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That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize Him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

Luke 2:8-14


A Snowflake for Peace

Randy K’Meyer

On Christmas Day in 1863, the great American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow began the poem that would become the lyrics of I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. He was inspired by actually listening to the Christmas bells ringing in Cambridge, and so quite naturally began his poem,

I heard the bells on Christmas Day,
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet, the words repeat,
and here Henry quotes angels to the shepherds,
“Of peace on earth, good-will to men!” (Luke 2:14).

But, at the same time, he was all too aware of the world of injustice and violence
that seemed to mock the truthfulness of this optimistic outlook. And so in the next to last verse, he writes,

And in despair I bowed my head,
There is no peace on earth I said,
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth goodwill toward men.

Doubtless, he was influenced to write that line, not only because our country was in the third year of the Civil War, but also, his son had been severely wounded in battle; and two years prior his wife had been tragically killed in a fire. 1

However; after much soul-searching Longfellow knew that he had to finish his poem by returning to his faith in God and the angels’ song to the shepherds:

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.

Luke 2:14

We have already seen in this advent series that has been focusing on peace that:

  1. perfect peace will not occur on this wayward planet unless and until God decides to directly intercede by coming again to inaugurate His reign.
  2. And a spiritual peace will settle upon those Christians who choose to embrace the truth that “the light of Christ shines in the darkness and the darkness will never be able to extinguish it” (John 1:5).

Today, I thought it would be well for us to consider our role, yes, our role, in bringing peace on earth, and goodwill to men and women.

But how shall we go about making peace in this world; none of us are key players.

We don’t have the ear of Washington insiders. And who among us has the ear of Vladimir Putin, Volodymyr Zelensky, Benjamin Netanyahu, or whoever the leader of Hamas is? Who are we to bring about peace in this world?

Maybe not to the world, but it is certainly a strong possibility that you and I can bring peace within our sphere of influence.

For sure, peace-making is a high calling. In His most famous sermon, Jesus dropped this gem: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). British pastor and highly respected Bible commentator, John Stott, writes,

Peacemaking is divine work. For peace means reconciliation, and God is the author of peace and reconciliation. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the particular blessing which attaches itself to peacemakers is that, in the words of Jesus, “they shall be called sons of God.” For they are seeking to do what their Father has done; loving people with His love. It is God who loves reconciliation, and who now through His children, as formerly through His only Son, is bent on making peace. 2

So what can we do so that Jesus will call us “sons of God”?

Well, before we can give away the peace of Christ, it stands to reason that we must know it ourselves.

A key verse in the Bible is Romans 5:1: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Christian mystic Sundar Singh once said, “In comparison with this big world, the human heart is only a small thing. Yet, though this world is so large, it is utterly unable to satisfy this tiny heart. As water is restless until it reaches its level, so the soul has no peace until it rests in God.” 3

Billy Graham says, “Peacekeeping is a noble vocation. But you can no more make peace in your own strength than a mason can build a wall without a trowel, a carpenter build a house without a hammer, or an artist paint a picture without a brush. You must have the proper equipment. To be a peacemaker, you must know the Peace Giver. To make peace on earth, you must know the peace of heaven. You must know Him who ‘is our peace.’” 4

Do you know Him?

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes, “He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near” (2:17). Whether a person is close or far from God, Jesus reaches out to all of us. Jesus meets us right where we are to give us what we so desperately need: peace. Don’t let doubts, worries, or concerns limit what God can do in your life. Wherever you are this Christmas season, near or far, rest in the promise found in this Bible verse that He is offering His peace to all of us.

Many, if not most have taken that step, what else can we do to bring “peace on earth, good will to men?”

We can offer peace to other people.

I am talking about reconciliation; forgiving others when we have been wronged and asking for forgiveness when we have wronged someone else.

Wouldn’t you agree that being at odds with other people gnaws at our peace? We wake up in the middle of the night thinking about them. We go to great lengths to avoid them. And when we do come face to face, our skin crawls.

The noted Christian Psychologist, Dr. Henry Cloud has a chapter in his book 9 Things You Must Do to Succeed in Love and Life titled ‘Pull the Tooth’ in which he likens being at odds with someone to having a mild toothache. Unless and until you do something about it, it will keep gnawing at you. And he urges his readers to decisively deal with these kinds of relationships. 5

The Bible concurs. In the church at Corinth, Greece, there was quite a bit of dissension between members of that congregation. That’s why Paul writes, “Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you” (II Corinthians 13:11).

Notice Paul says when we strive to make peace with others we shall be at peace.

