THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST PART 6
PEACE ON EARTH GOOD WILL AMONG ME
Watching over their flock by night, the shepherds suddenly raised their eyes up to the heavens in astonishment . They were very much afraid at what their eyes beheld. Beauty such as never been seen before, glad tidings of the angels of great joy never heard before, light so brilliant that was never seen before, a glimpse into the heavenly world never experienced before, and they gazed momentarily into a world extremely beautiful, beyond description. They listened as dazzling angelic powers, with harmonious and sweet voices never heard before, poured forth words of gladness and great joy, as together the whole choir of angels together sang a new song:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good will among men!”
As the shepherds listened and watched in awe, they immediately obeyed the words of the angels and prepared to go to Bethlehem, but let us meditate on the first words of these holy Christmas angels: “Peace on earth . . ."There are many forms of peace, but this peace, declared by the angels, is unique, unknown to most people. Where fighting, quarreling, and bellicose attitudes exist, there can be never be peace. Where there is anger, strife, jealous, envy, lying, stealing, fornication, adultery, drunkenness and every form of evil, there can be no peace. Christmas will fill us with its proper meaning when we begin to understand these first words that came down from heaven to announce that the Christ is come: “Peace on earth . . .”
Peace declared by the angels, was often spoken of by our Lord in His preaching to the multitudes and to His disciples: “Jesus stood in their midst, and says unto them: Peace be unto you” (John 20:19). Following the true Christ in the true Church, in Orthodox services, we frequently hear these words: “peace be with you”.
In heaven-like Paradise on earth, there was continuous harmony, peace and serenity, without wild animals, storms or other evils, for danger and evil were unknown in Paradise. Man was in complete harmony with creation and at total peace with God, and warfare was unknown. But when the rebellious and wicked Devil, who hates peace and goodness, and is in a constant state of war against God, appeared in the form of a serpent and deceived man, then sadly, man followed the Devil, causing a state of war to exist between man and God. The state of war deadens the existence of and even the idea of peace, for rebellion against the law of God, always causes hoped for peace to vanish. Disobedience to the commandments, and obedience to the enemy of God and man, foments animosity and the resultant warfare. Disobedience also destroys the natural love and reverence of man toward God. For this reason, Christ the Godman established this truth: “If you love, me keep my commandments,” which are law to Orthodox Christians. Keeping all of Christ’s commandments halts all hostilities and cause man’s soul to be in peaceful and harmonious heavenly joy. Peace with God transports our souls and spirits to heaven where we join the heavenly hosts to sing: Allleluia!
With a careful look into divine Scripture, we will find out how every sin, even the smallest, has the potential to break the peace, and establish war between God and ourselves. Why does God make laws? We should first ask, why does man make laws? Man establishes laws for the good of society, for orderly life, including transportation, police, ambulance and fire services. For shopping, traveling, roadways are formed, and may other things are done. Human laws are meant for the health, safety, and tranquility of the people, so that they may live peacefully with each other, helping and respecting one another. Laws are usually beneficial, even though there are at times some good laws and some not so good laws. Laws are meant to protect everyone and bestow everything good upon the populace.
God makes laws to develop virtues in those who choose freely to obey and love Him. Laws made by God are flawless and perfect laws, and the justice of implementing of these laws is flawless and perfect justice. Why did God make laws? To accomplish his plan and to put His it into operation, this is the main reason for His laws. Laws are only made for free people and free people must heed the laws, which are for our their own good, given by God’s whose duty is to give laws to us. On the other hand, our duty is to obey every law of God. Christ made this clear when He taught that whoever breaks of His least commandments (laws), breaks them all. The divine law has wonderful rewards beyond description and penalties which are inescapable and deadly. This is why the divine laws ought to be taught everywhere, known and observed by all men.
God’s plan is a non-mysterious mystery, revealed to some, but unknown and mysterious to others. For this reason, the Orthodox church frequently sings: “Lord, I have heard the mystery of your plan.” It is found in the commandments: “Be holy for I am holy.” Be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect. It is found in the perfect example that God demonstrated by His Son and Logos Christ: “Come unto me all you that labor who are heavily laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and humble in my heart, and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”.
“Learn, all who desire eternal life, from me and observe how you must behave, for I am your God, but I am meek and humble in my heart. Christ’s main purpose for coming into the world is to bring us up to heaven and everlasting life, avoiding condemnation to where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. He became a man to bring the only important peace, peace between God and man. When we sin, it is like a declaration of war against God, the benevolent and peaceful God, who never wars against man, for He alone is the only Lover of man.
Each time we sin, we are censured, providing we have not grown callous, by our conscience, which is nothing other than the voice of God within us, which censures our sins and praises our good deeds. This is why we feel bad about the former and are gladdened by the latter. Christmas is a good time to decide not to live as we have if we have been living in sin. Do not be anxious, for God will accept our sincere faith and repentance. Indeed, heaven is filled with repentant sinners who have repented, and have been baptized into the true Church and put on the true Christ, then entered the struggle to become holy, as He is holy.
In the manger we will soon see the only sinless one as new born babe, lying peacefully, beckoning in His innocence that we become like Him. He teaches us to become like innocent children and then to come to Him, for children do not challenge, but learn from others. We cannot challenge Christ, His Church or His commandments without suffering loss of peace. Let us ask the infant Christ to grant us the true peace which comes from above, the peace that you gave to your disciples!
As we look upon the infant Jesus in the manger,
Let us not only admire his infant sweetness.
But look ahead to His terrible death on the Cross,
By which He conquered death, to give us immortality,
For death is put to death, we have become immortal;
Let us heed the call to repentance and proceed forth,
To the banquet which, by suffering He prepared.
Here is the food unknown to those not hungry,
His own Flesh and Blood prepared for the faithful
Who approach the cup with repentance and fear,
For whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood,
Will live and never die, being the food of immortality!