Today’s Bible reading

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
   and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” — Luke 2:8-14

More thoughts for meditation

And on earth peace…this is the great yearning of our God – for peace among us.  We grieve God with all our fighting, personal and political. Christians are people who carry the good news of peace, of love for enemies, of reconciliation. We serve the Prince of Peace.  It’s a tall order.  In Advent, we remember again the announcement that the angels made about the culmination of love in a baby who invades our violent world and bears the full weight of its destruction for us. We need to remember again and again when we may feel the urge to dominate or win the argument or exercise our rights or a thousand other titles we give to this part of us that seeks our own way.  Peace the angels declared.  We sing it over and over at Christmas.  Will we dare to live into a new day in which we live peacefully?

When Edmund Hamilton Sears (1810-1876) wrote the Christmas carol, “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear,” he wanted to draw our attention to the angels’ declaration of peace. It was 1849 in Massachusetts and the strife that would soon become the Civil War was brewing across the U.S.  Notice the full lyrics below.  This is the one popular carol that doesn’t bother to mention the Savior’s birth!  He focuses solely on the peace of the message that contrasts with the war that rages so readily on earth.  He’s pointing out the contrast.  This carol has been called one of the earliest social gospel hymns written in the U.S. because of this focus on peace. All the verses of this radical call for peace are rarely sung. That’s a shame because it captures God’s longing for peace and the tremendous loss we bear in our warring. Let’s hear the angels sing this Advent.

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth
To touch their harps of gold!
Peace on the earth, good will to all,
From heaven’s all gracious King!
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come
With peaceful wings unfurled
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hovering wing.
And ever o’er its Babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world hath suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love song which they bring:
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
whose forms are bending low,
who toil along the climbing way
with painful steps and slow,
look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
and hear the angels sing!

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When, with the ever-circling years,
Shall come the Age of Gold;
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And all the world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

Suggestion for Action

Where might God long for peace in your life?  Listen to this shortened version and ask God this question.