December 11: Peaceful Joy!
December 11, 2015
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
by Josh Moody Each year our family has a tradition of opening one Advent Bible reading starting on December 1 and finishing on Christmas Day, December 25. This year I am sharing those Bible readings with some thoughts based on them for use as a devotional during this season. To receive these Advent readings directly in your inbox, sign up here. Luke 2:13-14:
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”The word “suddenly” introduces a moment that must have stuck in the minds of these shepherds ever after! They were “suddenly” surrounded by a huge crowd, suggesting not just a few but a massive assembly, and with a touch of the military band to it. The army of heaven had turned up, the marching band, loud, moving, triumphant, impressive, unmissable. Such glorious beings as these heavenly warriors would naturally and rightly accord attention to themselves, but without a moment’s hesitation, they strike up a praise song that centers not on themselves, and certainly not on us, but on God. “Glory to God,” and not just any kind of glory but the “highest” kind of praise and adulation that could be considered. But while this praise is God-centered, that does not mean that our needs are unconsidered. In fact, the very idea that something could be glorious to God and not care about people is a contradiction in terms. The true God, and his true glory, expands forever in love. His bountiful care and compassion and power overflows with attention towards us. In the divinest of ironies, the more we glorify God, the more “peace” we will find on earth. That “peace on earth” is so needed today. How will it come about? Only as we proclaim the glory of God as revealed in Jesus Christ. The hope for peace on earth is not (finally) world summits or international peace conferences. It is not endlessly churning committee meetings in innumerable ecumenical dialogue. It is not the power of one nation to dominate another. There is a reason why the authorities and governments “bear the sword,” to bring about justice and order, and for their hard task we are commanded to pray that God would give them wisdom and strength. But that order can only at best be external, like the order of building a wall between warring parties or separating sparring fighters for a moment under the rules of the boxing ring. To have real “peace on earth” requires something more, something more transcendent, something that affects us internally. Real peace may only derive from the “favor of God,” his grace and mercy. It is according to God’s gracious will, his good pleasure, his sovereign action and intervention. This Christmas, then, would you seek “peace on earth” by praying for those in authority that they would act with justice, compassion, and wise holy strength? Would you seek “peace on earth” by (re)centering your life upon the glory of God, ordering your world and family and individual trajectory around honoring the One above whom none (not even us) is to be honored? And would you seek “peace on earth” by proclaiming the gospel of God’s grace, favor, and good pleasure, so that those around us can hear of Christ and his peace this Christmas?
Jesus this song you wrote The words are sticking in my throat Peace on Earth Hear it every Christmas time But hope and history won’t rhyme So what’s it worth? This peace on Earth
(U2 “Peace on Earth”)
I heard the bells on Christmas Day Their old, familiar carols play, and wild and sweet The words repeat Of peace on earth, good-will to men! … And in despair I bowed my head; “There is no peace on earth,” I said; “For hate is strong, And mocks the song Of peace on earth, good-will to men!” Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men.”]]>
(“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” Longfellow, Christmas Day 1863, on hearing of the death of his son and wife)
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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