Luke 2:14 – “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
What did the angels mean when they proclaimed these words of hope so many years ago? The common misconception is that the message was one of peace between man and man, and that the angels were sending a passive greeting of encouragement from Heaven for war-torn mankind. When we meditate upon the words “peace on earth”, the common observation is that we can all live on this planet in a war-free environment. Is that what the angels were trying to convey to the lowly shepherds so many years ago, on that first special Christmas Eve?
Many times in history, man has faced the possibility of extinction based on the premise of self-annihilation as a result of war. As a result of our fallen condition, we have an inherent ability to perpetually create conflict. The rationale behind each conflict, whether as individuals or as a state, can be generalized by two words: self-preservation. It is a terrible thing to be in the midst of a war, with no sign of truce in the near future. The common acceptable resolve behind conflict is to establish an armistice that will eventually lead to everlasting peace.
In order to enter into successful peace negotiations, each party involved in the conflict must offer certain concessions, or, in some cases, be offered an unconditional surrender. There may be some compromise between parties, depending on the extent of hostilities. The result of such negotiations is what is commonly called a treaty. A treaty is a legally binding document signed by both parties in conflict. The treaty outlines the conditions and settlements under which peaceful cohabitation can exist.
Since the rebellion of man in the Garden of Eden, man has been separated and at enmity with God. The proponent of separation is that of Sin. The consequences of such a terminal state have eternal implications. God in His mercy has made concessions for atonement through the sacrificial system of the Law. This temporal ritual only covered sin; it did not remove it. How could God redeem mankind? How could He effectively administer righteous justice reserved for a deserving foe, yet ultimately restore him to the equitable position of friend? How could He re-establish innocence and impute righteousness that would allow the kind of intimacy that God had ordained from the very beginning? There must be an infallible concession made for the establishment of everlasting peace!
An entourage of angels were dispatched from heaven with a divine decree to proclaim to the world an offering of peace! God humbled Himself before His own creation, to present an offering of Armistice, one that if accepted, would result in everlasting peace. The heralding angels also proclaimed some of the preliminary conditions and settlements that would legitimize this Holy treaty.
The specifics of the treaty would include: (Luke 2:10 – 2:12, KJV) good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people, For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
This divine act of agape love inspired a multitude of heavenly host to marvel, and as a result, offer up magnificent and wondrous praise to God for His love for man. (Luke 2:13&14, KJV) And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'”
The magnitude and depth of God’s love for man is presented here with such majestic authenticity. The human mind of natural man cannot conceive of such grace-induced divine affection. Man purposely turned his back on God, yet God pursued. He offered to a fallen, dark world His own Son, to become the infallible foundation of a most glorious and divine treaty. (John 3:16) For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
And so it was on that very first Christmas Eve. God came down to romance His creation. The angels proclaimed His magninimous truce before all men, and thirty-three years later He would ratify this treaty covenant with the blood of His own Son. (Colossians 1:20) Through the Son, then, God decided to bring the whole universe back to Himself. God made peace through His Son’s blood on the cross, and so brought back to Himself all things, both on earth and in heaven.
As you read your Christmas greeting cards this year, meditate upon the words peace on earth. I pray that they will bring you peaceful illumination as to the wonder, majesty, and love of the God who humbled Himself to pursue humankind. As the angels proclaimed all those years ago, “Glory to God in the highest”, and on earth everlasting peace between man and his God.