in the highest,
and on earth peace
to men on whom
his favor rests.
Luke 2:14 (NIV)
We may pause amid this season’s bustle and reflect on familiar words–yet a bit unfamiliar in recent versions which bring out the Christmas message. Peace is rooted in God’s favor, in his grace. Peace comes through God’s act of sending the Christ for the purpose of bringing salvation to many. Peace dwells in the household of faith. For all this we with the angels may truly utter praise, “Glory to God . . .”
The clear note of the gospel is muffled by the phrase “‘men of goodwill’ [which] ought to disappear entirely from Bible translations and Christmas meditations!” (NIDNT). And we ought not to muffle the message. For multitudes, there is no peace, only dread. Many long to hear tidings of comfort and joy, and to partake of that peace that passes understanding, singing with the redeemed, “peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!”
The Faithful (O Come, All Ye . . .) will declare these tidings to their neighbor. God’s gift of peace is intimately joined with obedience to all that our Lord Jesus Christ commands (Isaiah 48:18), including his call to us to be his witnesses. At Christmas, opportunities abound for sharing with those in darkness tidings of the Prince of Peace.
For those in darkness, George Fox was clear about the first step to peace:
I directed them to the Divine Light of Christ . . . by which Light they might see their sin and also their Saviour Christ Jesus to save them from their sins. This I told them was their first step to peace . . .
We, too, must be clear about this. Where “the whole world is in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19), and where peddlers abound selling panaceas for peace, we must declare:
Peace is not bought but brought;
not gotten but given;
not “hyped” but hidden.
And for them that have faith,
faith in the only Son begotten of
the promise is fulfilled–
“May grace and peace be multiplied to you” (1 Peter 1:2), and through you this Christmas.
–First published in Quaker Life, December, 1985. Here is one way to share the Christmas story with others.