The angels had the privilege of making the most momentous announcement in human history: the long-awaited Messiah had been born! And this Messiah was none other than Christ the Lord, Immanuel, God with us. In this message, David Platt helps us consider the lyrics of the Christmas song “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” based on Luke 2:8–14. We’re reminded that the angels’ announcement was for God’s glory and our good. Unto us this child was given so that we might have peace with God both now and forever.
If you have a Bible—and I hope you or somebody around you does that you can look on with—let me invite you to open with me to Luke 2. As you’re turning, I want to welcome you, including those of you online who can’t be with us in person. It’s really good to be together around God’s Word. We especially want to welcome you if you are visiting with us. We are really, really glad that you’re here.
We’re in week two of a series leading up to Christmas called “The Sound of Hope.” Each Sunday and on Christmas Eve, we’re thinking together about the biblical foundations of a specific Christmas song we’re likely familiar with. After we see the biblical foundations for that song, we’re singing it together and doing original recordings for you to download here. We’re also making a Christmas devotional available that go along with these songs. Hopefully you’ve picked one of those up at any of our locations. They also have activities for individuals and families. These can also be downloaded from our website.
Last week we looked at and sang together, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” I was talking with a wife and mom in our church family a few days ago who had a mammogram that caused some alarm. She was going for a follow-up procedure and testing on Friday, with all the tension that involves. In the middle of the week, she said, “Last night, one of my kids reminded me to rejoice, because Emmanuel, God is with us.” She had written some of the words to the song on her family’s message board in their home, and that same child also told her that she had left off the exclamation point that followed “Rejoice!” so she needed to add it.
I obviously don’t know what you are walking through right now, but God does. I know He was speaking last week through His Word, and I believe He’s about to speak to us right now through His Word. Let me pause briefly and pray, so we can fix our attention on Him together.
God, please speak to each of us now through Your Word and show us the reason we have to sing a song like this. We pray that You would help some of us sing through really hard times, and some of us to sing to You, maybe truly for the first time today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Let’s start much like we did last week by reading the song for today. “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” Let’s be honest from the beginning, this is not the way we normally talk. “Hark!” Who says that? What does that even mean? Pretty much nobody says that today, but it means to listen, to pay close attention to something. So let’s try that out this week. Let’s look for opportunities to work “Hark!” into our everyday conversations. “Hark, kids. I’m trying to talk to you.” “Hark, honey. I’m trying to share my heart with you.” “Hark, boss. It’s time for you to listen to me.” Okay, maybe not that last one.
“Hark!” Notice that exclamation point. “Hark! The Herald…” not the name, but another word we don’t often use that means to declare or announce something. So let’s try that this week. Maybe a teenager here at the end of this semester will bring home a paper or a test and be like, “Mom, Dad, I herald good news of a great grade to you.” Or maybe, “I herald not so good news of a not-so-great grade to you, but hopefully referencing the sermon on Sunday will soften the blow as you see what it is.”
As weird as this language sounds, the good news is it’s actually not as weird as the original lyrics which said, “Hark How All the Welkin Rings.” No, Welkin was not a character in the Hobbit or Middle Earth, but a word that referred to heaven when this poem was written in 1739 by Charles Wesley. He was one of the founders of Methodism and wrote thousands of songs to teach theology. One year after he came to faith in Christ, he wrote this poem to be read on Christmas day. Then about 15 years later, a friend of Wesley’s named George Whitefield, another famous preacher, adapted the poem into the song we know today. Whitefield got rid of the “Welkin”—thank you, George—and added other phrases, including the reference to the newborn King.
In the end it was put to a tune that Mendelssohn had actually composed to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Gutenberg’s printing press. Then Mariah Carey took it from Mendelssohn and the rest is history.
Now in all seriousness, let’s read it out loud together, remembering to put some emphasis when you see an exclamation point. Then I want to show you the reasons we have to sing a song like this in our lives today, based on God’s Word.
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled.”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies,
With angelic host proclaim:
“Christ is born in Bethlehem.”
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”
Christ by highest heav’n adored,
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
Hail the incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”
Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”
Aren’t those rich lyrics? Just like last week, there’s so much we could explore here that it’s not possible to do so in one morning. However, I want you to see the big picture behind this song based on the passage you have in front of you in God’s Word: Luke 2:8-14.
