When I was 19 I began teaching two-year olds in Sunday school. A few years later I taught older children. In the years that would pass I taught ladies, young married couples, teenagers and seniors. Each year we would inevitably celebrate Christmas and Easter, generally reading the same passages of scripture each time. It would be very easy to become complacent in studying, so years ago I determined that each year I would search out one new thing to learn about these Christian milestones. This year is no different.
Last week a dear friend gave me a copy of his latest book – a look at the birth of Christ. As I read his writings, I came across a part of the story that has always baffled me — when the angel announced the birth of Christ to the shepherds in the fields that night. Then a multitude of heavenly hosts praise God saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Peace on earth. Or maybe I should say “peace on earth?” I just don’t see it and I’ve never understood it. When the angels proclaimed the message, there wasn’t peace on earth. Historically there have been very few times when there wasn’t at least one war being fought somewhere on the earth. The message came about 2,000 years ago, but the prophecy doesn’t seem to be coming true. Any television news broadcast will tell you about the latest fighting between groups or countries. Greed, hatred and even religion seem to constantly divide us from those around us. If you look closer to home, we see daily conflict and senseless violence in our own city. Are we ever going to see the peace on earth that the angels sang of?
In Matthew, Jesus Himself even tells us we will have tribulation in this world. Yet He goes on to say that He has overcome the world and that in Him we might have peace. The peace He refers to is an inner peace that comes from a right relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. It is a peace that He gives to those who believe in Him; a peace that happens within individuals, not necessarily between countries or people groups or even family members. So how does my inner peace relate to peace on earth?
My “aha moment” this year came as I realized that the peace on earth is my inner peace while on the earth. Though I have tribulations. Though the violence and hatred scream from every headline. Though man seems to continue to destroy those around him in his never ending self-promotion. I don’t have to wait for peace on some future day when I spend eternity in heaven. I have peace now. I have peace here – on earth. No wonder the heavenly host sang out! Finally, we can experience peace while still on this earth.
Glory to God in the highest. Peace (within me, while I’m) on Earth. Good will toward men.
May you, this Christmas like never before, experience your own peace on earth.
If you would like to read more: Backstage at the Manger by Dr. Nelson Price