PEACE ON EARTH!
What God did in sending His Son at Christmas was enough to make the angels sing. When the Christmas angel
had delivered his message of good news to the shepherds, a chorus of angels appeared to celebrate the great
event. They sang the first Christmas carol.
The singing of the angels is instructive. They are aware of the mighty
God of creation:
Tell me, if you understand.
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
7 while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels a shouted for joy. (Job 38:4-7)
But never did they sing so robustly as they did when the Son of God became the Son of Mary.
Have you ever looked at the words of this first Christmas carol carefully? They capsule for us some important truths
about the significance of Christmas. They set forth the wonderful expectation of “peace on earth”. Since we are
coming to another Christmas with the rumblings of war in the distance, we need to hear this word about “peace on
I. THE SALVATION OF SINNERS IS GOD’S MOST GLORIOUS WORK.
What prompted the angels to sing? What is the theme of their song? It was the announcement shared with the
shepherds that a Savior is born in the city of David that inspired the angels to sing. They must joyfully celebrate
what the God of salvation is doing to bring salvation to the needy of earth.
The carol begins, “Glory to God in the highest!” The angels recognize that what God is doing in the Babe of
Bethlehem is His most glorious work. He is worthy of praise and honor that reaches to the heights of the highest
(A BETTER DEVELOPMENT HERE IS TO EMPHASIZE WHAT IS REVEALED OF GOD IN THE SALVATION OF
SINNERS. HIS HOLINESS, HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS, HIS LOVE, HIS MERCY, HIS GRACE.)
1. It best reveals who He is.
What God is doing in Christ in saving sinner is the best revelation that we have of Him. It is an even better
revelation of who God is than His matchless work of creation. In Creation He revealed His wisdom and His might.
When you study the complexity and the simplicity of the created order, you will have to marvel at the wisdom of
God. He is truly the great Designer of all things. When you consider the vastness of creation, you will have to
wonder at the power of God.
We are impressed with the modern inventions and works of humankind, but with God it is different. The human
researcher or scientist has the privilege of working with pre-existing materials to create what ever his mind has
conceived. With God—He made it all out of nothing. He started with nothing but the will to glorify His own name, to
reveal something of Himself. The universe is the result.
But there was something in God that no act of creation could ever reveal. There was something in Him that all of
the creation together could never reveal. There was in Him a dept of love and mercy, grace and kindness, a will to
save, that only the sending of His Son could reveal.
This is why the angels sung their carol. They were observers of a revelation of the greatest glory of God. When you
have just seen God revealed at His best, who would not sing? O that we could share the joy of the angels over what
God has done for the salvation of sinners in the Lord Jesus!
2. It brings Him the greatest pleasure.
Imagine with me for a moment. You are a reporter. You have the privilege of an interview with the Sovereign Lord
Himself. You are bold enough to propose some questions to the Lord. You ask Him to share with you what has
brought Him the greatest pleasure. When you consider all that God has done, you understand the possibilities. Will
He speak of the morning of creation when He began to call into being all that is out of nothing? Will He speak of the
eventful day when He brought the people of Israel out of Egypt with a mighty display of His power? Will He speak of
the ways He honored the faith of His servant David by building a great kingdom for Israel with a glorious capital in
Jerusalem? No! None of these!
The thing that has brought more pleasure to God than any of His mighty acts was the sending of His Son to earth to
be the Savior of sinners. What a wondrous thought! What an encouraging truth! Nothing is more important to the
Eternal that the salvation of sinners. The salvation of sinners is not a hobby with God; it is the expression of His
heart, the joy of His being. He enjoys saving sinners like nothing else in all of time or eternity. This is the declaration
of the angels. “Glory to God in the highest!” O my heart overflows with gratitude and wonder at this revealing work
of our God. He surely does deserve the highest praise!
II. PEACE WITH GOD IS THE RESULT OF GOD’S SAVING WORK.
The First Carol has a poetic structure that is obvious even in our English translation. You have God standing over
against men. You have the highest standing in contrast to earth. You have the glory of God standing over against
peace on earth. What produces praise to the highest heaven results in peace on earth “to men on whom His favor
1. Peace with God means the source of offence has been removed.
The source of offence toward God is human rebellion and sin. It began in the Garden of Eden when the first couple
chose to join the serpent in his rebellion against the Creator. They chose to second-guess God by knowingly doing
something that the Creator had expressly forbidden them to do. They ate the forbidden fruit. The result was
immediate. They sensed it at once. Their attitude toward God changed dramatically. Instead of seeing Him as one
in whom they delighted, they saw Him as a danger, an enemy to be avoided. They saw Him as one who was likely to
punish them because of their sin. Their sin separated them from God.
