The Twenty-fifth Day of December
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!’
“Peace among those whom he favors.” So here is the question as we listen to this text; do the angels speak peace upon those who have earned favor in God’s sight or upon those whom God has chosen to bless wit his favor? And if the latter, are they certain people – the poor, the vulnerable, the faithful in Israel upon whom God has decided to show favor? Or is God declaring his favor upon all humanity?
The Greek won’t answer that question. We have to decide based upon everything else we have learned in the scriptures and in Jesus. Is God partisan? Or is God universal? And don’t get sidetracked by whether everyone will be “saved”, the question here is about God. Is the good news for all creation or only for some select few?
You can build a religious system based upon the privilege of a few, or your can build a faith and way of life based on God’s mercy to all.
Privilege is so seductive. Who doesn’t want to be one of the few who will merit the gates of heaven? Who doesn’t want to imagine that we are special? We are, indeed, special in God’s eyes – but if everyone is special, how can I feel morally or religiously superior? No, we want to be among the insiders. We want to know that we are better than.
This is why it is so important that the first to hear the song of the angels were shepherds. They were not “better than”. These are not noble shepherds caring for their sheep. These are poor people who must be away from their families. They are viewed suspiciously as cheats and thieves who graze on land that belongs to others or who will take advantage of a lone traveler passing by. These are people who are not home at night to protect the honor of their wives and daughters. These are people from the wrong side of the tracks. These are ‘those people’, undeserving people.
But it is to these that the angelic announcement comes. As it comes to Zechariah and Elizabeth. As it comes to Mary, a peasant girl in a backwater town. As it comes to Simeon and Anna in the temple. As it comes to the poor and outcast and stranger throughout the gospels.
The angels are bearing testimony to the God who shows grace to us all, who announces peace to the whole creation, who invites us to go to Bethlehem and see, who invites us to walk in the way of peace.
All earth and heaven have their beginning and end in you, O God;
you are our source and goal.
Fill our hearts with your Spirit,
and guide our steps in the way of that day
when Christ shall reign in every heart
and all creation shall dwell in your peace.
– The prayer for Week 4: A Journey towards Peace
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Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:NASA-Apollo8-Dec24-Earthrise.jpg NASA/Bill Anders [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons