In 1739, Charles Wesley wrote the words to a famous Christmas carol, Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and in the song, there are a few mentions of peace that’s rooted in Jesus. In the first stanza, the Wesley writes:
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
As Wesley points to “peace on earth” and we sing out these words each Christmas season with joy, what exactly does he mean by such peace? When Jesus was on the earth in human flesh, the earth was filled with violence. In fact, the bloodthirsty Jews murdered the Son of God on a Roman cross. When we sing about peace and we hear Jesus referenced as the “Prince of Peace” what are we referring to both from a historical and theological standpoint that should make our Christmas merry?
The hope of the coming Messiah was something that the people of Israel continued to look to for encouragement. Imagine that all through the years the fathers and grandfathers would sit down with their children and tell them the story of Abraham, their forefather. They would connect the dots to Moses and go beyond to the promise of a prophet greater than Moses and a priest greater than Melchizedek to a king who would soon come to deliver them from their enemies.
The prophet Isaiah foretold of this day, as he wrote down these powerful words some 700 years before the birth of Jesus, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Is. 7:14). Isaiah would go on to write these words in Isaiah 9:6:
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace
The longing of Israel was peace. King after king through the years of Israel turned away from God and incurred the judgment of God—not just on themselves but on the entire nation. Israel found themselves in captivity, their land occupied by enemies, and their people suffering immensely through the years. They longed for the Prince of peace to come and bring them peace.
After a long dark period where the nation of Israel heard no word from God for 400 years—suddenly shepherds in the fields were stunned when angels appeared to announce the birth of Jesus. The long awaited Prince of peace had been born, but in the most unlikely of places—Bethlehem. There was no palace in Bethlehem, and the King of kings was not born in their best hotel either. He was born in a manger.
When Jesus grew to an adult, he was introduced by the forerunner John the Baptist as the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. As Jesus visited cities and towns, he brought divine peace that people had never before seen. Matthew 9:35 says that “Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.” One time when the disciples were fearing for their lives in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus did something very strange. He spoke to the wind and waves—and they obeyed him. Jesus said, “Peace be still” (Mark 4:39). At once, there was a calm that settled on the waters. The disciples were astounded.
As Jesus ministered and preached, he brought with him a peace that could not be explained apart from his deity. Suffering from disease was cast away. Demons were sent down the hillside in a herd of pigs, and even the wind and waves obeyed him. The pain of death was turned into a celebration party when Jesus arrived at the tomb of Lazarus and raised him from the dead. Who could explain this peace that was found in Jesus?
Today, we live between the cross and the second coming of Jesus. We talk to our children about a future peace as we connect the dots from the Old Testament to the New Testament and see how everything is centered on Jesus. We know that the story is not over. We are living in the story of redemption that spans between the cross and the second coming and one day Jesus will return with a peace that never ends. Jesus will defeat all of the enemies, judge the world, and usher in his Kingdom that will have no end.
According to Revelation 21:4, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” We long for that day of eternal peace as we will dwell in the presence of the Prince of peace for all eternity. The pains, discouragements, failures, and hardships of this fallen world will be restored in the Prince of peace. As we talk to our children about that day, they ask us, “when will that day come?” We respond with gladness, “That day could come at any moment.” Just as God kept his promise regarding the birth of Jesus, he will keep his promise about his second coming as well. What better news to tell your children at Christmas?