“And this will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests!” (Luke 2:12–14)
I am always delighted when I read a familiar passage around Christmas time and the Holy Spirit illumines the Scripture and provides new insight. It proves, yet again, that you can never plumb the depths of God’s Word. There is always something new to understand and apply. In this case, I’m indebted to John Piper’s advent devotional for His teaching on these verses. Subscribe to his excellent devotional here.
In this passage the words “peace to those on whom his favor rests” give me both comfort and gratitude. I have overlooked this important clause for years.
We all crave peace. How do we become “those on whom his favor rests?” (v. 14). It is clear in this passage that the peace we long for is not offered to all. Did you catch that? This promise for peace is only for some. Is. 66:2b tells us “…These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit.” Humility comes from understanding our sinful state before a Holy God and trusting in the truth that Christ stands ready to forgive. God reconciles us to Himself because of Jesus. When we see ourselves rightly before a Holy God, recognizing our tremendous need, He produces a humble and contrite heart which is so precious to Him and so compelling to the world.
Another translation of this verse says “peace for those with whom He is pleased” (ESV). Hebrews 11:6 tells us “without faith it is impossible to please God.” God is pleased with those who, through faith, trust in Christ and place all their hope in Him. Romans 15:13 also reminds us that the God fills us with all joy and peace through belief in Him.
Isn’t it wonderful to receive this offer of peace and to rest knowing that Christ came to give us something that cannot be taken from us?
Even in the midst of uncertainty in this world and fear that can easily grip us, peace is always available. That’s why it’s called the “peace that surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4:7). It’s the kind of peace that is not logical or attainable outside of Christ.
I’ve experienced this kind of peace again and again throughout my life as I have walked through challenging situations. Just recently as I waited for results of a breast MRI, I was tempted to become anxious. The Lord gave me peace through His Word and the prayer support of dear friends and family. The results ended up being negative and I praised the Lord for His peace and presence knowing I was in His hands.
You may have circumstances in your life right now causing you much distress and anxiety. During the Christmas season these situations can become heightened and cause deep sadness and even depression. If you have trusted Christ, you need to be reminded of the peace He offers us because He looks upon you with favor, His beloved child. Claim this peace. Fight for it when Satan tries to steal your peace and joy. You are loved with an everlasting love and nothing (nothing!) can separate you from His love.
Jesus says, “…my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27).
There is simply no deep, soul-satisfying peace in this life without accepting the Gospel for hope now and for hope eternally.
Merry Christmas and may the peace of Christ rule in your hearts (Col. 3:15).