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Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
One of the most familiar and beloved of Christmas messages is “Peace on Earth.” You see this on Christmas cards, billboards, store windows, and church bulletins. Even people who don’t believe the basic story of Christmas can embrace “Peace on Earth.” It sounds wonderful, especially in a time of so much conflict in our world.
The phrase “Peace on Earth,” as you probably know, comes from the angels who visited the shepherds at the time of Jesus’s birth. In the classic King James Version, the angels said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (2:14, KJV). Most contemporary translations portray God’s peace as given, in particular, “to those on whom his favor rests” (2:14, NIV).
Notice that the peace celebrated by the angels is “on earth.” It is not the peace experienced in Heaven, except insofar as you might say Heaven’s peace is coming to earth through Jesus. Rather, the peace highlighted in the angelic message is one we experience in this life, on this earth, as well as in the age to come.
But what is the nature of this peace? It includes what we tend to associate with peace, namely, the absence of war. It also includes the inner peace we experience through our relationship with God (see Phil 4:6-7). But the biblical notion of peace, which we often refer to with the Hebrew word shalom, consists of far more than this. It is life as God intended it to be, life infused by harmony, justice, fruitfulness, and love. Biblical peace is not just “everyone getting along.” Rather, it is people living in right relationships with others, through which all can flourish.
Thus, even in our daily work, we have the chance to experience and extend God’s peace. Minimally, we can be people who seek to nurture harmonious relationships with our colleagues and to address conflict with Spirit-inspired wisdom in order to make peace. We can be quick to apologize and eager to reconcile. But, beyond this, in our work we can express a commitment to God’s shalom, both by confronting injustice where we see it and by creating just systems so people can flourish in their work and their overall lives.
Christ was born to bring peace on earth. Ultimately, this peace is a result of his saving work through the cross and resurrection. Because of what Christ has done for us, we can begin to experience in this life the abundant peace of God. As his people, we become peacemakers in every context of life, including our workplaces. There, through us, God seeks to manifest his “peace on earth.”
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
When you hear the phrase, “Peace on Earth,” what comes to mind?
Are you a peacemaker through your work? In what ways?
How might you be an ever more effective instrument of God’s peace in your workplace?
Gracious God, thank you for the good news of “peace on earth.” Thank you for caring, not just about Heaven, but also about this world. Thank you for the promise of all-encompassing peace.
Lord, help me to be a peacemaker through my work. May what I do each day and how I do it contribute to your shalom.
Today, we also pray for our world, so broken, so filled with conflict, so much in need of your peace. May your “peace on earth” become real on this earth. Guide the leaders of nations to your peace. May businesses and schools and media outlets and other institutions be transformed by your peace. And those of us who have received your peace through Christ be peacemakers in every office and store, every family and neighborhood, every church and community group.
We ask, Lord, with gratitude and hope, for the gift of “peace on earth.” Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary.
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