When a multitude of the heavenly host appeared to a group of shepherds out in the field, they proclaimed “Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men.” Someone may take a critical look at the world today and ask “Where is it? I don’t see peace on Earth.” The first thing we need to do is examine what this group of messengers were really saying. The full text of Luke 2:14 is “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Your translation of choice may not include among those with whom he is pleased so let’s not even go there. These angels are worshipping. They proclaim Glory to God in the highest which we do not see everywhere in the world today. The creation points to God’s glory but the majority of people walking the face of the earth do not acknowledge God. The angels were announcing the birth of the Messiah/Christ so peace on earth could be similar to Jesus himself saying “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” He certainly was. So the angels did not prophesy in so many words “There is going to be peace on earth” or “from now on there will be peace on earth and goodwill everywhere you look.” But I still want to address these two questions: Is there or can there be peace on earth? Will there ever be peace over the whole earth?
Peter writes that God is able to punish the wicked and save the righteous at the same time and he gives a few examples in 2nd Peter 2:4-10. When God destroyed the earth by flood he saved Noah and his family. Lot and his family were saved from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. We could add Daniel in the lions’ den or the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace. In the midst of destruction they were in the hedges of God’s protection, a bubble of grace and mercy untouched by what was going on around them. We can have peace in a world that does not. When the disciples were frantically baling water from their boat, certain they were all going to die, Jesus was asleep. They woke him up and asked if he cared they were all perishing. He spoke to the wind and the waves and the storm ceased. He could sleep peacefully knowing that his Father is in control of all things. On another occasion his disciples saw Jesus coming to them walking on water. Peter told him to call him out there if it was really him. Jesus told him to come on and Peter got out of the boat and walked on water himself toward Jesus. When he took his eyes off Jesus, and noticed the wind and waves, he began to sink. Crying out “Lord save me” Jesus took him by the hand and pulled him up. The Apostle Paul tells us to keep our eyes on the mark and the prize. The prize is Jesus and he wants every single one of us to win. We can have peace while the rest of the world falls to pieces.
There will of course be peace on the whole earth when Jesus returns and brings the Kingdom. Believers can have peace now and when old things pass away and all things become new, believers will be all there are in the new Heaven and new Earth. Someday every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. That will usher in an age of peace that we cannot possibly imagine and which will never end.
Colossians 1 is on my short list of favorite passages from scripture. Jesus is described as preeminent, the first born of all creation and the image of the invisible God. Verses 19 and 20 describe not only his incarnate deity but summarize the purpose of his existence:
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
All things are reconciled to him and peace comes by the blood of his cross. Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, restored sight to the blind, miraculous fed thousands but it was all on his way to the cross. Christmas Day is cause for celebration but it’s more than just an incredible story of an unlikely birth. It was the day heaven touched earth. The incarnation is about a God who came to us when we could not get to him. The manger in Bethlehem was the first step on a long painful road that led to Calvary. We can have peace, in this life and the next. He is our peace. He is ours and we are his. I would argue the angels knew exactly what they were talking about.