Our new word for Christmas is the old word, “believe”.

             “Peace on earth, good will to men.”   We see those words on Christmas cards.  We hear them in profound Christmas sermons from deep-voiced expositors of scripture.   We hear them in the high voices of children in a Sunday School Christmas play.

             The words seem unreal, and we tune them out as soon as the Christmas wrapping paper is stuffed into garbage bags - if not sooner.

             The seemingly impractical idealism of those words is described in the third verse of the Christmas song, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”:  “And in despair I bowed my head. ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said.  For hate is strong, and mocks the song of ‘Peace on earth, good will to men.’”

             But that song does not leave us in that funk.  The fourth verse says, “Then peeled the bells more loud and deep: ‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.”

            A nice comeback.  But how do we get from verse three to verse four?

             We don’t.

             Jesus brings us from verse three to verse four.  You might be thinking, “Well of course! The wrong failing and the right prevailing - that’s Heaven after we die.”

             OK.  I’ll give you that.   But when we pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” we pray for some peace among believers here and now.

             So then the question becomes, “How does Jesus bring us from verse three to verse four?”    The answer is simply what we tell our young children to do at Christmas time.  We tell them to believe.  We simply believe that Jesus did what he came from Heaven to earth to do, and that is to declare everyone innocent of all wrongdoing.  The wrong has already failed; what we have done wrong has no power over us as far as God is concerned.  What we have done wrong cannot exact a fine, put us in jail, or even send us to Hell.

             By believing we get peace from Jesus because we don’t have to get even with someone who has wronged us.  We have the freedom to treat that person as another human being.  That’s loving our enemies.  Of course there will be times when we have to prevail on the justice system to protect ourselves and our neighbors, but even the US justice system demands that we treat criminals fairly.  Jesus didn’t say life wouldn’t get messy at times.

             So does anyone get condemned to Hell? 

             I assume that most of you reading this know the “Golden Verse of the Bible”, John 3:16.   Now listen to the next two verses:  “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

             When we do not believe what Jesus did for us, then we are not peacemakers because we see most everybody as guilty, and so we “stand condemned” by other people.  We live in a hell of our own making.  And apparently it is possible for people to not believe on the “other side” and “stand condemned” there also.   C. S.  Lewis said that the doors of Hell are locked from the inside.”  I think he’s right.

             Our new word for Christmas is the old word, “believe”.

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