“Joy to the world” … “Peace on earth goodwill towards men” … are these just catchphrases of the Christmas season? We all know that the reason for the season is the birth of the baby Jesus, the Son of God. The incarnation of the second person of the trinity, as God took on flesh to become a man. But what does this really mean for us? How does that produce “joy” and “peace”?
Joy to the world. Not just one person, one nation, or even one color. Joy belongs to all people across every manmade divide – rich or poor, strong or weak, Jew or Gentile, black or white.
However, this joy is found in a person, not a circumstance. Joy is found in receiving and placing in Jesus in His proper place as Lord and Savior, not in “self-acceptance” of our whims and desires. This is why the Bible says in Luke 2:10-11 “10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” The joy is found in the arrival of the One who could redeem our perverted desires, our corrupt selves.
Our joy is made full, or complete (lacking nothing) as we receive Jesus for who He is. He is our Lord incarnate, the sovereign King come to identify and dwell with His subjects. As we submit to His Lordship, His leadership, we abide in His love and experience His joy. This joy is known as we live as He has prescribed – according to the manufacturer’s operating procedures. John 15:11 “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” The joy that Jesus offers is only found in obedience to His Word. Jesus taught the principles that lead to joy as He walked on this earth, and demonstrated them as He lived out a life in submission to the Spirit. This is the life we are all called to live now as the Spirit indwells us as believers. John 17:13 “But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.”
Galatians 4:4-5 “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Our life with Christ is not only a deep friendship, but a familial bond. We are adopted as children of God, redeemed from slavery under the law, to an inheritance that never fades away, reserved in heaven for us.
Finally, the joy is not only ours. Jesus finds great joy in the restored relationship that His birth and ultimate death brings. Hebrews 12:2 “…looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Peace on earth, goodwill towards men. In the last 3500 years, it has been calculated that there has only been 230 years of peace (reference). In a world that preaches peace as the ultimate goal, and the absence of hate, violence and intolerance, we are a world that has been overcome by a lack of peace. In three and a half millennia we have been unable to produce, develop or legislate people at the national, civil, and even personal level.
This is because true peace, like true joy, does not come from the situation or self-development, but from a person. The peace we long for comes from Jesus as the peace-giver. John 14:27 “27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” We cannot know personal peace until we know this Person, and we cannot live out peace with others without living with this Person daily.
Our peace must first be made with God before we can know peace with others. Romans 5:1-5 “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Through the life and death of Jesus, we have peace with God.
Our lack of peace comes from two sources: 1) our selfish desires and 2) our circumstances. In regard to our desires, we have control over them through the power of the Holy Spirit. James 4:1-2 “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.” Our circumstances, however, we often do not have such control over. But even in the midst of trials and tribulations we can have peace that overcomes depression, doubt, insecurity and so much more! John 16:33 “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Colossians 3:15 “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.” Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”