Peace on Earth!
“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
During the holiday season, we often encounter the phrase "Peace on Earth." It shows up in popular songs such as "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." It appears on banners and Christmas cards. And, of course, we hear it read in church as part of the nativity story in Luke.
On the night Jesus was born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger, an angel appeared to shepherds who were watching their sheep in the nearby fields. The angel announced the birth of the Savior, the Messiah. He told the shepherds that they would find the baby in a manger, a feed trough for animals, of all places. All of a sudden, a multitude of angels gathered, praising God with these now famous words: "Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased" (2:14).
Notice that the angels celebrate peace on earth. At first, this sounds a bit different from the peace that we so often associate with Jesus: peace between us and God, peace in our hearts. Indeed, through the saving work of Christ, we can have peace with God and we can experience the peace "which exceeds anything we can understand" (Phil 4:7).
Yet Christ came to bring an ever more expansive and inclusive peace. His mission was to establish the shalom of God. This is more than inner peace. It is more than the cessation of war. It is even more than reconciliation between us and God. The peace of Christ includes all of these and more. It envisions a cosmos governed by God in which all relationships are fully loving and just. This shalom is centered in a right relationship with God, and it touches everything else in life.
As we celebrate the birth of Jesus today, may we enjoy the peace we have with God through Christ. And may we be given a foretaste of the peace on earth that is yet to come.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In what parts of your life would you like to experience God's peace?
PRAYER: All praise be to you, O God, because you came to dwell among us in Jesus.
All praise be to you, O God, because you have come to give us your peace.
All praise be to you, O God, because you have opened up the way for me to experience peace with you.
All praise be to you, O God, because you give me peace when my heart is troubled.
All praise be to you, O God, because you are in the process of establishing your peace on earth.
May the celebration of the angels fill our hearts today:
"Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased."
P.S. from Mark
If you're looking for a fuller biblical understanding of God's peace, let me point you to a blog series I have written called: Seeking the Peace of Christ.