Peace is not a word often used in connection with childbirth. Today we try to get close to a semblance of peace with present-day medicines to take away some of the pain of childbirth. But Mary had none of our present-day conveniences. The birth of God into our world may have been on a “holy night,” but it was certainly not a “silent night.”
The pain of Mary’s childbirth was a stark reminder of why Jesus had to be born in the first place. Sin shattered God’s perfect world when Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden tree. Graciously, the Lord found them and promised them a Savior. But consequences remained as constant reminders of the sinners’ need for a Savior. Pain, not peace, in childbirth was one of Eve’s chastisements. Peace was probably the last thing on Mary’s mind as she gave birth to her firstborn son.
But Micah had already penned this song of peace hundreds of years earlier: “He will be their peace.” That night angels sang of it: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14). And a few days later, Simeon would add his own refrain: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation” (Luke 2:29, 30). Don’t be fooled by the pain Mary felt or the humble circumstances outside the inn. Jesus came to be our peace.
The Israelites in Micah’s day needed God’s peace, for they were a stubborn and stiff-necked people. Mary, Joseph, and their contemporaries in Judah needed God’s peace because thousands of years of promises and prophets had not made them any less sinful. We need God’s peace because we too must admit that we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment.
Do not look to your government leaders to secure the peace you need with a holy God. Nor will it do to hope for peace in a well-lived life or a well-supplied bank account. Look, instead, to the child born from Mary’s pain who was wrapped in strips of cloth and laid in a manger. Only he who humbly descended to us through Mary’s womb also ascended to the cross to bear the punishment that brought us peace. In Christ your sins stand forgiven. Find him in the Word. Partake of him in the Lord’s Supper. He is your peace.
At Christmas, Christians joyfully celebrate the birth of Jesus. We sing: “Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King.”
Jesus came to rule, but unlike any worldly authority. Jesus Christ came from heaven and establishes his kingdom in the hearts of people. He governs not harshly or by force. He draws people to himself by his great love. He fills them with the peace that only he can provide. By the sacrifice that he came to give–his own flesh and blood–he brought peace between God and people. His suffering and death was accepted by God as full payment for the sin of all. Those who hear and believe that good news are assured of the forgiveness of sins. And the peace of Jesus is theirs forever.
The true celebration of Christmas is so much more than remembering and rejoicing at what took place in Bethlehem when Mary laid the infant Jesus in the manger. Importantly, it is also about remembering and rejoicing at what God accomplished in our hearts. By the power of the gospel of his salvation, Jesus made our hearts his home. He reigns in us by his love and guides us in the path of peace. He has drawn us to himself assuring us that he will always rule us for our eternal benefit.
It is the will of our gracious God to continue this work in the hearts of people until the end of time. As the gospel is proclaimed, the government of Jesus continues to increase by bringing more and more people to faith in him as their Savior. Jesus’ reign in the hearts of people flourishes with the wonderful message of peace through the forgiveness of sins. That good news is at the heart of our Christmas celebration. We rejoice that his kingdom is extended to us and his unending peace fills our hearts. And we pray that the joy of Jesus’ reign and the comfort of his peace fill the hearts of all those who hear the heavenly proclamation: “A Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).