Peace on Earth is the first Christmas album by American Christian rock band Casting Crowns. Produced by Mark Hall and Mark A. Miller, it was released on October 7, 2008. Intended by Hall to bring out the worshipful aspect of Christmas, the album does not have songs relating to secular Christmas traditions, instead featuring a mix of traditional Christmas carols and original songs. As co-producer, Hall attempted to differentiate the album from their previous ones by attempting to use creative ideas they had not tried before, and he also wanted to utilize the band's female members in a broader and more visible role on the album.
Upon its release, Peace on Earth met with mixed reviews. Some critics praised the album's emphasis on traditional Christmas songs and the worship aspect of Christmas, while others criticized the album's original songs and felt it was a disappointment in comparison to the band's previous albums. The album peaked at number one on the BillboardChristian Albums and Catalog Albums charts, number two on the Holiday Albums chart, and number fifteen on the Billboard 200. Peace on Earth has been certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), signifying shipments of five hundred thousand copies in the United States.
According to Casting Crowns' lead vocalist Mark Hall, Peace on Earth was written based on the question "How do you know there's peace on earth in a world that isn't very peaceful?" Hall opined that when people hear Christmas carols, they often don't hear their true message. Hall intended the album to help people rediscover the worshipful nature behind the carols. As an example of a message he wanted people to hear, he gave "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day", a song written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow about his rediscovery of hope amidst several personal tragedies. Hall felt that the song's message of hope was one that his kids and their generation needed to hear. As a co-producer on the album, Hall wanted to introduce aspects and ideas that the band had not done before, and he felt the album offered a chance to branch out. He wanted the band's female members, Megan Garrett and Melodee DeVevo, to play a more prominent role, in part to show people "the gifts they have".
Peace on Earth does not contain material relating to secular Christmas traditions like Santa Claus or Jack Frost, instead featuring a mix of traditional Christmas carols and original songs. "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day", instead of using a carol of bells, has a choir of children personifying the bells by singing the refrain of 'peace on earth'. "While You Were Sleeping", originally included on the band's 2005 album Lifesong, is included in its original form. On the Lifesong version, the band had altered the song (originally written as a Christmas song) to remove the most "seasonal" elements; the version included on Peace on Earth features the lyrics in their original form. On "God Is With Us", originally recorded by Amy Grant, Hall shares lead vocal duties with the band's female members. "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" is an instrumental piece, which makes extensive use of DeVevo's violin playing. "Away in a Manger" was originally included on WOW Christmas (2005), and is included on Peace on Earth in that form.
The album's lead single, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day", peaked at number three on the BillboardChristian Songs chart and number one on the Hot Christian AC chart; it also became the band's first and only entry on the Adult Contemporary chart, peaking at number twenty-six. Several other songs from the album also charted; "Away in a Manger" charted in 2005 following its appearance on WOW Christmas, peaking at number seven on the Christian Songs and Hot Christian AC chart. "While You Were Sleeping" peaked at number eight on the Christian Songs chart and number four on the Hot Christian AC chart, and "Joy to the World" peaked at number twenty-two on the Christian Songs chart.
Upon its release, Peace on Earth met with a mixed reception from music critics. Jared Johnson of Allmusic gave the album 4.5 out of 5 stars, praising it for its "wide appeal" and for having "a cohesive set of songs that brings out the worship aspect of the holidays" and particularly praising "While You Were Sleeping" and "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel". Andrew Greer of CCM Magazine gave it 3 out of 5 stars, regarding it as a let-down in comparison to the band's previous albums as well as holiday albums that other artists had put out. Russ Breimier of Christianity Today gave it 2 out of 5 stars, describing it as "predictable". However, he praised "While You Were Sleeping" as an example of Mark Hall's "bold, poignant songwriting". Tony Cummings of Cross Rhythms gave the album a perfect 10 out of 10 stars, saying that it "bucks all the trends in that it doesn't contain saccharine, sleigh bell-drenched arrangements nor those ghastly songs about Santa and chestnuts roasting in an open fire" and praising it as an "inventive and on occasions brilliant exploration of the wonders of the incarnation". Justin Mabee of Jesus Freak Hideout gave the album 3 out of 5 stars, praising the traditional Christmas songs on the album but criticizing the original songs as having a "forced feel to them, almost like Casting Crowns wanted to do a whole album of traditional songs, but were told differently"; he remarked that "this would have probably worked better, because the originality is lacking in these few original Christmas tunes".
At the 40th GMA Dove Awards, Peace on Earth was nominated for and received the award for Christmas Album of the Year.