Luke 2:8–14 Focuses on the Birth of Jesus Christ
Last week, we saw that the first thing Matthew told us about after Jesus’ birth was the visit of some wise men from far-off nations. This was a while after Jesus was born. But Luke, in his account of Jesus’ birth, immediately keeps his focus on that night. So let’s pick up in verse seven, where we read that Mary “gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” So that’s the birth of Jesus. Then right after that we read this, beginning in verse eight:
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and 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 among those with whom he is pleased!”
The first thing Luke tells us about is an angelic messenger making an announcement, saying to these shepherds in a field, “Here’s good news of great joy for all the people.” And here’s the good news: “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Then suddenly that angel is joined by a multitude of the heavenly hosts—like an army of angels—saying, “Hark! The herald angels sing…” The Bible doesn’t specifically say they sang, but I think it’s safe to assume this at least sounded like a song. This really is a heralding—a declaration—saying two things: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” So let’s think about what these angels were heralding.
This week, as I was meditating on this passage, I started thinking about the scene, not just from the shepherds’ perspective, but from the perspective of these angels. I’m going to take a little creative license here, but I’m pretty sure I’m in bounds biblically. These were messengers sent by God with something so amazing to declare. Just imagine that. Think about the one main angel who got tapped by God for this assignment. How awesome is that? God’s entrance into the world in the flesh, Jesus, the Creator coming to creation, fulfilling hundreds of years of promises—and now it’s happening. God says, “I want you to make the announcement.” What an honor.
I was preaching two Sundays ago back at the church where I grew up, came to faith in Christ, was baptized and where I preached my first sermon. As we drove into the parking lot, all these memories just rushed back. It was so overwhelming. I remember the first time the pastor there asked me to preach in big church. I had preached in a youth service before, but this was big church on Sunday night. I was in high school and was so nervous. I can’t believe what I’m about to share. I’m a little ashamed of it. I played high school sports and we always got pumped up for a game, listening to some kind of music. So I was driving to the church to preach that night, thinking, “I’m ready to get pumped up.” So I turned on one of my favorite pump-up songs with killer music: “Right Now,” by Van Halen. “Right now, hey, it’s your tomorrow. It’s everything…” I remember pulling into the parking lot, finishing the song that was blaring in my car. One of the head deacons in the church walked by and kind of looked at me, concerned—as he should have been. You don’t listen to Van Halen to get pumped up to preach God’s Word.
Anyway, back to the story. Can you imagine the holy adrenalin pumping through your angelic veins when you step forward from heaven to herald—to proclaim—this message. You’d be thinking, “Get it right.” You would then say, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Hark! Listen to that declaration.
I’ve prayed that in this moment you would hear this declaration—either really hear it for the first time or maybe hear it in a fresh way—like this angel is heralding it to you from heaven right where you’re sitting. Unto you, shepherds—but not just them, right? It’s for all the people, without exception.
I love this scene. These lowly shepherds in a field. Who are they to be the first to hear this news? God is making a point here. Jesus had not come ultimately for the high and mighty, but for the low and unlikely—even for the dirty and undeserving. In other words, for you and me. To all of us, “Unto you.” To the young and old. To the rich and poor. To the religious and irreligious. To the single, married, straight, gay, lesbian, trans or otherwise—to you. To the Christian, the Muslim, the Hindu, the atheist, the agnostic.
It does not matter who you are. It does not matter how you identify yourself. It does not matter what you have done or what has been done to you. God is declaring through this angel that He has come to you, for you. Hear this. It’s not just the person beside you, in front of you, behind you. God sees you. God desires you. God pursues you. God sends an angel to announce to you, “I am for you.”
“Unto you is born this day.” So this is real day we celebrate in history. It’s not some mythological, imaginary day, but a real day, to which every day before then was pointing. Unknown years of history were anticipating this day when a real governor named Quirinius was leading Syria. When a real emperor in Rome named Caesar Augustus decreed that everyone should be registered which meant that a man and woman named Joseph and Mary just so happened to need to travel to Bethlehem, the city of King David—a real city, just like the District of Columbia or Vienna or Ashburn or Rockville or Manassas. It was a real city, about 5,907 miles away from here, give or take a few miles, where it was prophesied centuries before that a Savior would be born.
