You’ve heard of Christmas in Dixie but have you heard of Christmas in Japan? I recently read an article called “How to Celebrate Christmas in Japan” and was surprised to learn that Christmas is a big deal there. One of the most interesting things is that eating Kentucky Fried Chicken is a Christmas tradition in Japan. So much so, that people order KFC meals weeks ahead of time for delivery the week of Christmas. The marriage of Christmas and Kentucky Fried Chicken in Japan is attributed to the marketing savvy of Takeshi Okawara who managed the first KFC restaurant there. In 1974 he introduced a meal called the “Christmas Party Barrel.” Since Japan has very few Christians, there were no established Christmas traditions. According to marketing professor Joonas Rokka of Emlyon Business School in France, “There was no tradition of Christmas in Japan, and so KFC came in and said, this is what you should do on Christmas.” And so it has been ever since.
While most traditions in the United States have at least a tangential connection to the religious meaning of Christmas – the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ – we too associate things with Christmas as foreign to it as a bucket of the Colonel’s Original Recipe is from grandma’s turkey and dressing. One such thing is the association of Christmas with “peace on earth.” Carols have been written about it and Christmas cards regularly proclaim “peace on Earth, good will toward men.” But did Jesus come as a baby to bring peace on earth? The Bible does say that, right? Well, yes and no. In the King James translation, the text of scripture that shaped the English-speaking world for generations, Luke 2:14 tells us the angels who appeared the night of Christ’s birth said:
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men
More recent translations, however, give us a better sense of the meaning of the original language:
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” – Luke 2:14, ESV
Contrary to popular belief, Jesus Christ did not come into the world as a baby to bring peace on earth, as we often hear at Christmas, but to bring peace to those with whom God is pleased. And, who are those with whom the Father is pleased? Those who belong to the Son. Jesus Christ came to reconcile sinners to God, to make peace with those who were once far away, once his enemies. Notice his words in Matthew 10:34:
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
Those whom God reconciles to himself through Jesus Christ should not expect “peace on earth” at Christmas or any other time of the year. They should expect to be reviled and persecuted like the One they serve. What they do have, however, is infinitely more valuable – peace with the God of the universe.
This is the peace the angels spoke of at Christ’s birth.
Jesus is the answer to the oldest conflict in Creation, the most serious conflict you and I will ever be a party to. When our ancestors, Adam and Eve, sinned, a great chasm was opened between mankind and God, a great conflict was begun. Sin did not just make us imperfect; sin made us God’s enemies:
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. – James 4:4
But, praise be to God, he sent his only begotten Son that first Christmas to reconcile a people to himself and move us from among his enemies to being among his children:
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. – Romans 5:10
Not only that, but one day he will return and then there will be “peace on earth” not just for now but for eternity.