Peace To SomeBy Nathan Mates
The world loves to see Christmas as a happy season for all. Endless specials run on TV, extolling the virtues of [YOU MUST BUY THIS TOY] love, family [THIS DETERGENT MAKES EVERYTHING SPOTLESS], snowy weather and fun [BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE WEYLAND-YUTANI CORPORATION]. Malls are filled with people shopping to the tune of elevator muzak, and everyone is full of good cheer.
But, beyond this veneer of happiness during the season, real problems lurk. For example, simply look at the parking lots of the malls: not exactly shining examples of happiness, love, and joy. Family interactions sometimes force people to conceal their disagreements long enough to eat a meal while they stew inside. The homeless are paraded into a shelter in front of TV cameras while they're fed. It's obvious that many of the virtues espoused for the season are as thick as wrapping paper.
While the media and the popular culture set people up with the expectations that everything is to be great, and wonder how anyone could be depressed when their life doesn't match, we as Christians should take a different approach. For starters, we live in a fallen world, and there will always be pain and suffering in it. We as Christians should know better than to put possessions or relationships with others as idols to worship this season.
Even more, we as Christians shouldn't expect universal peace in this season. While that idea may be controversial, I believe that the idea of "peace to all" is as much a misrepresentation of the Christmas season as anything the popular culture has done.
When God announced the birth of his son Jesus to the first group of people to worship Jesus-- the shepherds-- his angels all worshiped God, and had something interesting to say: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." [Luke 2:14, NIV] Note the last part of that phrase from Luke. It is not a blessing of peace to everyone. It is peace to some.
The New American Standard Bible (NASB) translates Luke 2:14 as "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased." The Revised Standard Version (RSV)'s text is also matches the NASB translation, word for word.
Why is there such a qualification of who the peace is for? Doesn't God love everyone? Yes, God loves everyone, but we are sinners, and many have rejected God outright. God is not exactly pleased when people thumb their noses at him while they're alive. If such people die, rejecting God, they'll be eternally rejected by God. The tinglings of a guilty conscience towards God are necessary to soften their hearts towards the knock on their hearts.
As Christians, we should also listen to God's words that there are some who won't be feeling peace during the season. Such people are a prime witnessing opportunity, as they can't reconcile their dissatisfaction with the messages the world hammers at them. Revealing that peace is not to be sought in this world, but in God is the best gift one can give during this season.