Hark! the herald angels sing,

“Glory to the newborn King:

peace on earth, and mercy mild,

God and sinners reconciled!”

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So begins one of the most famous Christmas carols in our culture, written by celebrated British preacher Charles Wesley in 1739. He in turn is quoting the Gospel of St Luke, specifically chapter 2, where Luke narrates the words of the angels which appeared to the shepherds guarding their flock in the field near where Jesus was born.

But Luke specifically uses the phrase “a multitude of the armies of heaven” to describe precisely who appeared with the initial messenger of Jesus’ birth – “an angel of the Lord” – out in the paddock that night.

It’s relevant then that this heavenly army said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among people with whom He is pleased!”

Almighty God had finally begun the implementation of the ancient plan to fix everything broken by original sin; a plan put in place as soon as Adam and Eve disobeyed their Maker and attempted to cover their shame without Him.

They had forever broken humanity’s relationship with the King of the Universe, a cosmic crime leaving us all cursed and condemned – but He had a plan to restore peace on earth and reconcile every sinner back to right relationship with Him.

It would be a mistake to blame Adam and Eve for our sinful nature, because every single one of us has chosen to disobey God at some point.

We have been raised in a culture which has declared war on God. We have partaken of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and have usurped God’s exclusive role as the Moral Law Giver. Allow me to illustrate quickly.

Hands up if you voted to contradict God’s clearly defined sexual ethics and let government define marriage differently to Him? Hmmm.

Okay, but hands up if you think sex outside the covenant of marriage is okay or even “good”? A whole lot more. You might see where this is going.

I promised “quickly”, so let’s get straight to the point. Our culture is corrupt and has raised us with a reality-inverted narrative which hates God’s laws and vilifies Him as some kind of hateful, immoral monster Who loves our suffering. We propagandise each other from cradle to college to coffin in the deep belief we’re the good guys who can choose for ourselves what’s right and what’s not, and that we have some kind of chance in the war we’ve chosen against His power.

But we’re not good. We’re the sociopathic terrorists.

If there’s even just one of God’s laws you think isn’t right and you’ve got good reasons to do what you want, you’ve also taken a bite from the forbidden fruit like Adam and Eve did and are already condemned.

That’s why we’re actually all in the same boat and desperately in need of Christmas: a temporary ceasefire where God declares peace is available, but not for everyone.

The Unlucky Country - Zimmermann & Moens

You read that right. It’s not the Hollywood, commercialised Christmas message where everyone is God’s children and gets presents from a jolly fellow in a Coke-brand coloured suit if they’re not too naughty.

American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a famous poem in 1863 called “Christmas Bells”, and he too attempts to quote Luke, with the repeated line of each verse misleading many people who haven’t read Luke for themselves.

“Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

The angel of the Lord and the heavenly army did not announce an unconditional ceasefire where everyone gets to go back to war with their Creator without consequences. Terrorists like us have to surrender unconditionally if we want a lasting peace with the Kingdom of God.

Better translations record the armies of Heaven actually saying, “Peace among people with whom He [God] is pleased!” Of course, it’s true that salvation – ceasefire and reconciliation – is on offer to all people, but it is not simply extended to people who are good enough. If it was that easy, there was never a need for a Saviour and people of good will could have just saved themselves through good deeds.

But how does a condemned terrorist make good all the wrongs he has done or supported? It’s actually not at all easy. It’s impossible, hence the need for a Saviour to broker the Cosmic Ceasefire.

Much like the images we’ve seen this month of terrorists in their underwear, on their knees with hands raised in surrender – that’s how we lay aside all our false pride and hostility to God and accept His generous offer of peace.

Finally, imagine that justice still demanded the death penalty for our sins, for our war against God; but in stepped the baby Jesus to live a perfect, sinless life and grow to manhood only to willingly exchange His righteousness for our condemnation.

That would cause the eternal armies of Heaven to appear in the skies and announce to blue collar shearers in the paddock at night, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among people with whom He is pleased!

Songs would be written about unspeakable joy to the world on this remarkable, holy, previously silent night, and all of human history would pivot around this one, central, cosmic event!

Hark! the herald angels sing,

“Glory to the newborn King:

peace on earth, and mercy mild,

God and sinners reconciled!”

Fight shadow bans & SHARE!

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Dave Pellowe is a Christian writer & commentator, founder of The Good Sauce, convener of the annual Australian Church And State Summit and host of Good Sauce's weekly The Church And State Show, also syndicated on ADH TV. Since 2016 Dave has undertaken the mission of arming Christians to influence culture through events from Perth to Auckland, videos, podcasts and articles published in multiple journals across Australia and New Zealand. [more]

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