This was spoken the night Jesus was born and it still rings true today. Nothing has changed – we still give glory to God in the highest and we still receive His peace on earth and good will to men! God has not changed and His plan for peace and good will has not changed. But even a quick glance at society would suggest many things have changed and increased making it difficult to believe peace and good will still exist on earth. Evil and disease seem to run rampant and more a part of life than ever no matter how little or how much we punish evildoers and no matter how many medical breakthroughs we make. But have evil and disease really increased? It would appear so since the peace and goodwill proclaimed over earth appears to be overshadowed, causing us to lose sight of the hope and victory found in glorifying God. But it isn’t as real as we think if we look at Scripture. First, a “real” look at evil and disease, then a “real” look at the night Jesus was born!
We think evil has increased but in reality, it is lawlessness which has increased, not evil. Matthew 24:12 “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” This is an important distinction because evil has existed since the fall of mankind. In fact the Bible tells us there isn’t anything new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9) We may “hear” and “see” more evil because of increased population, technology, and availability, but the same corruption we see today has always existed. This is the very reason Father sent His Son as Savior to the world. It isn’t that we have discovered “new” evils but we have simply redefined right and wrong making what was unacceptable, now acceptable, calling what is evil, good and what is good, evil. We have taken what is against God’s law and declared it “good” resulting in lawlessness. When we stop acknowledging God as holy and as our final authority on wrongdoing, we can stop calling what is evil, sin. Lawlessness makes it “look” like evil has changed and increased dramatically but it is the same evil you read in the Bible. The root of all evil is rebellion toward God and that has not changed.
We also think disease has increased but again there is nothing new under the sun. Deuteronomy 28 does a thorough job of revealing every kind of disease whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual. The list includes such things as: birthing issues, mental problems, insanity, cursing, fever, inflammation, eating and digestive disorders, boils, tumors, skin disease, blindness, depression, oppression, and the list goes on. We have come up with far more acceptable and fancy names for every disease along with suggestions for avoiding most of them but there is nothing “new” today that did not exist for the people who lived then. We “think” disease has increased but it is only our population and ability to label, categorize, and treat disease which has increased. Perhaps we don’t like to think in terms of “curses” because we live under the grace of God, but yet disease is real even with grace operating in our lives. Disease is the result of living in a fallen world, a world full of disobedience and rebellion, a world where affliction affects all people. The Bible clearly states afflictions will come in this lifetime. Rather than wasting time trying to understand “why” we suffer, we should know why (because of sin) and then spend our time giving glory to God and living in His peace and good will.
I am aware this is easier “said” than “done” especially when you are the one stricken by evil or disease. But it is no less true! The great news is Jesus will help us “say” and “do” His will keeping evil and disease in proper perspective, magnifying the truth of peace and goodwill on earth in response to everything that rises up against His glory. Then, as we “remember” Jesus this Christmas we can slow down and ponder the details of what happened that night as the angelic chorus belted out their praise of God while the shepherds watched their flocks. If we will believe their proclamation over earth we understand it is truer than any sin or sickness we are dealing with today!
For a moment, let us imagine the events surrounding the birth of our Savior. Perhaps you have done this a million times but please do it one more time. Joseph and Mary made the long trek to be counted in the census while she was “very” pregnant and her time was near to deliver her child. I remember the “travel limitations” imposed by my doctors when I neared the end of pregnancy, so we can safely assume this approximate eighty mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem was “ill advised” for Mary. Under ordinary conditions it would have been a four day trip but with a very pregnant wife it might have taken up to a week. How difficult this must have been on Mary!
Once Joseph and Mary got to Bethlehem she went into labor, delivered her baby, wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a feeding trough. While all this was happening there were shepherds living out in the fields protecting their sheep from predators during the nighttime hours when suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and stood before them. The shepherds were wide awake, fully alert, and knew this was not a dream but was very real! They were looking out for wild animals, not angels, so imagine their surprised faces and thoughts when the angel appeared with the glory of the Lord shining around them. We cannot even begin to grasp what this glory looked like but we should try to imagine its magnificence. So great was the glory and the shock of seeing an angel the shepherds were “greatly afraid”.
