5 December 2012

O little town of Bethlehem

O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see you lie!
Above your deep and dreamless sleep
the Hamas rockets fly!

The conflict between Israel and Hamas makes you think. Whatever happened to the 'peace' that the baby born in Bethlehem was supposed to bring? Can we '... sing praises to God the King, and peace to men on earth.'? Has Jesus' peace mission failed like Ban Ki-Moon's efforts in the Middle East?

Thankfully, we don't have to abandon the carols and mince pies! We still have every reason to celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas. But we must get our facts straight from the Bible.

1. Jesus never promised 'peace on earth 'NOW. Far from it. Knowing how people would treat him and his followers, he said, 'Do not think I have come to bring peace to the world. No, I did not come to bring peace but a sword.' And seeing the future of the world he said, 'Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and plagues everywhere…' until such time as he returns in glory. (Matthew 10v34, Luke 21v10).

2. Jesus did promise peace on earth when he returns. The Bible repeatedly talks about a final day. It's a day of reckoning, when every human that ever lived will be called to account before the judgment seat of God. By means of this final judgment, God will rid his creation of every trace of sin and evil. The present suffering world will be replaced with a new world: 'this will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out of the presence of the Lord…' (2 Thessalonians 1v7-9). It is this final banishment of all sin and evil that will bring lasting peace on earth.

3. Jesus came so we can have peace with God now. Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1v15). All of us need saving, because we have all made God our enemy by the way we behave in his world. We ignore him and the way he created us to live. By doing this, we have offended him, and done untold damage to each other and his creation. The sentence for this is the death penalty. And the way Jesus saves sinners is by his death in our place. As he died on the cross, he took the charge sheet against us, made it his own, and suffered the death penalty for us. The Bible says, 'While we were God's enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son.' and, 'The punishment that brought us peace was upon him.'(Romans 5v8, Isaiah 53v5). Therefore, through faith in Christ Jesus, sinners can have peace with God now. Instead of facing God's anger, we can enjoy his friendship now and all the more fully in the new world to come.

The real Christmas message reads, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.' (Luke 2v24).

So, why not make this Christmas the year you come to Jesus and make your peace with God?

Simon Smallwood