If the creature man is to ever enjoy peace with his Creator, the sin of man must be removed. Tragically the
transgressor was in no position to remove the transgression. The more attempts he made at removing the
transgressions, the more sins he created.
So the all-wise Creator devised a plan to remove the sin. He would send His only begotten Son to the earth to
remove the sin of man by becoming the Lamb of God that could carry away the sins of the world. When the Son
had carried away the sins of the world, it would be possible for God to be reconciled to sinful man. Peace with God
would be possible for sinners.
This is why the angels sang the carol—the first step in this plan of redemption has just been launched. The Son
who is to bear the sins of the world is now on the earth. He is in Bethlehem in the manger. He is the firstborn son of
Mary. Peace is on its way to earth!
2. Peace with God means that the favor of God has been restored.
The background of this word “peace” cannot be ignored. The Hebrew word for “peace” is “shalom”. It meant much
more than to have a cessation of hostility. Shalom meant to have the favor of the offended party restored. It means
to make a broken relationship whole. It involves the idea of health and prosperity. So for there to be peace on earth
means that whatever rebellion against God has taken away will be restored.
A word of clarification is needed. It is tempting to transfer to this word the conflict between nations, and to begin to
speak of international peace. While this line does have implications for world peace, the statement is really about
personal peace, “to men on whom His favor rests.” Now to the extent that humans make the decisions that lead to
conflict between nations, this is influenced any time an individual comes to have peace with God. But this word is
directly addressing the relationship between individual sinners. To speak of peace on earth as long as the majority
off the people on this planet is still at enmity with God is to speak of foolishness. There is no hope of peace among
men until there is peace with God.
But while there is deadly warfare going on among men, it is possible for an individual, a congregation of individuals,
to enjoy peace with God. The Babe of Bethlehem came to make such peace possible by the removal of the source
of offence and the restoration of the gracious favor of God.
III. THE FAVOR OF GOD MAKES SALVATION POSSIBLE.
The second line of this first Christmas Carol has been a challenge to the translators and interpreters of the text.
The NIV is the preferred translation among modern scholars. The Holman Christian Standard Bible reflects the
same type of scholarship when it translates it, “and peace on earth to people He favors.” The NIV has it, “and on
earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.” The word translated “favor” could be translated “pleasure”, or
“pleases”. However the word is never used in a context that would suggest that man has earned salvation by
behavior that pleases God. The word is always used of the manner in which God has responded. He is always the
one bestowing favor. What are we to understand here?
1. It pleases God to take the initiative.
When it comes to salvation, the initiative is always with God. This is the meaning of grace. Salvation is by grace
because it is at God’s initiative. He is not responding to some good that He sees in us, but rather expressing the
good that is in His heart.
At a basic level this includes the truth that the coming of Jesus is a heavenly initiative. There is nothing in the
human condition to explain the birth of Jesus, except the overwhelming need that human sin had created.
Scholars are on target when these see in this line of the Carol the suggestion that the people who enjoy peace with
God are the ones He has chosen for Himself. We have so emphasized the human choice in salvation that we have
almost forgotten the divine choice. We are here this morning participating in the celebration of the goodness of our
God because of choices God has made as well as our exercising our choice to respond to His call to salvation.
O what a glorious God we worship. He is the God is found great pleasure in providing for our salvation.
2. It pleases God to bestow salvation.
God is not a reluctant giver of salvation. It is the height of pleasure for Him to save sinners.
In the great hymn concerning God’s saving work that opens the Ephesian letter, Paul refers to the pleasure of God
more than once. “In love He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ in accordance with his
pleasure and will--.” Then again he writes, “And He made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good
pleasure.” Nothing pleases God more than to save a sinner. Nothing pleases Him more than to be at peace with
humans that He loves. This is what Christmas is all about! The angels understood this. It pleases the eternal God to
give salvation to those who admit that they need it.
You remember the beautiful story in which Jesus described God’s pleasure in salvation. We have called it “the
Parable of the Prodigal Son”, but it is better to call it the “Parable of the Waiting Father.” Did it not please the
Father to be at peace with his wayward son, and to restore him to the privileges that he had foolishly spurned? This
is what God is like. He is the one who is pleased to save sinners. It is His greatest glory.
Let’s join the angel’s who sang the first Christmas Carol and celebrate it.