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Monday, December 23, 2019

Are the Glad Tidings for You?

In December of last year, a church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago asked me to deliver a Sunday message in preparing for Christmas. The title I chose was, “Peace on Earth. Goodwill toward men.” I’m planning on sharing an abbreviated version at our church on Christmas Eve.

The most common greetings around Christmas focus on joy, love, and peace. If you’re looking for values related to the Creator of the universe, those are high on the list. We like to preach that Jesus came to bring those values to life in every time period since His birth.

Well, not exactly. In fact, in His own words, Jesus said in the same book where His birth story is told, “Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I have come to divide people against each other! From now on families will be split apart, three in favor of me, and two against—or two in favor and three against.‘Father will be divided against son and son against father; mother against daughter and daughter against mother and mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’” (Luke 12:51-53, NLT)

But what about the angelic messages that the shepherds received outside of Bethlehem on the night of Jesus' birth? You’ve no doubt heard about them! First, a single angel says,“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.” (Luke 2:10-12, NLT)

Then a whole group—a “a vast host” of “the armies of heaven” show up and and say “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” (Luke 2:13-14, NLT) And there you have it! First, great joy is mentioned by the angels. Then, peace on earth.

How do we reconcile this idea that Jesus brings peace when He clearly admitted His arrival would be divisive? The answer is found in that single verse in Luke 2. In the King James and a couple of other translations, it reads, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (vs 14)

However, in numerous other translations, we get the real intent of this message. It isn’t about us promoting peace on earth and some good attitudes and feelings toward others. The angels said that peace would come “to those with whom God is pleased.” Other translations read, “on whom His favor rests.”

There is a hard truth here that must be understood. The only people who can truly rejoice at the arrival of the Christ child are those who, by faith, will believe that He is the divine Son of God who came to take down the barrier between their sick souls and a perfect God. Those “saved by faith”—will indeed have peace!

Many families have seen bitter breakups over the person of Jesus. It has happened as He said. Marriages and families and nations divide over who Jesus truly is.

But what about the first part of the angelic proclamation that offers great news to all people? For the true seeker looking for this answer, I recommend you read Jesus' parable of the wedding banquet found in Matthew 22. It ends with this line, “For many are invited, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14, NIV)

We do a disservice to truth by painting a Christmas picture that fails to yield a call to embrace the Holy One who God sent to earth. Christos (Christ) is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew term Messiah, who is God’s anointed chosen One to save people from sin. Grasp that and you are discovering the Good News.

Without that, this season’s glad tidings are simply falling on deaf ears. And the “Merry Christmas” greetings fall woefully short of meaning.

It’s Christmas. Don’t just “believe.” Believe in HIM. Your eternity depends on it.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

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