"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace" (Luke 2:14).
Mother Teresa stood near the podium to receive the acclaimed Nobel Peace Prize. The presenter asked this devout woman who had given her life for the poor of India, "Mother Teresa, what can we do to help promote world peace?"
She answered thoughtfully, but with characteristic simplicity, "Go home and love your family."
Just as stirring as the angelic announcement of the Savior's birth was the simplicity of its message that has stood the test of history. This message was heard loud and clear. Out of heaven's glory the Son of Righteousness and Peace was revealed.
What a spectacular and yet curious contrast is seen in Scripture, "Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace." The glory of a holy God is seen over the landscape of a hate-filled world.
A love that could break every earthly barrier had been delivered to the world, wrapped in the rags of poverty. A promise was fulfilled that, once applied, could unclench every fist and turn it into an outstretched hand.
"On earth, peace"
Did this mean there would be no more wars? Obviously not. Conflict has characterized our culture, culminating in two world wars.
No more misunderstandings? Obviously not. From Cain and Abel to the latest round of Middle East negotiations, humanity has worn its feelings on its sleeves.
What was the message? The way of peace has arrived.
In James, the Apostle's uncomfortable question and answer remind us, "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?" (James 4:1).
The remedy for the soul was now within reach. Envy, hatred, and conflict could now be conquered. The gate to the highway of holiness had been opened. The helpless Child would conquer the sin problem. His atonement would give everyone the opportunity to have peace of heart. The Hebrews writer said, "Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14).
Author Charles Swindoll once wrote, "Some gifts you can give this Christmas are beyond monetary value: mend a quarrel, dismiss suspicion, tell someone 'I love you.' Give something away, anonymously. Forgive someone who has treated you wrongly. Give as God gave to you in Christ, without obligation or announcement or reservation or hypocrisy."
I will never forget the knock on our door one year when I was a child and my family agonized over the lack of money to pay the utility bills and buy food. My mother opened the door to find a few parishioners from the little church we attended in Ohio standing on the porch...with grocery store bags in their hands.
But there was more than groceries in those bags - there were toys and other things we never expected, delivered by people who loved the Lord so much that they expressed it in their giving. None of them were wealthy by any means, but they made us rich in heart that day by giving without announcement or reservation.
The Toler family learned a lasting lesson about the love first announced to the Judean shepherds. Those precious people taught us through one defining, unselfish act about a holy love, a love that was willing to give what it had so that those who had nothing could rejoice with those who were celebrating God's greatest gift.
This was not the last time I would see that kind of love. As I have traveled the globe, I have seen that same scenario played out in a hundred different ways, in dozens of different countries, but all with the same message: people filled with the love of Jesus cannot keep their blessings to themselves.
Peace will not come to our world unless it comes first to our hearts. The way of peace is the way of holiness.
Stan A. Toler is general superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene.
Holiness Today, November/December 2012