One of the portions of the Nativity story that I find most beautiful and meaningful is when the angel appeared to the shepherds and announced Jesus’ birth, followed by a multitude of heavenly hosts praising God. It’s such a fitting entrance for the birth of the Son of God:
“That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!’” 1
The angel announced the birth of the Savior, but that wasn’t the end: “Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.’” 2
This connection between the Savior and peace is seen in the Old Testament prophecies as well; for example, in the book of Isaiah, where we are told: “A child has been born for us. We have been given a son who will be our ruler. His names will be Wonderful Advisor and Mighty God, Eternal Father and Prince of Peace.” 3
In both the Old and New Testaments, the Messiah—the Savior—has a connection to peace. Yet as we look at the world today, or at almost any time in history, peace is often the last thing we see. Wars and civil strife are endemic to humanity. Sadly, lasting peace throughout the earth hasn’t happened, and it certainly doesn’t exist today. So why is Jesus called the Prince of Peace? Why did the angels, when praising God at Jesus’ birth, speak of peace?
The word used most often for peace in the Old Testament is shalom. While this word is sometimes used in Scripture to define peace as the absence of war, it has other meanings as well. The root meaning refers to being whole or sound. It speaks of completeness, soundness, safety, health and prosperity, contentment, tranquility, harmony, peace of mind, the absence of anxiety and stress. It also refers to friendship between individuals, as well as peace and friendship between individuals and God.
The Greek word most often used in the New Testament for peace, eirēnē, is sometimes used to mean a state of national tranquility and the exemption from the havoc of war. However, it is used more often to express security, safety, prosperity, harmony, and good will between individuals. It also refers to the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation.
While the world will one day know peace in the sense of an absence of war after Jesus’ second coming, the peace so often spoken of in God’s Word refers to the overall wholeness of individuals, both physically and spiritually. Scripture repeatedly states that such wholeness, tranquility, and shalom comes through having a right relationship with God, a relationship made possible through the Savior, whom the angels announced to the shepherds that night over two millennia ago.
Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection brought reconciliation between God and man. Through faith in Jesus, the Prince of Peace, we’re able to be at peace with God. “God showed how much he loved us by having Christ die for us, even though we were sinful. Even when we were God’s enemies, he made peace with us, because his Son died for us. Yet something even greater than friendship is ours. Now that we are at peace with God, we will be saved by his Son’s life.” 4
Through the Prince of Peace, harmony and relationship can be restored between God and all those who embrace Jesus as their Savior. We can then possess the fullness of shalom: completeness, soundness, safety, contentment, tranquility, harmony, and peace of mind, which is the source of inner peace in the midst of the storms and challenges that we all face throughout our lives.
Jesus, the Lord of peace, brings us peace that exceeds anything we can understand—as it says in the original Hebrew, shalom shalom. Repeating a word was the Hebrew way of expressing a higher degree; in this case, not just peace but perfect peace. We find peace in the Savior, peace when we love God’s Word, peace when our ways please Him, peace through the presence of the Holy Spirit, peace in faith, and peace when Christ rules in our hearts.
The angels praising God on the night of Jesus’ birth were heralding the peace that God was making available through the birth of the Savior—the peace with God that comes through salvation, the inner peace that comes from our connection with God, the peace we have from knowing that God loves us and has made a way for us to be with Him forever.