This is where this herald angel takes things to a whole other level. This angel is declaring to a world, “You are sinners, all of you.” Each one of us has rebelled against God, has turned aside from God and His ways to ourself and our own way. Each of us stands guilty before God, deserving eternal judgment. This angel is saying, “Today is a different day, because to a world of sinners, on this day, a Savior has been born. He’s the One Who can save you from your sins, save you from eternal judgment. This is the One sinful humanity has been waiting for—a Savior Who is the Christ, Jesus Christ.”
Remember, Christ is not His last name. It means Messiah or the Promised One. I picture it’s like this angel is saying, “I remember, I watched, when man and woman were tempted by the serpent in the garden, took that piece of fruit and ate it. Sin entered the world. Darkness came in. I remember in that moment, God said, ‘I promise to bring Someone from the offspring of woman Who will crush that serpent’” (Genesis 3:15). Well, now he’s saying, “The serpent-crusher is here.”
This angel remembers when God spoke through Isaiah, “A virgin will give birth to a son. His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 53:6). That was promised then and the angel is declaring now, “The Prince of Peace is here. The Wonderful Counselor is here. The Mighty God has come. A Savior is born Who is Christ the Lord.” Now this angel doesn’t just look back to Isaiah’s prophecy, doesn’t just look back to God’s promise to Adam and Eve. This angel looks back to the beginning of it all, to the Lord Who spoke and a world came into being.
Do you remember hearing about a 1968 video that was first broadcast on Christmas Eve from the Apollo 8 spacecraft? At that time it was the most-watched broadcast of all time. It was man’s first journey to the moon, when three astronauts sent back this message on Christmas Eve. Watch this with me.
First astronaut: We are now approaching the lunar sunrise and for all the people back on earth, the crew of Apollo 8 have a message that we would like to send to you: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, and God said, ‘Let there be light, and there was light.’ And God saw the light, that it was good. And God divided the light from the darkness.”
Second astronaut: “God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, ‘Let there be firmament in the midst of the waters. Let it divide the waters from the waters.’ And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so. And God called the firmament ‘heaven.’ And the evening and the morning were the second day.”
Third astronaut: “God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear, and it was so. And God called the dry land earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called seas. And God saw that it was good.” From the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a merry Christmas, and God bless all of you—all of you on this good earth.
Do you realize what this angel is heralding? The Lord Who spoke and light appeared, Who spoke and the earth, the moon, the planets and stars were formed. The Lord Who did that is here. He has come to save you from your sin, to fulfill all of His promises to you, to give you life under His Lordship. Now it makes sense to sing: “Joyful, all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies, with angelic host proclaim, ‘Christ is born in Bethlehem.’ Christ, by highest heav’n adored, Christ…” Who? “…the everlasting Lord! Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see, hail the incarnate Deity.” Deity in the flesh. “Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel”—God with us.
Pay attention to this because this changes everything. This is reason to sing, to shout, to proclaim—which is exactly what happened. “Suddenly…”—right after that. Imagine the scene. All of a sudden, this one angel is joined by a multitude of the heavenly host. Now this is totally conjecture, but I’m just imagining this included all of them. I’m just picturing nobody left on the bench for this one. It’s like all hands on deck. Not a few, not a hundred or a thousand. It’s what the Bible refers to in Revelation as myriads and myriads of them. Picture a host of angels stretching from horizon to horizon, across the sky, in resplendent color.
John Milton imagined the “helmed cherubim and sworded seraphim in glittering ranks with wings displayed, the stars with deep amaze stand fixed in steadfast gaze.” And all at once they lift their voices to God in cosmic stereo: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.”
Luke 2:8–14 reminds us that God is worthy of all your glory:
In Luke 2:14, on this day when Jesus was born, these angels heralded two declarations that changed everything about each one of our lives for all of eternity. One, these angels herald that God is worthy of all your glory. These angels were declaring to shepherds then, and to all people including you and me today, that God is not merely worthy of your religious motion. He’s certainly worthy of more than your nominal association or casual devotion. God is worthy of your entire life spent praising, worshiping and exalting Him. This is what glory means. It means to exalt, praise, worship, honor, bless, adore—to love God.
