One of the things I love about the Christmas season is the music. Recently, I read a story about a little boy and girl who were singing their favorite Christmas carol in church the Sunday before Christmas. The boy concluded “Silent Night” with the words, “Sleep in heavenly beans.” “No,” his sister corrected, “not beans, peas.”
I think it’s sometimes easy for us to be confused about what peace really means. Often, peace gets defined passively as the absence of conflict, pain, or strife. However, peace is not merely the absence of conflict but the presence of something—or rather, someone—much greater in our lives.
In the Old Testament the Hebrew word translated as peace, shalom, has rich layers of meaning. Shalom does not entail a passive picture of the absence of war, but evokes the active presence of a whole social order of well-being, prosperity, security, and harmony. Shalom was used as a greeting and a farewell word that was meant to speak a blessing of complete well-being upon the person being addressed. Additionally, one Bible scholar says that “Shalom describes a deep sense of well-being that comes through the presence of completion, reconciliation, and justice.”
The New Testament makes clear that God was bringing His shalom to earth in the arrival of Jesus. And there’s one scene in particular that highlights for us that our peace (our purpose, well-being, security, harmony) is found in a person. This is the very one that the prophet Isaiah calls “the Prince of Peace.” True peace is found in the person of Jesus Christ. Here is a working biblical definition of peace: Peace is Jesus Christ – praised, proclaimed, and pondered to the glory of God.
Peace is Jesus Christ – praised, proclaimed, and pondered to the glory of God.
In Luke 2:8-20 we can see three dimensions of peace that give us its full meaning and fulfillment in the announcement that Jesus has come. But before we look at these three dimensions of peace, this cherished story of Jesus’ birth shockingly being announced to a group of lowly shepherds instructs us in two areas of counterfeit peace, places where we often seek peace and always come up short.
Peace Does Not Come From Position
God doesn’t show any partiality with the giving of His peace. He doesn’t play favorites like the world does. He gives His peace to the least and undeserving. Of all the people to whom the Lord could have revealed the birth of His glorious Son on the very day He was born, He picked a group of lowly shepherds out in a field. Talk about a counter-cultural birth announcement! There are so many contrasts in this text, and this is one of them: a grand, bright, and glorious announcement made to a group of lowly, dirty, and unknown shepherds in the dark of night.
Peace Does Not Come From Possessions
Shepherds had a simple, yet difficult job: take care of their sheep. Their whole livelihood was wrapped up in their flock. Some have stocks for their financial security, but shepherds had flocks. Notice the shepherds’ response to the revelation of Jesus’ glorious birth. They went with “haste” to seek the baby Jesus themselves. They had been given an invitation, a sign to pursue Christ, and they left everything they had to go after Him. They risked and forsook their jobs and financial livelihood in order to seek after Christ. Why? Well, I would suggest it was because they considered Him more valuable than anything else they had. The result? They were recipients of the very peace God gives through His incarnate Son.
Returning now to our definition of peace, we can also see and savor the three glorious dimensions of peace that were announced to these shepherds through a majestic angelic chorus.
Peace Comes When We Praise Christ!
At the very center of this story is verse 14, which declares, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Within this remarkable angelic chorus of praise, we see a “heaven to earth” reality. Our peace is directly connected to God’s glory. “Glory to God in the highest” and “on earth peace….” We cannot separate what the angels kept together. Herein lies the purpose of why you and I were created…to give God glory. As Christians, we often say that our lives are meant to be lived to the glory of God. But what does that really mean? What does it look like? To state it concisely, everybody chooses to make something—or someone—glorious in their life. The words glory or glorious can be defined as giving honor, expressing ultimate worth, deserving of prime adoration. In other words, everyone worships something or someone. The word worship comes from the old middle English word “worth-ship,” or something to which you ascribe ultimate worth. Whatever this thing or person is that you choose to worship becomes the center of your life around which everything else orbits.
So putting this all together: to the degree that Jesus is glorious in your life will be the degree to which you have peace in your life.
To the degree that Jesus is glorious in your life will be the degree to which you have peace in your life.
Peace Comes When We Proclaim Christ
Back to the story, we read that after this majestic angelic chorus of praise that proclaims God’s peace, the angels “went away from them into heaven.” Wow, can you imagine that sight? I wonder if they just sat there in silence pondering all that had just happened. But the shepherds wasted no time. Immediately, they said to one another, “Let us GO!” As I mentioned earlier, they had to check this out for themselves. After all, the angel gave them the invitation to pursue Christ, gave them a sign, something to look for, something to search for and seek out: “A baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” You see, revelation requires a response, and the text says that they went “with haste” and that once they found Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus, they “made known the saying that had been told them concerning the child.” They were not content to just hear about it. They had to—and, in fact, were invited to—see it for themselves.
They were not meant to keep the news and purpose of Jesus’ birth to themselves. Just like the angels couldn’t contain their praise of Christ, these shepherds couldn’t contain their proclamation of Christ. Beloved, once you realize who Jesus is and what He has done, how could you not proclaim it? “Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere!”
Just like the angels couldn’t contain their praise of Christ, these shepherds couldn’t contain their proclamation of Christ. Beloved, once you realize who Jesus is and what He has done, how could you not proclaim it?
Peace Comes When We Ponder Christ
Just as the shepherds responded to the angelic vision of Jesus’ glory and peace, I love how the text says those at the manger scene responded. In verses Luke 2:18-19 we see that there were those who “wondered” or simply “admired” the things spoken concerning Jesus. But Mary, she “treasured up all these things” and “pondered” them in her heart. This action of treasuring up and pondering thoughts of Christ is crucial to our receiving His peace. Mary takes what could be a troubling circumstance (being responsible for raising the Son of God) and turns it into a moment of peaceful rejoicing. Her treasuring up and pondering these things changes an attitude of worry into an attitude of worship.
Treasuring up and pondering thoughts of Christ is crucial to our receiving His peace.
We can see how each of these three dimensions of peace are interrelated. When we ponder Christ, we are led to praise Christ, and when we praise Christ we are led to proclaim Christ. This next week, take some moments to prayerfully ponder this incredible passage in Luke 2:8-20, listen to a recent rendition of “Go Tell It On The Mountain” HERE to guide you in praising Christ, and then look for ways to proclaim Christ, who is our peace, to those around you!
Copyright © 2022 Justin Jeppesen. All rights reserved
 Michael P. Green, Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993, p. 57.