Familiar and Happy Words of Christmas
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!—(Luke 2:11–14)
My great desire for you this Christmas is that you enjoy this peace. We know that there are global aspects to this peace that lie in the future when the “earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14). When, as Isaiah says, “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:7).
The result of our faith in Christ as the Savior is peace with God.
But Jesus has come to inaugurate that peace among God’s people and to unveil the true joy of Christmas. There are three relationships in which he wants you to pursue and enjoy this peace. Peace with God. Peace with your own soul. And peace with other people.
Peace with God
The most basic need we have is peace with God. This is foundational to all our pursuits of peace. If we don’t go here first, all other experiences of peace will be superficial and temporary.
The key passage to have in mind is from Romans 5:1: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith [there’s the pivotal act of believing], we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” And he does that by faith alone, not by works. Not by tradition, or by baptism, but by faith alone. When we believe in Jesus as the Savior and the Lord of our lives, we are united to him, and his righteousness is counted by God as ours, making us justified by faith.
The result of our faith in Christ as the Savior is peace with God. Our sinful rebellion against him is overcome, and he adopts us into his family. From now on all his dealings with us are for our good. He will never be against us—he is our Father and our friend.
Peace with Ourselves
Because we have peace with God through being justified by faith, we can begin to grow in the enjoyment of peace with ourselves, including any sense of guilt or anxiety that tends to paralyze us or make us feel hopeless.
Philippians 4:6–7 is one of the most valuable passages in this regard: “Do not be anxious about anything [the opposite of anxiety is peace], 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.”
The picture here is that our hearts and minds are under assault. Guilt, worries, threats, confusions, uncertainties—they all threaten our peace. But God wants to “guard” our hearts and minds with his peace in a way that goes beyond what human understanding can fathom.
Don’t limit the peace of God by what your understanding can see. This Christmas, take your anxieties to God. Tell him about them, and ask him to help you, protect you, and to restore your peace. Then you will be able to carry on, while God gets the glory for what you do because you trusted him.
Peace with Others
God also wants us to enjoy his peace in our relationships with other people. For many of you, when you get together with family for Christmas, there will be some awkward and painful relationships. Some of the pain is very old, while some of it is new. In some relationships you know what you have to do, no matter how hard it is. And in some of them you are baffled and don’t know what the path of peace calls for.
In both cases, trust the promises of God with heartfelt awareness of how he forgave you through Christ. As Ephesians 4:31–32 says, “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.”
It may be thrown back in your face. It certainly was thrown back in Jesus’s face on the cross. That hurts, and it can make you bitter if you’re not careful—don’t let it. Keep being more amazed that your wrongs are forgiven than that you are being wronged.
Amazement of Peace with God
Continually cultivate a sense of amazement that in spite of all your sins, God has forgiven you through Christ. It’s this sense of amazement—the realization that I, a sinner, have peace with God—that makes the heart tender, kind, and forgiving.
Be amazed that you have peace with God and with your soul. Your guilt is taken away. Keep trusting God. He knows what he’s doing. Keep his glory—not your success or your effectiveness in relationships—of supreme importance in your heart.
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). This is why he came—on a day, to a city, as the Savior, Messiah, and Sovereign, that God would get glory and that you would know peace. May God give you peace and get his glory this Christmas.
If you are seeking this peace that is offered by the Savior, Jesus Christ, pray to God that he would bless you with that gift this Christmas and every day:
God, thank you for providing a way for us to have peace with you and with others. I pray that you will forgive me for the things that I’ve done wrong. Increase my faith to trust in you and believe in the salvation that is offered through the death and resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ. Please help me to live in a way that is honoring to you. Amen.
This article is adapted from the tract "The Joy of Christmas" by John Piper.
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