Growing up, every Christmas Eve at 10:45pm, I could be found seated with my family in a front left pew of our church, waiting for the candlelight “Lessons and Carols” service. Every year the same rich, familiar texts were read, and the same songs were sung. The same feeling of sleepy hopefulness and joy would waft through the sanctuary, or so it seemed to me. It was a simple tradition with strong roots, not least of all because it was laced with prophecies and promises of the coming King.
It was in these services that I first heard (maybe the only time I heard) the sentence “Bethlehem Ephrathah… one will come from you to be ruler over Israel” (Micah 5:2). It was a Christmas promise, a candlelight lesson to precede a carol, and it was so much more. These words are a Christmas promise for all time, a promise of a coming eternal King who will conquer enemies and rule to the ends of the earth forever. He is a King who will bring peace.
What exactly does “peace” mean? It means all false gods and idols will be removed; no more will people worship the work of their hands, whether an accomplishment or a physical product. It means God’s people will be shepherded, cared for, protected, and directed. It means God’s people will not be run down or defeated by enemies any longer. The poor will be lifted up and oppressors thrown down. And all this will have no end, either in time or in place; it will be eternal and cover every inch of the earth.
This is a Christmas promise: the line of Judah will continue, and the King will sit on the throne of David as God’s chosen One. We know this to be Jesus. But this is not a Christmas promise contained in lessons and carols. It is not a soft glow and gentle melody. And it is not bound to two days in December.
This promise roars through all time. The King is coming, the Son of the Most High. We celebrate Jesus’ humble beginnings on Christmas, but we should also rest in the promise of His peace every day. We sing of His birth in December, but we should live under His reign, always. We remember when our King came to earth the first time, and we should look forward eagerly to His return. For His kingdom will have no end. In that promise we have peace, and when He returns we will have perfect peace.
Written by Barnabas Piper