Last Sunday, my youngest daughter who is 13, got up in the morning and told me she didn’t want to go to church because she had a friend sleep over. She said she’d go to the middle school evening church service that evening. I relented, but then when the time came for evening church, she had friend #2 over–who had already agreed to go to church with her–and my daughter didn’t want to go. She said, “Mom, they’re supposedly doing a Christmas service and I already know all that.” I told her, “Jillian, do you realize that God has now given you two opportunities today to witness to your friends? You missed out on the opportunity with Katie this morning, will you now miss out with Brooke?” With some amount of exasperation, she said, “OK, OK, I’ll go!”
As it turned out, it wasn’t a “Christmas service” per se, but they had a great time anyway. And as we were driving home, I asked Brooke if she went to church. She said, “No. We used to, but then soccer started to get in the way, and we don’t go anymore.” How often does God present us with some simple opportunities to bring others to church, and we turn away?
As I thought back on what Jillian had said to me, “I already know all that stuff about the Christmas story,” I had to smile. Thirteen-year-olds are quite sure they know all there is to know about everything, but I wondered, do I know all there is to know?
This morning, I sat down and opened up my Bible to the book of Luke. As I began to read that beautiful Christmas story, suddenly, a phrase jumped out at me…something I hadn’t ever seen before.
“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” (Luke 2:14) (NASB)
These were the words of the first Christmas carol sung by a multitude of angels to the shepherds in the field. I didn’t remember ever seeing “with whom He is pleased” before. I went to www.crosswalk.com and searched several translations, and many of them do not include that. I went to the Greek online Bible and looked at the actual translation. There it was: “Eudokia” was at the end of the phrase. “Eudokia” means “will” or “choice” and also “delight, pleasure, satisfaction.” In the Greek online Bible, here is the direct translation:
“Esteem in highest ones to God, and on land peace to humans well-seeming.”
What’s extraordinary about it is that it changes the phrase completely. All my life, I’ve sung Christmas carols that announce, “Peace, goodwill toward men” and read Christmas cards that have printed the same words. But the peace that the angels were announcing was not toward all men, but only to those with whom God is pleased. God’s peace isn’t “one size fits all.”
Sure, you could read the verse in a way that implies that God is “well-pleased” with all men. But do you really think so? Was He well-pleased with Herod who plotted to kill His Son? Was He well-pleased with Judas who would betray Him, or Pontius Pilate who would wash his hands of the whole matter, rather than exonerate an innocent man?
No, He was well-pleased with those who had been anxiously awaiting the birth of His Messiah. He was well-pleased with the shepherds who were most likely Jews who had been raised on the ancient scriptures, but had no idea that they would see them come to life before their very eyes. He was even well-pleased with the wise men who realized, when they saw the star, that they weren’t as wise as they had thought, so they mounted their camels and came to see what event it heralded, for in their hearts, they were seeking for a King. God was well-pleased with Joseph, who, although he was a man with manly desires, kept Mary a virgin until she gave birth to His Son.
Throughout the Bible, God has made it clear that He places His favor on those who seek Him. And for that reason, God’s peace was not something that He swathed the world with when Jesus was born. It was a gift that He gave to those in whom He delighted and who delighted in Him. He gave the world the Prince of Peace–Jesus–and in that incredible gift, He gave us His peace. It is a peace that is other-worldly. Here is how Jesus described it:
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful.” (John 14:27)
With the entrance of Jesus into the world that Christmas day came the most marvelous gift: God’s peace. And if you love God today and His Son Jesus, our Savior, then bathe yourself in it. It is yours straight from God, wrapped with a big red bow, dipped in the blood of Jesus.