Teenagers, this is the purpose of your life. True life is found in loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. College students, young adults, singles, married couples, families, parents, grandparents, senior adults—all the way down to the youngest child—these angels are shouting, “God is worthy of all your glory.” To love Him with all you have is truly life; anything less than that is not to live.
I was talking with my teenage sons after The Rock this last Wednesday night where their discussion around the table was, “Is it better to serve God now or live it up in this world now, then serve God later?” Now that is a good and honest and absurd question to ask. It’s all three. It’s a good question; we need to ask it. It’s honest, because we do ask it. And not just teenagers. Scores of adults in this gathering right now are putting off absolute, radical devotion to God. They’re fine with casual, nominal faith, tacking on Jesus to a lot of things in this world. They’re thinking, “In heaven, I’ll serve God fully. That’s the best of both worlds.”
While the question is good and honest, it is absurd to think that the best of this world is found in ignoring or giving anything less than your all to the God Who created this world and you. How absurd for created people to sit around, talking about the Creator—Who knows you and loves you and knows what is best for you, Who has designed you personally, Who desires your everlasting good, Who knows how to bring it about, Who promises to make it a reality. How absurd to ask, “Should we follow Him Who knows how to save and ultimately satisfy us, or should we follow a world that will never ultimately satisfy us? Which should I go with—ultimate life and eternal satisfaction, or ultimate emptiness and eternal death?”
The idea that we can live it up in this world and serve God later is absurd. First, this world will not lead to us living it up. That is a lie straight from the adversary. It’s as old as Genesis 3 and you’re being sold that every single day this week in every single message we receive around us. Don’t buy it. Don’t believe it. It’s a lie. It leads to emptiness. It leads to death.
Secondly, think about the idea of “later.” Not one person in this gathering today is guaranteed any “later,” no matter how young or old you may be. Not one of us is guaranteed to make it to the end of this service. Right now, God—your Creator, my Creator, our Creator—has come in love to save you and to satisfy you forever with Himself. The only response to this Creator is to say, “Everything I have is Yours. Yes, God, here’s my life. Here are my plans. Here are my dreams. Here are my relationships. Here’s my family. Here’s my future. Have it all. I want to live it up for Your glory.” This is life, teenagers; don’t buy anything less. This is life, ladies and gentlemen.
C.S. Lewis said, “We are foolish creatures, half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy has been offered us, like ignorant children who go on making mud pies in the slum because they cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.” Then he says these words: “We are far too easily pleased.” What he’s saying is, if you want to live it up in this world, it’s not because your desires are too strong; it’s because your desires are too weak. It takes so little to please and satisfy you. You’re making mud pies in the slum. You’ve been offered something eternal, everlasting, full and abundant. Go for that. Live it up for the glory of God. Now it makes senses.
“Light and life to all He brings, ris’n with healing in His wings.” This is beautiful. “Mild He lays His glory by”—He put His glory aside, so that you could experience His joy in His glory. “Mild He lays His glory by” —born so that you may no more die. “Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth” —born to give them new life. Jesus has come to give you new life. So live it up in Him.
This is for everybody everywhere. “Joyful, all you nations rise, join the triumph of the skies” —so herald this to the nations. Let the nations be glad in God. People who know this light can’t keep this light to themselves. We herald this good news to all the peoples. Glory be to God for members of this church who are not going to be celebrating Christmas in the comforts here with us this year, because they’ve moved to other nations for the spread of the gospel where the name and the good news of Jesus have not yet been known. I was recording messages for them just last week, saying to them, “We love you. We’re with you. We’re behind you. We’re for you as you herald this good news among the nations.”
Glory to God in the highest. That’s just the first declaration.
Peace on earth among those with whom He is pleased!
The second declaration from the herald angels is this: “And peace on earth among those with whom he is pleased!” They’re declaring that peace is possible today for all with true faith in Jesus. I’m phrasing this very intentionally to align with what those angels were declaring. Peace—that’s exactly what they say—peace, calm, tranquility, harmony. Peace is possible. The reason it’s possible is because it’s not for everyone. Notice that it’s peace “among those with whom…” So there’s a certain group of people.
It’s technically possible for everyone, but only realized by those with whom… We’ll get to the next part in a second.
