Glory to God in the Highest
and on Earth Peace, Goodwill Toward Men
The birth narrative in Luke 2 describes the humble birth of Jesus in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes. This great mystery of the incarnation of God and the opportunity for the salvation of man prompts the doxology in three parts from the angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men” (Luke 2:14).
The angels show us how we should respond to the birth of Jesus. Firstly, the angels praise God. We are made to praise God, and do not fulfil our potential until we do this. Secondly, the angels proclaim that peace has come to the earth. Thirdly, the angels announce that God’s goodwill has been showered on mankind. This hymn of the angels becomes the heart of our worship. It is part of the opening sentence of the Great Doxology chanted just before the start of every Divine Liturgy.
The proclamation of the birth of Jesus speaks of peace on earth. How do we understand this? Did the birth of Jesus bring peace to the world? A review might point to pandemics, wars, natural disasters, crime and terrorism, and conclude that peace does not reign in the world. Yet, Jesus brings peace into the world because, as St Paul says, Jesus is our peace. Jesus shows us by His own example how to achieve peace: with humility, patience, lack of possessions, self-sacrifice and love of neighbour and even enemies. The Christian paradox is that these virtues bring peace.
This peace that Christ brings into the world is not thrust upon us. It has to be longed for, prayed for and loved. We have to acquire peace through a lifelong struggle. The fundamental starting point is peace within ourselves. We cannot be fragmented or scattered people. Those who accept Jesus as our peace and live according to that peace will experience His Peace before the end of the world. Jesus said “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you” (John 14:27). There is a real gift of peace.
In Christ, there is no longer Jew or Gentile, male or female, free or slave (Galatians 3:28). Christians identify themselves with all people. We are to be at peace with everyone and everything, even if they don’t want to be at peace with us. The Christian person, family and community is to be a model for the whole world of the peace that Christ has brought into the world. So, when will peace reign in the world? At the end of the ages, Jesus will come in glory, establishing His Kingdom on earth. Then the fullness of peace will reign throughout the world.
St Seraphim of Sarov said the whole purpose of life is to acquire the spirit of peace, God’s own peace. If we acquire the spirit of peace, which is already poured out on us, then thousands around us will be saved. If we do not have this peace within ourselves and among ourselves as Christians, then we are not Christians and we become part of the problem, rather than the solution.
May this Christmas be a time when we receive the good news of the birth of Jesus our Saviour like the shepherds, with simplicity, with awe, with humility, with purity of heart, so that we may see the glory of the Lord shining around us and experience his peace.
Source: Lychnos December 2021 / January 2022