(This article originally appeared in the December 2016 edition of the Baptist Courier.)
Peace on Earth, it seems like such an elusive concept. This was especially true during WWI; however, on Christmas Eve in 1914, Scottish soldiers witnessed strange lights in the German trenches across from them. They then began to hear what sounded like singing. As the singing grew louder, the soldiers discerned that the Germans were singing the Christmas carol “Silent Night.” The Scots’ voices rose to join the Germans in their caroling.
The next day, the soldiers from both sides began to stand in their trenches, waving their arms in the air in a sign for the other side not to shoot. They met each other in no man’s land, exchanging rations and gifts. They played a soccer game that Christmas Day. They talked to each other about their backgrounds and families. Soldiers from both sides relished the peace they experienced that Christmas Day, but it was a short-lived peace. Within hours, the war resumed, and they became enemies once again.
Every time I remember their story, I want to give it a different ending. I want the war to end and for soldiers from both sides to go back to their families and live peaceful lives. I want it to be the “War to End All Wars.”
Why is this Christmas story so powerful? It speaks to a need that all human beings have: peace. We all need peace with God and peace with our fellow men and women. Jesus was born in a manger that led to a cross, to bring us such peace.
Regarding Christ’s birth, Isaiah prophesied: “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). On the night of Jesus’ birth, the angels appeared to shepherds, proclaiming, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14 ESV). How is Christ the Prince of Peace? How does He bring peace on earth to men and women with whom He is pleased?
Jesus was born in a manger to die on a cross in order to reconcile us to God. The Bible says that before we come to Christ, we are at war with God (Romans 8:7; Ephesians 2:1-3). Yet we have hope because, while we were still enemies of God, Jesus Christ died for our sins (Romans 5:8). His death brings those who have faith in Him peace and reconciliation with God. Paul wrote, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1 ESV). He further declared, “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 5:10-11 ESV).
Because of the birth and death of Christ, we can experience peace with God and peace with our fellow men and women. In and through Christ, we have peace on earth. Merry Christmas!
(If you want to read more from Tim McKnight, click here.)
Tim is the Director of the Global Center for Youth Ministry and Associate Professor for Youth Ministry & Missions at Anderson University. He is lead pastor/planter of Mosaic Church of Anderson. Tim is also the author of Engaging Generation Z (Kregel Academic), No Better Gospel (Seeds Publishing Group), and the author and editor of Navigating Student Ministry (B&H Academic). His comments do not reflect the views of his employers and are his own personal views on various subjects.