Peace on Earth
Peace on Earth
Many of the melodies we sing at this time of year reflect a longing in our hearts that was proclaimed to terrified shepherds at the time of Jesus' birth. It resonates so deeply that cease-fires are called on Christmas Day around the world. That proclamation was, "Peace on Earth" and the yearning for it continues.
Yet how ludicrous to proclaim peace in the midst of Roman oppression! And how exponentially more ludicrous to sing it year after year in our world of war and turmoil? We could mourn with the great poet, Longfellow, who penned the haunting, "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.'" Longfellow comes around to rejoicing, and I certainly join with him in the joy of knowing that one final day "the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, goodwill to men." Yet, that final day of peace was not all the angels were proclaiming and rejoicing in when they sang out, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men" (Luke 2:14).
The angels were filled with the ecstasy of proclaiming that the event that would bring to all creation the revelation of the glory of God had been set in motion. The glory of God was that He Himself would make a way for peace between Himself and man. Although the day on which they made the proclamation was the day of the birth of Jesus, but they were looking ahead to the most glorious day, the day on which God Himself would make the way for man, who had been separated for all eternity from Him, to return to Him. He would work salvation for us and make the path of peace possible. Though we had been enemies to Him by the great rebellion enacted by Adam, we would now be made His friends through the sacrifice of Jesus' death.
Truly, peace had come to earth. But not peace between peoples or powers or individuals - this peace was far more valuable, far more lasting - it was peace with God. And by creating the way for peace Himself, He demonstrated His great love and the glory of God was made visible for all to behold.
Peace came and has been made available, but though it is available to all, not all enter in to it. A better rendering of the proclamation the angels made is not the one we sing so often, but is found in the English Standard Version: "'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!'" (Luke 2:14, emphasis mine). Although God's glorious gift is visible to all, peace belongs only to those who have accepted the gift of His Son as their means of peace with God.
Everywhere we go this time of year we see and hear the hope of peace: on cards, in stores and sung over loud speakers. Yet, apart from God alone, the peace we will find here on earth will be as temporal as the one day cease fire called on the 25th of December. God has so much more for us than a one day peace -- or a someday peace. He has an everyday peace and an eternal peace to offer. And this way to peace was born in a manger in a world in as much crisis as we now find ours. He Himself is our peace (Eph 2:14) as we invite Him to be our Lord.
"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…. 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 5:1, 10