Advent and ‘The Peace of God’

angels appear to shepherds

Imagine being at home alone in the night.  Suddenly, you hear a strange sound outside. You go to the window and peek through the blinds.  Peering into the darkness, you feel a twinge of terror trickling down your spine wondering what might be out there. You see something but can’t quite make out what it is. Fearing the unknown, you begin to feel the hairs standing straight up on your skin.

Anytime something happens unexpectedly in the night and we don’t know what is going on, we tend to feel afraid and somewhat puzzled. It was no different with the shepherds at the time Christ was born (Luke 2:8-20). There they were, watching over their flock of sheep on that starry night. Then, from out of nowhere, heavenly angels appear. No doubt, they were as scared as we would be if we heard a strange noise outside at night. Imagine if it were aliens invading us from outer space. Well, for the shepherds I’m sure it was just as chilling. Put yourself in their place: A glowing angel in dazzling light suddenly appearing before their very eyes. No wonder they were “terribly frightened!” Then, the next thing, they hear this angel make a strange announcement of Good News. It includes the joyful message that a baby born in a manger in nearby Bethlehem is the Messiah, the long-awaited deliverer of Israel. Then, dozens of these heavenly beings suddenly appear all together, lighting up the sky. All of them were heard, praising God in unison. What a sight to behold!

The shepherds must have received peace WITH God as they encountered the peace OF God that unforgettable night. At first, however, they were terribly afraid when the angel appeared. Fear is, indeed, not a very good feeling. It’s hard to be at peace when you are afraid. But the angel reassured them: “Do not be afraid.”

Unless you’ve ever encountered an angel, you can only try to imagine what this angel’s voice sounded like. I picture it as gentle, warm, and caring. It was probably soothing enough to bring a calming peace to the shepherds ears. Besides, the news the angel had to share was about great joy that is meant for all people to have.

Just think of it: Good news of joy from those who are gentle, warm, and caring does indeed calm our fears. It provides us with the peace of God in our hearts. It was the same kind of peace that Jesus would instill upon his disciples when they were troubled. “Peace be unto you,” he told them (John 14:27).

Following his resurrection, the apostles and other followers were afraid for their lives. Their troubled minds were undoubtedly wondering, If Jesus could be put to death, what more might happen to us next? Thus, we hear the Lord greeting the apostles three times with the words, “peace be unto you.” Once, is when he suddenly appeared out of nowhere while all of them, except Thomas, were secretly gathered together in a room behind locked doors. The second time is when he verified that he was the risen Lord by showing them the scars left on his body from the crucifixion. The third time was about eight days later, when he made another surprise appearance to all of them, including Thomas this time. (See John 20:19, 21, 26.) At each encounter, he calmed their fears and gave them renewed confidence that he is who he said he is: the Son of God who, through the power of the Spirit, would be with them always (Matt. 28:20).

He is with us always, too. Remember, even the title, “Emmanuel,” meaning, “God is with us,” (Isaiah 9:6-7) reflects that peace that our heavenly Father gives through his beloved Son. Why? Because we can trust God to deliver that peace found through Jesus Christ. It’s a peace that we can’t fully explain but we can experience it in times of unrest and fear.  Philippians 4:7 says, And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,” (Berean Study Bible, BSB).

When the shepherd heard the Good News, their fear gave way to anticipation and joy. They immediately went down to the City of David. When they came to that babe wrapped in cloths, lying in a manger, they felt peace and joy: “And the shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen just as had been told them,” (Luke 2:20, New American Standard Version, NASB). They were no longer the same again. And neither are we when we encounter the One who was born to give us the peace of God.

Here is Heather Prusse singing, “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night”:

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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