"I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three.” (Luke 12:49-52)
Among the most popular Christmas wishes and card slogans is “Peace on Earth; Good Will to All!” It’s come to be gender-neutral and a vague enough nativity reference that it seems unlikely to offend anyone because, really, who wouldn’t wish for peace on earth? Well, it seems Jesus, for one. A better translation of the angel’s pronouncement would be “peace on earth to all who have God’s good will.” The kind of peace the angels refer to is not a lack of conflict in the world, but an inner confidence in the hearts of those who trust God, regardless of how conflicted the world is. This confidence comes from faith that God will redeem His people and remake the world as promised through the Savior, Jesus.
In contrast to the world around us, the historic church doesn’t spend the days leading up to Christmas getting nostalgic for idyllic years past, dreaming happy dreams of future material pleasures, or wishing wistfully that people could just get along. Instead, we observe Advent—a penitential season remembering the reason Jesus came in the first place: our race has a long history of idolatry which material comforts will only feed, and the conflicts in our world confirm our need for new life through Jesus’ death, resurrection, and return. Jesus looked forward to kindling the judgment of the world because it will be the beginning of the only real, permanent peace possible and the ultimate unification of our human family.
“Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to undergo a baptism of fire so that we can experience the peace of Your friendship. Kindle our hearts with the inner peace that comes through confidence in You, and enable us to live thoughtful and hopeful lives that shine with true hope, in Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.”
As Pastor at Pilgrim, Kirk is fueled by a passion for God's Word and a lot of good coffee.