Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Luke 2:14 (KJV)
We are in Advent, that season of the church year when we take a special look at our lives, repenting of all we have done wrong, of all which brought Jesus into this world to live, suffer and die.
If memory serves correctly, it is also the time of year when churches and schools begin to get geared up for the children’s Christmas service. Although I can’t find it in Scripture, I believe there is a special spot in heaven reserved for teachers and volunteers who help other people’s children memorize the beautiful words and songs of the Nativity story. Even now I can recall the frustration of our teachers during practice and their beaming faces during the presentation.
Maybe you too can remember the beautiful and familiar words of the angels, which, way back when, we memorized from the King James Version of the Bible. Trying to sound like a heavenly host we shouted, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” The world likes that version –peace on earth, good will toward men. It’s so inclusive. It’s so hopeful.
And it’s so elusive.
That’s right: peace and good will are pretty elusive qualities. Last year, according to FBI statistics, hate crimes in the United States rose a total of 8%. They went up a lot more if you happened to be an individual who stood out from the common. Crimes against homosexuals rose 18%, attacks against Muslims increased 22%, and hostile acts against Catholics went up a full one-third. That’s not the worst of the statistics: Attacks against people with mental disabilities skyrocketed 94%.
Now, we’ve all been told that people are getting better, smarter, more understanding. We’re constantly being convinced that humanity is managing to pull itself up from the brutes we once were. Maybe, but the statistics don’t seem to bear that out.
Peace on earth, good will toward men sounds good on paper, but it’s pretty hard for humanity to come up with a design that really works successfully. Because we are failures at peace and good will, we need to hear the first part of what the angels said the night they appeared to some Bethlehem shepherds. You know the words: “Unto you is born a Savior, Christ the Lord.”
Only in the Savior can we be given God’s forgiveness of past transgressions; only in the Savior is there peace; only in Him do we receive God’s good will.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, be with those who are hated and persecuted. Let us as Christians try to hinder humankind’s hatred, and promote the power of Your great love. In Your Name, I ask it. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries