Peace on Earth

Dec 22, 2015 1337

“And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men…” (Matthew 2:14).

Do you have a sense that the gospel writer is straining to find the words to describe that amazing scene in the fields near Bethlehem?

There were shepherds, sleeping out in the fields to protect their flocks. They probably slept half-awake, alert for hungry wolves hoping for an easy dinner. Perhaps they thought they were dreaming. An angel with a message for all people, tidings of great joy; and he was telling it to a bunch of simple shepherds in a field! A baby had just been born, a Saviour, Christ the Lord. Incredible! But they could see for themselves: they would find the baby wrapped up and sleeping in the stables, in one of the feed boxes. The God of the universe, sleeping in a stable! How unlikely was that!

Just as they were shaking their heads in astonishment, the sky lit up with the glory of God, that “multitude of the heavenly host”, praising God. But perhaps most astonishing of all was not that they were praising God – you’d probably expect that – but their message to the people of this planet was something quieter, more gentle: “peace on earth”.

The Bible story tells us that the shepherds hurried off (perhaps leaving one of their number guarding the sheep) and found Mary and Joseph and the baby, just as the angel had promised. Afterwards, they “spread the word”, and praised God for everything they had seen and heard. They were just shepherds in a field, but to them God gave the message of joy and peace for an entire world.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

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