I suspect we would experience the same fear and since we “know” this story, how can we apply it to our lives today? I believe God is telling us to be like those shepherds; wide awake, on the alert, looking out for predators. As we are about our Father’s business, fulfilling our calling in life we should know there is evil, sin, and sickness out there ready to attack at any given moment. We seem so surprised when bad things happen and actually think if we are prepared and know they are coming, they should not happen. At least that is how we act. This reminds me of teaching our children to say “please”. Once they learn it, they automatically think the answer is “yes” every time they say “please”. They are distraught when they say “please” and the answer is “no”. People can take good care of their bodies, eat the right food, get the proper amount of rest and exercise, and still have heart attacks, high blood pressure, or any number of diseases. Knowing and taking every preventative measure does not keep these things from happening anymore than the shepherds knowing predators were lurking to attack their sheep could stop them from attacking. The key is to remain alert and know what to do when the attack comes.
Just as assuredly as predators, sin, and disease come, so comes the Lord! Just as God showed up to surprise the shepherds, He shows up to surprise us any way He chooses. While we are here, like the shepherds, we need to be about our Father’s business, fulfilling our calling in the Lord, and staying ready and alert for His divine visits. When we choose to abide in God throughout our time here on earth, we are assured to be visited by Him and like the shepherds, we will still be surprised and full of fear since the glory of God is most amazing, and not what we are used to seeing. This fear is an awesome thing because it wakes us out of our stupor and causes us to see Him for who He is! The angel immediately acknowledged their fear and said “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign to you: You will find a Baby wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’” Luke 2:10-12
If an angel appearing were not enough to change their lives in an instant (not to mention what were all the sheep doing during this little visitation?) now “suddenly” a multitude of the heavenly host shows up to praise God. Luke 2:13 “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:”
Beloved! We must be ready for the “suddenlies” in life! Sometimes we are so busy “doing” life, enduring and persevering, far too absorbed with the evil and disease in the world, that we are void of the joy, peace, faith, and hope that God will show up “suddenly”! If we “know” God is into “suddenlies” we will spend far more time being alert to look for one to occur in the midst of all the “doing” and “being”.
As much as I try to imagine “a multitude of heavenly host” suddenly showing up I cannot grasp this scene but sure love trying! There is no number attached to a multitude but it is a “great number” of heavenly hosts. How spectacular it is to envision this chorus “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:14 This was a life-changing, mountain-moving experience that changed the shepherd’s lives, and can change ours as well. This truth overcomes all sin and disease because when we give Him glory, believe this declaration of peace on earth and good will toward men, we will not magnify evil, sin, and disease in this world knowing it pales in comparison to His glory!
And the glory spreads! As a result of the shepherds embracing this “suddenly” in their lives, they shared the news of the Christ child with everyone they could. Everyone who heard the testimony of the shepherds marveled at the things they were told. Luke 2:15-18 “So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass which the Lord has made known to us.’ And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.” Earlier in this story, Joseph and Mary marveled at the things Simeon spoke about Jesus. The question we should ask, “What are we hearing and speaking that will cause others to marvel about Jesus?”
What is your testimony today? Perhaps you are struggling in the midst of evil, persecuted and hated by people, suffering with disease. Perhaps you are one who is watching a loved one suffer. Or maybe all things are well and you are blessed beyond belief. Maybe all things are calm and right in your world and you can only sense the turmoil around but feel untouched by it yourself. Whatever your situation, are you joining the angelic chorus and proclaiming “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill to men”? Are you believing God is going to show up in your life and do a suddenly? Are you still telling people about Jesus and watching them marvel at the things you share? Do you see evil and disease for what they are not what they “seem” to be? And can you see God for who He is, not what we have made Him to be? This Christmas – I pray we all declare, believe, and proclaim to our world “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will to men!”