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“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:14 (NIV)

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

The familiar Christmas Carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” came from a poem penned on December 25, 1864, by Henry Lonfellow amidst one of the worst periods in United States history, the Civil War. His inspiration came as he heard the bells ringing in a nearby church.

Later, Longfellow pens two stanzas of the poem that hymn writers chose to exclude when the poem was put to the familiar tune we know it as.

Then from each black accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

One can’t blame the poet for the injection of these mournful words. In the previous year he’d lost his dearly loved wife in a fire, and his son became a victim of war.

Peace on earth?

Hardly.

Goodwill towards men?

The Civil War made enemies out of brothers.

Still, Longfellow ends his poem with:

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

‘Peace on Earth; Goodwill towards men’ still eludes us. The news is full of horrific tales of violence mankind pits against one another. Only the most horrific acts gain media attention. Behind the scenes of mass murder and natural disasters are family members abusing one another; accidents claiming the lives of young fathers and mothers and children; disease taking lives of people all too soon.

So where is the peace that Longfellow fell back on as he closed his poem that dark Christmas Day? Where is the peace the Angels sang of on that dark hillside outside Jerusalem?

Like the Angels, Longfellow knew what we must never forget. ‘Peace on earth; Goodwill towards men’ will never be dictated by a politicians mandate, a hefty retirement account, a fulfilled relationship or healthy eating/exercise regimen. Peace and goodwill always has been, and always will be a state of mind that transcends the tragedies of life, and based on faith in Jesus Christ.

God’s favor, his peace rests on those who rest in him. Tragedies will come. Horrific acts of violence will happen. Innocent lives will be taken far too soon. But right will prevail. Jesus has promised us that he will be with us always, even in the midst of the storm.

The Angel song of honor reminds us that God’s kingdom of peace has a present reality to those who follow Jesus, and a future hope when he returns for his own.

PRAYER: Father, I pray for those who are struggling with a variety of hurt and anguish today. Evil seems to have engulfed us of late. Help us, even in the midst of tragedy to feel your peace here on earth. Amen.


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.” Luke 2:13-14

It’s important to remember that angels, while possessing some supernatural powers, aren’t omniscient or all powerful, as the Father God is. While we know little about them, we do know that they exist simply to be God’s messengers, God stewards. They, like us can’t see into the future like the Father can so they rely on the signs and wonders of God in the same way that we do.

Some believe that God created the Heavens and the earth, then angels. But something was missing. He saw the earth, he saw the universe, he saw all the life he’d created and still longed for one thing to make his world complete. That’s why he came up with the idea of man. Once Man was created he realized that man needed a partner, someone he too could love. So he created woman. A beautiful union of love, respect and teamwork came from that marvelous creation…until the fall damaged it with sin of course.

Can you imagine what the angels were doing all through history? They saw Adam’s power, courage and valor. They marveled at Eve’s beauty, quiet strength, devotion and compassion. No doubt they shuttered when the couple chose to willfully disobey their master. After all, they saw his power, his majesty and his love better than mortal man could.

Then there was Jesus. Our mortal minds can’t wrap around Jesus. He was there of course, all through the Old Testament years. He was God’s son. I wonder if they called him Junior? Okay, maybe a stretch, but it’s important to realize that the angels knew Jesus long before he became a baby in the manger. They knew him their creator. They saw his power and majesty as all throughout the history of the world he tended to the affairs of God’s kingdom.  He was God’s son. He was deity, he was the King!

The Angels most likely knew from the start that God had a plan to bring mankind back into the relationship he’d had in the garden. They’d seen him walk with Adam and Eve. Perhaps he even told them something like, “When I’m walking with them I don’t want to be disturbed.” The Angels learned about God’s extreme love by watching his relationship with mankind.

It’s no wonder then that the angels burst into praise and wonderment when they saw Jesus in the manger. We saw a baby, a tiny helpless, dependent infant. The angels saw an almighty, all powerful Creator God taking on human flesh. Now that he was there the angels knew things would be different. They praised God not only for this plan, but for the adventure that lay ahead for mankind.

PRAYER: All praise and honor to you almighty Father! The reality that you became mere man so that we could learn to love you is beyond my comprehension. Thank you for loving me enough to stoop to my level so I can rise in your strength. Amen.

 

 

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