Monday, October 5, 2020

If the Christmas angels heralded peace on earth, why are we still not having the peace that was proclaimed?

Each Christmas, we hear the dulcet tones of Christmas carols.  Quite many of the traditional carols depict the Christmas angels appearing to the poor shepherds in the fields tending to their sheep, and proclaiming the great news that the Messiah is born in Bethlehem, and that because of this, there will be peace to men of goodwill.  These words come directly from the infancy narrative found in Luke 2.

Well, we are 2000 years from that watershed event in human history, and one can easily argue that the heavenly announcement appears to be something like ‘fake news’, because from the birth of the Messiah till now, the world had been experiencing more times of war and violence than it has of peace and tranquility.  Did the angels bring false hope?  We know that angels are not messengers of lies and deceit, so what gives?  Is there something that we do not or have not yet fully understood?  Was there something that was more hidden than obvious, perhaps even cryptic in their message that we have missed?  

The mystery of the incarnation is definitely good news for sinful humanity, because it opened up the only path that we sinners have toward heaven.  And it is also good news when we are promised peace in and through this child.  But there is a caveat that we bypass easily when we read the gospel texts of the infancy narratives, and when we sing those familiar Christmas songs.  It is the part that says that peace will be given, but not to all and sundry.  It is given to men of goodwill. Some manuscripts have this translated as “… in whom God is pleased.”

Christ’s incarnation is not magic, in that the moment he was born, the world automatically stopped being violent and suddenly had a miraculous change of heart from one that was hardened through warfare and violence, into a softened and tenderized heart that was kind, forgiving, and full of charity.  There is an imperative to be persons of goodwill before the peace of Christ has any effect on us.  There is, as it were, a certain condition that needs to be met before this universal peace is enjoyed and experienced, and the condition is that we need to be living lives that are identified with this child of Bethlehem.  

That Christ is the model of goodness and forgiveness and charity is a consistent teaching of Christianity, where Jesus isn’t only seen as a good person, not only as a moral person, but as divine and as such, worthy of true adoration and worship.  

Certainly, the message that the angelic heralds proclaimed on that first Christmas morning was meant for all, but just like anything that we are physically given, if we have our hands full of other things and excess baggage, it’s going to be very hard for us to not only receive what the divine infant wants to give, but to hold on to them for life as well.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians gives us such an evocative description of the necessity of humility that the Son of God embraced when he took on human form where he emptied himself for our sake.  Our entire spiritual life is going to be a struggle to do a similar emptying or kenosis.  Would that it was as simple as dropping our heavy bags at some doorway to walk straight in to embrace whatever God wills for us.  But there would be little effort in this kind of one swift action.  We will always realize that the moment we identify and drop one bag, we will be aware of another satchel of some attachment that calls us to live for ourselves and less for God and others.

Being people of goodwill is ultimately being people of God’s will.  We pray for the ability to live this out every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer, where we start off by asking that God’s kingdom come, and God’s will be done.  We know it is ultimately what is best for us, but we somehow hope that our will be done before God’s.  

The angelic promise of peace to all mankind is a promise that God will fulfill, but he certainly isn’t going to force it down our throats at any rate.  It is a peace that only can come when we are people who have a heart of goodwill to want God’s will above all, and at all costs. 

No comments:

Post a Comment