Peace in Troubled Times
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
Angels appear several times in Luke’s account of the Christmas story, and each time they are greeted by the opposite of peace. Zechariah was startled and gripped with fear, Mary was greatly troubled, and the shepherds were terrified—or “sore afraid” if you prefer the King James Version. These emotions are completely understandable. Angels are holy messengers of a holy God, and sinful human beings have no right to stand in the presence of these heavenly beings or hear the tidings they came to proclaim.
But the first words of assurance spoken by the angels powerfully convey the emotion they sought to instill in Zechariah and Mary and the shepherds: “Do not be afraid.” The message the angels brought that first Christmas was a message of peace, not fear. On the surface, the circumstances surrounding that first Christmas night were anything but peaceful. Mary gave birth to her baby far from home and in unfamiliar surroundings. The Roman government controlled Israel and was not always supportive of Jewish customs and practices. In the near future, Herod would murder the baby boys of Bethlehem to eliminate a perceived challenger to his throne. According to the world’s definition, these were not peaceful times.
Although the world did not recognize it, the birth of this child did bring peace. Ever since the fall into sin, God’s creatures had rebelled against him. By their thoughts, words, actions, and their very existence, they stood in opposition to a just and holy God. The animal sacrifices prescribed by the law could not restore the broken relationship between God and his people. A perfect sacrifice was needed, and that perfect sacrifice was born that night in Bethlehem. Through his death on the cross—the ultimate act of violence—he brought peace and reconciled God and man once more.
Today our world is full of conflict and devoid of peace. From quarrels with those we love to large-scale acts of violence, from worry and strife about the small everyday things to global illness and disease that have turned our lives upside down, peace is sometimes the farthest thing from our minds. We don’t have an angel telling us “don’t be afraid,” but we do have a peace that comes from the Spirit-worked faith in our hearts. We are no longer enemies of God but now are his dearly loved children. No matter what struggle and turmoil we encounter on this earth, we know that the day is coming when we will be at peace forever in heaven. And until that day, we can take comfort in God’s promise that he will work everything for our good—a promise that brings peace even in the midst of conflict and strife.
This peace is not just the absence of trouble and anxiety. It is a way of life, a peace that permeates every fiber of our being, a peace that passes all understanding. It is a peace that reminds us God is in control of every aspect of our lives, even during the most difficult circumstances. It is a peace that a lost and despairing world around us desperately needs. It is a peace too marvelous to keep to ourselves—a peace we are compelled to share with others.
Lord God, peace can be difficult to find these days. The news just keeps getting worse, and peace sometimes seems like a quaint memory from the distant past. Remind us that the angels’ message for the shepherds is a message meant for us too: the baby born in Bethlehem came to bring a different kind of peace; a peace that passes all understanding, an eternal peace that will outlast any conflict and strife in this world. Be with us this Christmas as we seek that peace—not in the things of this world, but in the One who descended to this world and became one of us. Amen.
Written by Kristi Meyer
Provided by WELS Women’s Ministry