This is the time of the year when I believe that we are more open to the possibility of making peace with those we are at odds with. There just seems to be something about the Christmas season that brings out the best in us and encourages us to go the extra mile when it comes to spreading love, joy, and peace.

Someone made me aware of a Facebook post that said: “Some families don’t need to exchange gifts for Christmas. They need to exchange apologies, settle old disputes, make peace, forgive, and seek healing. That would truly be a blessed Christmas.”

But I understand one of the responses to that post: “Sometimes it’s best to not associate with some family members. Especially if a family member is toxic and not a good person. No one should feel obligated to have a relationship with anyone just because they are family.”

I agree there may be cases where that may be true, but for the Christian, only after having made a concerted effort to make what is wrong right by either forgiving or asking forgiveness.

Paul instructed the Romans: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (12:18). “So far as it depends on you” puts the ball in our court. We must try to bring about reconciliation to enjoy peace.

The greatest book I ever read on this subject was Brant Hanson’s masterpiece, Un-offendable. I was so impressed with it two years ago that I bought it for everyone and then last year gave some more away. But many of you are new to the church so I ordered a dozen more and will happily hand you one when you leave today.

Beyond doing what we can to make peace with others in this way, I would be remiss if I didn’t also remind you that being a peacemaker involves helping others come to know Christ by faith.

On a global scale we all realize, don’t we, that peace will come to the world as the peace of Christ comes to peoples’ hearts? If, by the grace of God, Vladimir Putin or members of Hamas would come to know Jesus Christ as their savior, things would be different.

If by the grace of God, all the people in Washington, who make the decisions that impact our country would come to know Jesus, our country would be different.

And if by the grace of God, people in your life and in mine who don’t know Jesus would come to know Him, their lives and ours would become more peaceful.

So this Christmas I am asking you to pray and invite. Pray for your friend and loved one who don’t know Christ. And invite them to come to a Christmas Eve worship service.

A sparrow once asked a wild dove the weight of a snowflake. “Nothing more than nothing,” was the dove’s answer.

“In that case, I must tell you a marvelous story,” the sparrow said. “I was sitting on a branch of a fir, close to its trunk, when it began to snow; not heavily, not in a raging blizzard, no, just like a dream, without a sound. And since I didn’t have anything better to do, I started to count the number of snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch. The number was exactly 3,741,952, but when the 3,741,953rd dropped onto the branch, nothing more than nothing, as you say, the branch snapped off. And having said that, the sparrow flew away. The dove, since the time of Noah, an expert on the matter, thought about the story for a while, and then said to herself, “Perhaps only one person’s voice is lacking for peace to come to the world.”

Telemachus was a monk who lived in the 4th century, who felt God saying to him, “Go to Rome,” so he put his possessions in a sack and set out for Rome. When he arrived in the city, people were thronging in the streets. He asked why all the excitement and was told that this was a day on which the gladiators would be fighting and killing each other in the famous coliseum. He thought to himself, ‘Four centuries after Christ and they are still killing each other for enjoyment?’

He ran to the coliseum and jumped into the middle of the field, got between two gladiators, held up his hands, and said, “In the name of Christ, forbear.”
The crowd protested and began to shout, “Run him through, run him through.”
A gladiator came over and hit him in the stomach with the back of his sword. It sent him sprawling in the sand. He got up and ran back and again said, “In the name of Christ, forbear.”
The crowd continued to chant, “Run him through.”
One gladiator came over and plunged his sword through the monk’s stomach and he fell into the sand, which began to turn crimson with his blood.
One last time he gasped out, “In the name of Christ forbear.”
This time a hush came over the 80,000 people in the coliseum. Soon a man stood and left, then another and more, and within the next 30 minutes, all 80,000 had emptied out of the arena. It was the last known gladiatorial contest in the history of Rome.

Perhaps that act of peace-making transcends the weight of a snowflake, but that act illustrates that one person can have an impact. And so I pray that this Christmas Longfellow’s poem and the angel song will ring more true for each of you:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
with peace on earth good will toward men.”

1 The True Story Behind, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

2 John R. W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, [Downers Grove, Illinois, Intervarsity Press, © 1984]

3 Charles E. Moore, Sadhu Sundar Singh: Essential Writings by: Sundar Singh [Maryknowll, NY: Orbis Books, © 2005]

4 Billy Graham, Peace with God, [Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, © 1984].

5 Dr. Henry Could, 9 Things You Simply Must Do to Succeed in Love and Life, [Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, © 2007].