Peace On Earth?
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths 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, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
That has got to be just about the scariest passage in the Bible. Seriously. It’s a triumphant proclamation and, I admit, I’d like to see the sky filled with angels . . . Or would I? Actually, there’s not much that would be scarier. Just one angel was enough to light up the sky around the shepherds. How bright would a thousand angels be? How awesome and loud would their shouting be? That would be frightening. But all of that noise and commotion pales in comparison to their completely troubling message.
As if it’s not enough to be aroused by the angels in all their glory, their message is that the Messiah was just born in Bethlehem. That’s huge! Every good Sabbath keeper and regular at the local synagogue surely had an inkling that Messiah would be King over Israel. He would save them from the oppression of Rome and surely bring prosperity back to God’s people. What a night of shock and awe! They were shocked by the angels and this was followed by the awe of witnessing Messiah in the flesh. It would take days for that kind of rush to totally fade. What a night.
Looking back at this night as a Christian, however, this is a truly frightening event. We now know that Messiah or as we more often call Him, Christ is more than another king on the lines of David or Solomon. After all the impression one gets is that the wisdom of the day was that Messiah would combine the best of David and Solomon into unprecedented glory and wealth and power for Israel. Even though that’s true after a fashion, it obviously is not accurate depiction of who Christ is.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Now that is scary. A sky full of angels proclaiming that God has been born on earth. We lose that during Christmastime. We focus our attention on the cuteness of the baby lying in that long ago, far away manger. We are so attached to our traditions that we are easily offended by the thought that Jesus may not have been born in a stable but instead in a crowded home or maybe a cave. Joseph was a quiet man. Mary was young and beautiful. Jesus was so good that he slept all the way through the night. Christmas is the time of year for warm fuzzies singing about joy and peace on earth.
Rubbish! Not to be the bearer of bad tidings during this most wonderful time of the year but there is no peace on earth. There is less joy than in years past and that’s not just a baby lying there. That’s GOD! I can’t think of anything more frightening than coming face to face with God. With a Word He created the heavens and the earth. With a few more words, he created the rest of the universe and all that’s in it. That’s no little ball of joy in that manger. That’s living dynamite!
All bets are off now. As Jesus grew up, and began His ministry, He let everyone who was listening know that He was God. He’s human too, of course(we get that), but He’s God nonetheless. He let us know that He is the only Way to salvation. He is the only way to peace. In Him we may find joy. All because He is God. Yes that is Good News. It is also scary. Because of all of this, there’s no wiggle room. There’s no room for saying, “That’s just what you say, Chris. I believe differently.” Look. I try not to be overly dramatic. I don’t use scare tactics because they don’t generally work. I do my best to merely tell the truth about Jesus Christ and trust in the Holy Spirit to do the real work. The problem is though, that if you dismiss the Gospel that says that Jesus is the son of God who died for you and now lives for you so that you may have eternal life by just believing in Him, then I hope you like toast. Because that’s what you are. I love you and Jesus loves you more, but that is the honest truth. Like I keep saying, this is scary stuff.
It’s also scary to be a believer. What if the message I deliver to someone prevents them from accepting the Gospel? Did I say it correctly? Is what I believe actually the Gospel? Was I too forceful in my delivery? Was I not forceful enough? Am I doing what God wants me to do with my life in order to spread His Gospel? I think I do a pretty good job most of the time. But I also know that I am a sinner and do all thing imperfectly. Frankly I lean on God’s grace and hope to do better tomorrow. That’s all I can do.
I confess that the scariest thing I can think of is being face to face with God. I call myself a Charismatic Evangelical, so I don’t think I’m supposed to say something like that but it’s true. I talk and write about having a “personal relationship with Jesus” blah blah blah. How that normally plays out for believers is that we read and study our Bibles, we pray and we do our best to be guided by the Holy Spirit in all things. The miraculous happens and we know that we are in the presence of God and that is an awesome thing! I only know of one person who has talked with Jesus face to face, however. I’ve been with him as it has happened and therefore I do not doubt his word a bit. I admit to a twinge of envy at his experiences, but still, the thought of it also scares the begeezers out of me. But then, I used to be deathly afraid of heights too. Then one day a friend of mine and I decided to climb down a cliff on to Mendenhaul Glacier just outside of Juneau, Alaska. Well, Lars decided it was a good idea and I followed. I faced that fear and am the better for it. Maybe I’ll talk to God tonight.