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?Continue reading
4th Sunday Advent lesson, originally published December of 2011.
In Luke 2 the sky was filled with the heavenly host proclaiming the gospel of peace to a few lowly shepherds. Last week, Joy, was about the shepherds. They found the baby as the angels had said, and went out of Bethlehem rejoicing and praising God. This week we celebrate Peace and light the Angels’ Candle. Continue reading
Today is the 4th Sunday of Advent. Let’s begin with a review. The first Sunday of the Advent season was Hope, and we lit the candle of Prophecy. The second Sunday was Faith, and we lit the Bethlehem candle. The third Sunday was Joy, and we lit the Shepherd’s candle. Today is the Sunday of Peace, and we will light the Angel’s candle.
Luke chapter 2 tells the story of the angels appearing to the shepherds as they watched their flock. On the third Sunday we focus on the joy the shepherds experience as they hear the good news and then find the baby lying in a manger. On this day, our focus is on the angels themselves, and their delivering the message of peace; specifically “peace on earth, good will toward men.” If you read Rethinking the Angelic Choir, it’s ironic that the angels singing about peace and were probably all holding swords. There are plenty of anti-war demonstratorsthat will quickly tell you peace cannot be brought with a gun; that peace is not brought with violence. In Scripture, however, peace is brought with violence. There cannot be peace as long as Satan is deceiving the nations. He and his demonic forces are the enemies of peace. God will cast Satan and all his followers, human and angelic, into the lake of fire. After His righteous judgement, death and hell will be cast into the lake of fire, and then Jesus will rule the nations… with peace. Recall the prophecy of Isaiah:
To us a child is born, to us a son is given; the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighy God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end… -Isaiah 9:6-7
At his first appearing (or advent) Jesus did not come to bring peace. He came to offer himself as a sacrifice, in order to reconcile us to God. Read Ephesians 2:13-22, which I saw tonight in a whole new light. This may be the best one paragraph summation of the Gospel anywhere in scripture. It explains the sacrificial work done by Jesus Christ and his relationship to the Father and Spirit perhaps better than any other single text. At his next appearing, however, Jesus will not come as a baby in a manger. He will be riding a white horse and wielding a sword. He came before to be our sacrificial lamb; He will back as a concurring king. At his first appearing, he became the savior to all nations; at his next, he will judge the nations.
Even as we celebrate the Advent of Jesus Christ, let us be found spreading the Gospel message and preparing for his second appearing. That is our hope of peace.
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babywrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 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 among those with whom he is pleased!”(Luke 2:8-14, ESV)
When we read any type of narrative, it is normal to picture how we think the scene might have looked in the mind’s eye. There are numerous portraits of Jesus, the Apostles, Joseph and Mary, Old Testament characters, and so forth, but the only thing we know for certain is that we do not know what any of these people looked like. Some things we do know; Jesus did not have blue eyes. When artists of the Renaissance created Biblical portraits, they unashamedly made the characters look like twelfth century Europeans. We can accurately predict Jesus would have been short, dark skinned, dark eyed, and looked very Hebrew. Scripture teaches he looked pretty much the same as every other adult Jewish male of his time. Just like there are certain things we know are not exactly right about the most popular images of Jesus, we can safely say that certain artistic liberties have been taken with the portrayal of angels. Continue reading