This Christmas season the truth about God and his Son is mixed with cultural myth and fantasy. This mixture dilutes the power of the gospel. This mixing of truth and cultural myth can also help to mislead your children about the real meaning of the incarnation of Christ. For example, look at Luke 2:14:
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” ESV
This proclamation from the heavens has commonly been recast to say that the goal of Christmas is peace on earth. This recasting of the truth conveniently leaves out the necessity of the gospel, and makes the temporal peace of man the highest good. This reinterpreted phrasing, peace on earth, dominates Christmas cards, product advertising, and Christmas-themed TV programs and movies. You will see Peace on Earth on billboards and bumper stickers. Peace on Earth is even politically correct. No one is offended by calling for world peace.
The problem is that man’s version of world peace was not what the heavenly host was proclaiming to the shepherds 2,000 years ago. That proclamation came straight from heaven. The first line of the proclamation ascribes glory to God who reigns in the highest of all places. That, of course, is not politically correct, because it implies that there is a God to whom all men must be accountable. It assumes that there must be someone above man, to whom praise and honor is rightfully due. The second half of the couplet proclaims that peace will come only to those with whom God is pleased. This statement is definitely not politically correct–it does not have the makings of a Hallmark moment. Do you see how recasting this line to say only Peace on Earth strikes at the heart of gospel? This heavenly proclamation is one of hope precisely because the world (apart from Christ) is at war with God and hopelessly lost. There is no possibility of peace without a Savior.
A message of wonder, of hope for peace, was given to the shepherds. God would act through the birth, life, death and resurrection of this baby to bring peace to a broken, sinful world. It is impossible to find peace without the sacrifice of the Son of God. The sacrifice that was required showed that there is something horribly wrong with the human race. There is no hope of self-redemption. Man is simply not able to make himself acceptable to God, no matter how hard he tries. The gospel proclaims that there is hope only in Jesus Christ. The exclusivity of this hope is what our modern cultural resists and rejects.
The idea that peace will come only to those with whom God is pleased flies the face of the cultural myth of the holidays, where silver bells bring hope to all–if we just embrace peace on earth. Be aware of the culture’s attempts to mix the truth of God with the myth of man’s goodness. Have compassion for those who believe the false hope of peace on earth. Be patient and gentle with your children as you teach them that true peace can come only from being made righteous by the forgiveness of sins through the blood of Jesus. Jesus was born to die and then to live again. He was born to make beautiful that which was ugly and dark. Only by embracing his life and finding forgiveness through his mercy can there truly be peace. This gospel message is one of wonder and power. It is so powerful that it can reach even a culture that is blindly looking for Peace on Earth.