December 12: Luke 2:8-14: Peace

The appearance of the angels to the shepherds in the field near Bethlehem is one of the most familiar events in the Christmas story. Several Christmas carols highlight this event, and the characters appear in most nativity scenes. Still, to me the story is a little puzzling. I have little first hand, personal experience with shepherds, sheep, or angels!

At first one angel appears to the shepherds, and he acknowledges they are probably frightened by his revelation. Certainly I would be afraid if an angel appeared to me. The angel's good news is the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. He describes Jesus as the Messiah, the Lord, and Savior. Before the shepherds can begin to comprehend this first announcement, a large choir of angels start to sing. The angels praise God and the arrival of peace for "those whom he favors" (NRSV). You probably know the rest of the story: the angels visit Jesus, Mary, and Joseph and then begin to proclaim the good news to everyone they meet.

I wonder how the shepherds understood the peace brought by the Messiah. Perhaps they knew the Messiah would be the "Prince of peace" (Isaiah 9:6). Recent historians describe this first century time period as the "Roman peace," since most of the Roman world was peaceful. The Jews, however, resisted Roman rule. The Jewish Zealots even agitated for a violent revolution to overthrow the hated Romans.

What type of peace do you want in your life today? Paul assured us that the salvation we experience in Christ will give us a peace that surpasses all human comprehension (Philippians 4:7). Most of us experience conflict with other humans at times. We all need to experience Jesus as the source of genuine peace for our world.

Warren McWilliams