Christmas and Peace on Earth

(This article originally appeared in the December 2016 edition of the Baptist Courier)

On Christmas Eve in 1914 British 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 Brits’ voices rose to join the Germans in their caroling.

The next day, the soldiers from both sides began to stand on 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 in no man’s land that Christmas Day.  They talked to each other about their backgrounds and families.  Soldiers from both sides relished in 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)  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 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!

Tim McKnight has 21 years of experience in ministry. He served in youth ministry for 12 years and in the pastorate for 9 years. In addition, Dr. McKnight served as an infantry chaplain in the U.S. Army, deploying on Operations Noble Eagle and Enduring Freedom in 2001. He earned his Ph.D. in Evangelism, with additional studies in missions and church history, from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He co-founded Carolina Family Planning Centers and founded Twin Vision Consultants, a church consultation team that helps congregations become healthy and growing churches. He has also served as a disaster relief chaplain in multiple settings in recent years, including in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake and Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina. He now serves at Anderson University as Assistant Professor of Youth Ministry and Missions.

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