Do you ever wonder what it was like to be there that night? To hear the glorious promise sung by the angels: "On earth peace, good will toward men"?
I've wondered about their Christmas message of peace. Did humble shepherds feel that tender tranquility long before the angels sang? Did other visitors to Bethlehem hear those heavenly strains, only to recognize the peace that had already settled in their hearts?
As I've considered Christmas this year, I've come to think of the angels' hallelujah chorus not as an announcement of something new, but as a message of awakening to every yearning heart. That is to say, I think the angels heralded the presence of something eternal - not something that began on that very first Christmas.
That something is the Christ. God's message that heals and saves us from every conceivable human ill, and every adverse circumstance. And while Jesus' birth marked the dawning of Christ in human consciousness, the Christ "is without beginning of years or end of days," as Mary Baker Eddy explained in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (p. 333). Jesus expressed the Christ better than any man who has ever walked this earth. But that embracing presence of God that offers peace and restores hope is for all time and for everyone.
The peace of Christ isn't just an inner quietness. For me, it's characterized by a rock-solid stillness that can't be shaken. A stillness that stands because it's of God, and so it must be as eternal and unshakable as He is. A stillness that no storm, no disturbing human circumstance, has the power to disrupt or interrupt. This is the peace of which the angels sang, rejoicing, not that peace had suddenly appeared where it hadn't been before, but rather that knowing the presence of Christ shows us we are never cut off from the unwavering, comforting love of God.
I needed just such a choir of angels earlier this year when a dozen stressful situations suddenly converged. Even though I'd been praying diligently about the various challenges I was facing, I couldn't seem to rise above the unsettledness and fear.
At a low point, I called a Christian Science practitioner and asked her to pray for me. I don't remember what she said, but what I do know that is that shortly after I hung up the phone, I heard it. "On earth peace."
It didn't come as words, but as a feeling - a palpable feeling of the stillness and steadiness of God. And then the words came. Words that told me that no situation or circumstance could ever convince me that the peace of God wasn't right there - solid and steadfast as ever. Peace wasn't just an absence of tumult, I realized. It wasn't something I'd only find once things were turned right-side-up again. Peace was the only reality I had ever known or experienced. And anything that would suggest otherwise wasn't of God - so it had no credibility, no authority whatsoever.
I can't say that things turned around immediately, but what I had from that moment on was a conviction that I was being loved by God, and that peace was the unbroken reality of my existence. It almost didn't matter what happened after that. I was calm, still. But gradually, adjustments in my life did follow.
Before the end of his ministry, Jesus offered this gift to his followers: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27).
Jesus could make this promise because he knew the eternality of the Christ - and the truth that we are forever companioned by this Christ. It's Christ that affirms our link to God. Christ that assures us of the presence of peace. And as we yield to it, we'll see that every moment is a Christmas moment of "on earth peace," because we'll find that unshakable, eternal stillness within each of our hearts.