Peace in a World of Strife

“And there were . . . shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.”

And lo! like a shaft of light pene­trating the darkness and halting among them, there stood an angel. The glory that radiated from him turned the night into the brightness of noonday. As their eyes became adjusted to the light, they realized that a heavenly visitor had left his place before the throne to call on them. Was he a bearer of tidings? Why should he call on them? What could the nature of his tidings be? And they were sore afraid, for they knew that they were mere men, even sinful men.

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all the people,”

Good tidings! The gospel that brings joy to the soul. “For unto you is born . . . a Savior, Christ, the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you, ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly-host . . .” Joining the messenger who had just finished speaking, they stood as a mighty chorus, carrying the song they had been singing before the throne to the audience of simple shepherds in the field.

“Glory to God in the highest!”

“Peace on earth!” Peace “in the men of good pleasure.”

When it was all over, and when the shepherds had assured themselves that all these things had surely come to pass, they returned, “glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.”

Peace in a world of strife.

* * * * *

There were on that same morning, not far away in Jerusalem, certain priests ministering, as was their custom, in the temple.

As the day dawned, the trumpeter sent forth three sharp blasts on his trumpet, calling Israel to the morning sacrifice. And simultaneously other priests, by appointment, drew back the old, massive iron gates, to open the temple to the morning worshippers.

Another day was begun, another routine of temple duties waited to be performed, another series of sacrifices must be brought, more blood to be shed, more flesh to smolder upon the altar. To the majority of the fifty priests who went about their various duties from day to day all this had become a mere matter of routine.

Once the hopes of Israel had flared high when David had subdued their enemies and established his throne in Jerusalem. Years afterward the genera­tions still spoke of the glories of his son. Solomon, his riches, his wisdom, his honor; yes, above all, the glorious temple he had built.

But now they groaned under the yoke of a foreign oppressor. That nation, once so mighty and full of expectation, had been subject to Caesar these many years. Even the temple was not restored to its former glory. Herod had spent much money and labor on this temple, but even so it bore the mark and stamp of Caesar.

No, nothing ever happened any more to disturb the endless monotony of their daily rituals. David’s throne lay buried in the dust. The voice of prophecy had long since been silenced. Nothing ever happened; no one seemed to expect any­thing to happen.

Yes, they could still faintly recall that slightly over a year ago there had been a disturbance in the temple. It had happened one morning that an aged priest, named Zacharias, had lingered long at the altar of incense in the Holy Place. The congregation worshipping on bended knee in the outer court had waited, and had wondered why he delayed in coming forth to lay the customary blessing upon them. And when he finally appeared, he had been unable to speak, but had man­aged to inform them by various signs that he had seen a heavenly apparition. That had been disturbing for the moment, but — evidently nothing had come of it.

Wearily the priests went about their duties, preferring not to think, not to ponder too long on all these things.

They were in a world of strife, and unrest filled their souls. They knew no peace.

* * * * *

It is Christmas Eve in the year of our Lord, 1951.

A bright moon has sent the stars into hiding. Tall trees cast long shadows upon the bright snow. Decorated wreathes on the doors and lighted Christmas trees in the windows reveal the season of the year.

In one particular home a mother sits at the fireplace watching the glowing embers. In the corner of the room stands a newly decorated tree, and under it lie a few presents. Plainly the presents are intended for the small kiddies who have already been tucked away in bed. The picture of a man in uniform on the mantel clearly accounts for the fact that this mother spends her evening alone the fireplace. The father has been gone for some time. How much longer will he be away from his family? And then there is always the question, will he re­turn?

This was the night when the angels sang. This was the night when the dark­ness of night was turned into the bright­ness of noonday, when fear was turned into gladness, when sorrow was replaced by joy. For the angels had spoken of peace, abiding peace upon earth!

So many years ago, and men are still beating their plowshares into guns, con­verting their tractors into war tanks. Fighting’s are still continuing. Unrest troubles the nations. Europe is a seeth­ing cauldron. The powers suspiciously watch each other, expecting that at any moment the world will be thrown into an all-out war. And then?

The figure at the fireplace stirs. She refuses to go on thinking, thinking those same thoughts in maddening re­petition, thinking and yet never finding a solution.

Peace? This world knows no peace.

* * * * *

It is the same night out there in war ravaged Korea.

A raging wind sweeps down the mountainside, carrying with it small, stinging pellets of snow. A lone sentry stands on guard duty, bracing his back against the storm, constantly shifting his weight from one foot to the other to maintain circulation and fight off the cold.

Tonight he is particularly reminded of all the bitter experiences that have been tasted in this bleak and desolate country during the past few years. How many half-starved, half-naked refugees have trudged along these roads before the face of the enemy? How many families were disrupted, homes destroyed, lives wasted away? How many soldiers have cried in mortal anguish as blood ran from their wounds? How many have lost their lives in these hills, never to be seen by their families again?

His thoughts go back to other Christ­mas holidays spent at home with his family. He has a mental picture of the congregation assembled in public wor­ship, commemorating the birth of the Prince of Peace. He repeats in his mind the well-known words, “And there were in that same country shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch. . .” And behold, an angel . . . And with him a multitude of angels, saying, “Glory to God in the highest!”

“Peace on earth!” Not the kind of peace is meant that foolish men dream about and foolishly strive after. Not a mere cessation of warfare, while their hearts remain at enmity with God. But the peace that the angels spoke of is the real peace; peace with God in our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the assurance that our sins are blotted out. It is the con­fidence that our life is hid with Christ in God.

That peace is not restricted by cir­cumstances. It can be experienced in the deepest sorrows, in the bitterest moments of anguish, in the face of death. With that peace in our hearts we are more than conquerors.

It is the peace that God bestows in sovereign love upon the men of His good pleasure.

It is true, abiding peace, even in a world of strife.