ESV).
Secondly, we no longer need to dwell under the oppressive guilt and shame with which the condemnation of our sin blankets us. When we trust Christ as our savior, we are forgiven, cleansed, healed, and set free forever.
Finally, as God’s goodness begins to conquer our character in the shaping of our values and our moral choices, we respond to evil enacted upon us with good and so begin to break the world’s cycle of wickedness. As I am hurt or have been offended, I can nevertheless choose to “respond” with the grace of Jesus and to not “react” by exacting revenge. When we respond as Christ would have us respond, mercy is introduced to the lives of those who’ve not personally experienced mercy; goodness is injected into a situation where “good” was nowhere to be found; peace flows out of our very being into each of our “little corners of the world”.
The world is hungry for real peace. Only One can supply that peace… for the world and for you and me. Can you not hear the echo of the angels’ song today? Does your heart even now resound with their wondrous anthem, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests” (Luke 2:14)? Would you even now, in this Christmas season, surrender your will and your way to this Son of God, this Prince of Peace?
“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 ESV).
What a beautiful article Thom! I think things are at long last starting to change however. I think that He is beginnging to give us ears to hear and eyes to see, the suffering of humanity and our need to minister the love of God to this dying world. Blessings, Sharon