Night had settled on the Judean hillside outside the little town of Bethlehem. The sheep had bedded down together, each one facing toward the last rays of the setting sun as is customary with sheep. As the darkness deepened, the shepherds may have been relaxing, lying on the ground or leaning against a rock, yet always alert, lest a predator should sneak up.
Suddenly they were brought to full alertness by the appearance of an angel of the Lord enshrined in heavenly light. Fear gripped their hearts, but the angel spoke reassuringly.
“Do not be afraid,” he said, “I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
As suddenly as the first angel had appeared, a multitude of heavenly beings burst through the dark skies in a blaze of glory, praising and exulting God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace among those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14 translated from the Greek)
This does not imply that God’s peace is given to those who have good will, but who are recipients of the good will or favor that He is offering to them. It was for this that the Savior had come to earth as the Prince of Peace. No tidings could have given more cause for jubilation to those who were anticipating the coming of the promised Redeemer than these words spoken by the angels.
When the angels had returned to heaven, darkness once more enveloped the Judean hillside. But greater yet was the darkness of sin that hung over the world, blinding the hearts and minds to the reality of greatest event of all time. The Savior of the world had come, but man failed to recognize Him.
Jesus was born into a world that had turned to worshipping false gods. In man’s mad race for wealth and power, human life had lost its value. The rulers cared little how many people lived or died. The populace lived in fear, hatred, and greed. To such a world as this, the angels brought the glorious message from God that the promised Rescuer had come. To a world that knew no peace, God sent the Prince of Peace.
Two thousand years later, the world is still entrenched in wars and destruction. The drive for power, wealth, and fame continues to rule human thinking. For half a century men have talked of world peace, but we are no closer to achieving it. Man has made tremendous strides in sciences, technology, and in developing every means of destruction imaginable, but despite endless negotiations and peace talks, he is not one iota closer to living in harmony the world over than the people were the night the angels broke through the skies with the glorious news of the birth of the Prince of Peace.
That should be enough to make us realize that it can’t be done. How did man get entrapped in a mess that he can’t undo? For the answer we have to go back to the beginning of Time. God prepared a beautiful world with vegetation and stocked with animals. When all was in readiness, He made man in His own likeness, possessing a soul and spirit, and the ability to communicate with his Creator. To this human pair God gave the responsibility of caring for the earth and all living things.
Man chose rather to take control in his own hands by doing the one thing God told them not to do, to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. By this act of rebellion man indicated his desire to be his own boss. Human nature has not changed. Man is still trying to abolish God and achieve a perfect world on his own.
As we enter the new year, why not take to heart the message of the angels, and give God the honor due Him by turning to Him in repentance and submission and experience the peace for which each human heart yearns. That is the reason Jesus came to earth so long ago.