The words "Peace on Earth" are repeated every Christmas. We say it, but we don't see it around us. At this very moment explosions and the sounds of gunfire are heard all around the world. In Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, the Sudan and many more countries peace is so far from present reality that it is little more than a quaint fairy tale hope.
If the birth of Christ was intended to bring peace, where is it? Was the promise true? Was it a promise of things in the future or was it a declaration that was true then and now?
To answer these questions requires us to not only understand the meaning of the message of peace proclaimed that first Christmas night, but also the messengers of peace were who proclaimed it-
"Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests." Luke 2:13-14
The message- Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace
The messengers- a great company of the heavenly host
What is a host? It is not a choir. The word in the Greek for "host" is a word for an army, an ordered mass of soldiers. God has an army! He is a God of justice and truth who will ultimately forcefully reclaim this world as His own. (See Revelation 19:11-15).
On that first Christmas night, on that hillside outside outside of Bethlehem, God chose His conquering army to be His messengers of peace. Those who would one day return with Messiah to forcefully reclaim the earth, the greatest, most powerful army in all eternity, on this night appeared to humble shepherds. Appearing to these representatives of rebellious mankind, people deserving of judgment living in opposition to Almighty God, this powerful army laid down their weapons and on this night proclaimed, "Peace."
The peace proclaimed was not a declaration that conflict between men was to suddenly end, with love and hugs all around. The peace proclaimed was Peace with God, restoration of relationship with the God mankind had rejected. For on that night, in the City of David, there was born to us a Savior, who was Christ the Lord.
The promise made that night was true, reaching its ultimate fulfillment when Jesus offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of all. Because of this sacrifice, all can experience true and lasting peace with God.
This Christmas, let us all join with the angels and proclaim the truth of the Good News that is for all. The Prince of Peace has come.
For more on the story of the Shepherds, you can watch a my message on the Shepherds on Vimeo Merry Christmas!