Peace is possible today, right now, on this earth. Not just in the future, in eternity. Yes, there, but also right now, amidst whatever is going on in your life on this earth. And today; not just in the future. Peace is possible today for all “with….” So now we’re going to go back to the “among those with whom” in Luke 2:14. The language there is “those with whom he is pleased.” So who is that a reference to? Does that mean I need to do a bunch of things in order to please God, in order to be among those with whom He is pleased? Do I need to go to church, read the Bible, pray and do good things? If you start going down that line of thinking, it’s like, “Well, how much do I need to do? Does that mean the more I do, the better chance I have of pleasing God? Doesn’t that become the problem? Who of us ever feels like we’re doing enough?”
How many of us live with the constant thought, “I should be praying more. I should be reading the Bible more. I should be doing this more.”? Religious motion doesn’t lead to peace with God. Tireless performance for God actually leads us away from peace with God. This is how so many people try to live the Christian life and it doesn’t lead to peace, tranquility, harmony, calm with God. So how is that peace possible?
The answer in this declaration, and throughout the Bible, is that peace is possible today for all with true faith. I’m using the word “true” here just to emphasize we’re not talking about nominal faith—faith in name only—which we talk about often. It’s a plague across contemporary Christianity. So many people say they believe in Jesus, but their lives look like everybody else in the world. They just kind of tack on Jesus on Sundays if that.
That’s not true faith. It’s not biblical faith. It doesn’t lead to peace. Big deal that you believe in Jesus or in God. Even the demons have that kind of faith (James 2:19). They’re counterparts to these angels. They don’t have this peace. They’re in constant conflict—and so will your life be with half-hearted, casual, nominal faith.
Luke 2:8–14 tells us that peace is possible when we follow Christ:
Peace is possible today for all with true faith in Jesus, the Savior, Christ the Lord, Who was born that day. What Luke 2:14 is telling us is that the reason He came was to bring peace to all those who put their faith in Him. The rest of the Bible teaches this. Here’s a real quick overview of the peace Jesus brings to all who place their faith in Him. This could be a few more sermons, but I’ll just hit three levels quickly.
- One, peace with God.
- Two, peace within ourselves.
- Three, peace with others.
Jesus came to bring all three. That’s what peace is here. Think about it. Peace with God. This is Romans 5:1-2: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
Peace with God. This is the most important kind of peace possible. Peace with God, your Creator. No more enmity with God. No more conflict with God. No more tension with God. Peace, harmony, tranquility with God. That’s possible—how? Not by works, not by doing enough of this or that, not by praying a certain amount of time or giving a certain amount. No, by faith. It says it twice. “By faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is such good news. Talk about reason to sing. Even though you are a sinner, by faith in Jesus, you don’t have to be afraid of God. No matter what you have done in your life, by faith in Jesus, you don’t have to be ashamed before God. No matter what this world says to you or about you, by faith in Jesus you are welcomed and loved by God. By faith in Jesus, you can have peace with God. Sign me up!
Then it keeps going. You’re getting peace within yourself. We studied this a little over a year ago from Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Jesus says the same thing. You may remember that we studied Matthew 6:25-33 on the first day our country was shut down due to Covid, where Jesus three times says, “Do not be anxious. Do not be anxious. Do not be anxious.” He says, “Because your Father loves you and He promises to provide you everything you need. We talked that day about different definitions and understandings of anxiety, including medical conditions like clinical anxiety. We talked about the way the Bible is using the word “anxiety” here. I’m going to give you that definition again, just as a reminder.
When the Bible uses the word “anxiety,” or sometimes you see it as “worry,” it’s describing “carrying concerns in this world in such way that we lose perspective on life and/or we lack trust in God.” I’m bringing this back today just to make the connection with what these angels are declaring. They are saying from the skies that peace—freedom from carrying concerns in this way—is possible through faith in Jesus. Today, right here, your life is filled with potential worries, uncertainties, struggles and challenges that all threaten your peace. Jesus came to give you a peace that surpasses all understanding as you trust in Him, through true faith in Him. Again, nominal, casual kind of monotonous religious motion doesn’t lead to this kind of peace; true faith in Jesus leads to this kind of peace.
I think about multiple conversations I’ve had this week with brothers and sisters who are going through really hard times. Every time, the Spirit has just brought to my mind Isaiah 26:3-4, then I prayed this over them: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.”
What a picture!
Let’s make the connection here. Jesus is the Lord. He is the everlasting rock. So keep your mind stayed on Jesus, fixed on Him, His love for you, His promises to you. Bring all the things that are heavy on your heart to Him. Cast all your anxieties, burdens, cares upon Him and He will keep you in perfect peace. Ah, do that today. Do that during this season of your life, if you’re walking through trials.
This is a Christmas message that you can take all your anxieties and burdens to Jesus and He will bear them for you. He will guard your heart and mind. He will protect you. He will give you a peace that surpasses understanding. All of this is only possible through faith in Jesus. Jesus came to give you peace with God and peace within yourself.
The third kind of peace Jesus came to bring us—peace with others—maybe the hardest, because it’s the kind of peace we have the least control over. This is why Paul says in Romans 12:18, “If possible, as far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Based on God’s command to work toward peace, and Jesus’ provision of that peace through what He did in His coming, living, dying and rising from the grave, I want to exhort you to consider any relationships you have where there is not peace and work for peace there, especially here during the holidays when we often spend time with family. There sometimes is strain that exists in certain family relationships, so I encourage you, that based on the entire purpose of Jesus’ coming, to pursue peace to the fullest extent possible. In the words of Ephesians 4:31-32, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
That is not easy, especially when you’ve been hurt by someone. But it’s possible. How? Through true faith in Jesus. Again, not nominal, casual, on-the-side faith. True faith in Jesus unlocks the power to pursue peace, even when it’s hard, even when your efforts at peace are put right back in your face. It happened to Jesus, too. So keep your faith fixed on Him.
Even when you’re wronged, don’t let bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander or malice have a place, don’t let them have any hold in your heart. None of those things lead to peace. Instead, fix your eyes back on where we started, with the amazing fact that we can have peace with God. Instead of being angry at all the ways you have been wronged, be amazed that God has forgiven all your wrongs and has made peace possible today for you, no matter what this world brings.
So it makes sense, then, doesn’t it, to sing, “Hark!” Listen. Pay close attention. “The herald angels sing, ‘Glory to the newborn King!’ Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.” They sing this to each other. Pay close attention to what these angels are heralding. Unto you, and me—unto us was born that day, in that city, a Savior Who is Christ the Lord. So give God all your glory. Live all your life in love and worship to Him.
Sing a song like this, not like you’re bored or like it’s mindless tradition. Sing a song like this because you’ve got reason to sing, “Glory to the newborn King!” Then as you sing, with all the stuff in your life, truly trust in Jesus for peace that surpasses all understanding now, then peace that will never, ever, ever end.
Will you bow your heads with me? Let’s pause before God in light of His Word to us. Do you have peace with God? Is there calm? Is there tranquility in your heart before God? It’s only possible through faith in Jesus. So if you’ve never placed your faith in Jesus, I invite you right now to say to God, “I want Your peace. I want peace with You.” Confess and say to God in your heart right now, “God, I know I’ve sinned against You and that there’s no amount of things I can do to get rid of that sin on my own. I need a Savior.” Just say in your heart to God, “I trust today in Jesus as Savior, as Christ, as the Lord.” If you put your faith in Him, God forgives you of all your sin and brings you into peaceful relationship with Him that will never end. Trust in Jesus today. Truly trust Him.
Christians brothers and sisters, amidst our temptations and tendencies to try to please God with our performance in ways that don’t lead to peace, amidst all the anxieties and worries that can fill our minds and hearts, let’s say to God together in a fresh way today, “We trust in You. We trust that You keep those in perfect peace whose minds are stayed on You.”
God, I pray for all my brothers and sisters in Christ today, amidst whatever they’re walking through, that they would know Your peace. I pray they would experience Your peace within their hearts and minds. Guard their hearts and minds from all the adversary’s temptations to worry, reminding them of what’s uncertain here or there. God, we praise You that all the things that are most certain and most important are sure and eternal in You. Keep our minds stayed on You. Help us to trust in You, the everlasting rock.
We pray for peace with others in whatever ways are needed. O God, help us—as far as it depends on us—to pursue peace with others, all in a way that leads others to listen, pay attention and give glory to You. Lord, help us herald this good news this week. We pray that You would use us to lead other people to Jesus, especially over the next week and a half, as we gather together on Sunday and Christmas Eve and have many conversations with coworkers, neighbors, friends and family. Help us to herald this good news. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.