Christmas Shalom

December 10, 2013

by Peter Amsterdam

Audio length: 11:33

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One of the portions of the story of the Nativity which I find most beautiful, exciting, and meaningful is when the angel appeared to the shepherds and announced Jesus’ birth, followed by a multitude of heavenly hosts praising God. It’s such a fitting entrance for the birth of the Son of God. Luke tells us what happened:

In the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”[1]

The angel announced the birth of the Savior, but that wasn’t the end. Luke goes on to tell us:

Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[2]

Some Bible translations render the last part of this verse as “and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”[3] Both of these translations are legitimate, but most contemporary Bible scholars prefer “peace among those with whom he is pleased.”

In either translation, the praise that the multitude of the heavenly hosts gives to God connects the coming of the Savior with peace. This connection between the Savior and peace is seen in the Old Testament prophecies as well.

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.[4]

He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace.[5]

In both the Old and New Testaments, the Messiah—the Savior—has a connection to peace. Yet as we look at the world today, or at almost any time in history, peace is often the last thing we see. Wars and civil strife are endemic to humanity. Sadly, lasting peace throughout the earth hasn’t happened and it certainly doesn’t exist today. So why is Jesus called the Prince of Peace? Why did the angels, when praising God at Jesus’ birth, speak of peace?

The key to making the proper connection between the birth of Jesus and peace rests in understanding the meaning of the original words used for peace in both the Old and New Testaments. Let’s take a quick look.

The word used most often for peace in the Old Testament is shalom. While the word shalom is sometimes used in Scripture to define peace as the absence of war, it has other meanings as well. The root meaning of shalom refers to being whole or sound. It speaks of completeness, soundness, safety, health and prosperity, contentment, tranquility, harmony, peace of mind, the absence of anxiety and stress. It also refers to friendship between individuals, as well as peace and friendship between individuals and God.

The Greek word most often used in the New Testament for peace is eirēnē,[6] which is sometimes used to mean a state of national tranquility and the exemption from the havoc of war. However, it is used more often to express security, safety, prosperity, harmony, and good will between individuals. It also refers to the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ.

While the world will one day know peace in the sense of an absence of war after Jesus’ second coming, the peace so often spoken of in God’s Word refers to the overall wholeness of individuals, both physically and spiritually. Scripture repeatedly states that such wholeness, tranquility, and shalom comes through having a right relationship with God, a relationship which is made possible through the Savior, whom the angels announced to the shepherds that night over two millennia ago.

Humanity has ever been in need of reconciliation with God. Because of our sin, we are separated from Him and unable to bridge the gap. The apostle Paul likened it to our being enemies of God. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection brought reconciliation between God and man. Through faith in Jesus, the Prince of Peace, we are able to be at peace with God.

Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.[7]

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.[8]

In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.[9]

Through the Prince of Peace, harmony and relationship can be restored between God and all those who embrace Jesus as their Savior. Salvation results in righteousness before God as our sins are forgiven, and the righteousness of salvation brings us peace and joy.

We can then possess the fullness of shalom: completeness, soundness, safety, contentment, tranquility, harmony, and peace of mind, which is the source of inner peace in the midst of the storms and challenges of life that we all face throughout our lives. It is this righteousness, through our salvation gained by Jesus’ sacrifice, that brings peace with God, which in turn is the foundation for true peace within ourselves.

As by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.[10]

The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.[11]

Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other.[12]

The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.[13]

Jesus, the Lord of peace, brings us peace that exceeds anything we can understand. He has given His peace to us, and as we keep our mind on Him, as we trust in Him, He gives us perfect peace, or as it says in the original Hebrew, shalom shalom. Repeating a word was the Hebrew way of expressing a higher degree; in this case, not just peace but perfect peace.

May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way.[14]

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.[15]

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.[16]

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.[17]

We find peace in the Savior, peace when we love God’s Word, peace when our ways please the Lord, peace through the presence of the Holy Spirit, peace in faith, and peace when Christ rules in our hearts.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.[18]

Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.[19]

When a man's ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.[20]

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace.[21]

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.[22]

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.[23]

The multitude of angels praising God on the night of Jesus’ birth was heralding the peace that God was making available through the birth of the Savior.—The peace with God that comes through salvation, the inner peace that comes from our connection with God, the peace we have from knowing that God loves us and has made a way for us to be with Him forever.

This is the same peace He has commissioned us to take to others through sharing the message of God’s love, the message of salvation. It’s the peace we bring when we share the message of reconciliation with God, the message of salvation, the message of eternal peace.

We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.[24]

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” [25]

May we all do what we can to bring God’s peace into the lives of those who don’t know true peace, the peace only God can give. May we all share the message of the greatest gift of all, the Prince of Peace, with many this Christmas season.

When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with the flocks,
then the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal those broken in spirit,
to feed the hungry,
to release the oppressed,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among all peoples,
to make a little music with the heart…
And to radiate the Light of Christ,
every day, in every way, in all that we do and in all that we say.
Then the work of Christmas begins.

—Howard Thurman

May the God of peace be with you all.[26]

[1] Luke 2:8–11.

[2] Luke 2:13–14.

[3] Luke 2:14 NKJV.

[4] Isaiah 9:6.

[5] Isaiah 53:5.

[6] The pronunciation of this word is eye ray nay.

[7] Romans 5:1.

[8] Romans 5:8, 10.

[9] Colossians 1:19–20.

[10] Romans 5:19.

[11] Isaiah 32:17.

[12] Psalm 85:10.

[13] Romans 14:17.

[14] 2 Thessalonians 3:16.

[15] Philippians 4:7.

[16] John 14:27.

[17] Isaiah 26:3.

[18] John 16:33.

[19] Psalm 119:165.

[20] Proverbs 16:7.

[21] Galatians 5:22.

[22] Romans 15:13.

[23] Colossians 3:15.

[24] 2 Corinthians 5:20.

[25] Isaiah 52:7.

[26] Romans 15:33.