For part 1 click here, for part 2 click here.
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." Luke 2:13-14
The Shepherds on the hillside knew about peace, they were living under the Pax Romana that ran from 27 B.C. to 180 A.D. But the peace they experienced was bought at a price - Roman Occupation. It was a peace created through Oppression, Subjugation, and Conformity. There was no room for dissent or difference of opinion. Conflict was dealt with swiftly and brutally. You kept quiet and paid your taxes, just keep your head down and do what is required and everything will be fine.
It is into this Peace that the angels speak a Declaration of God's Peace. Why settle for Pax Romana when you can have the Pax Deus?
The Pax Romana worked, it produced results as satirized brilliantly by the Monty Python gang in the 'The Life of Brian'.
What have the Romans ever done for us?
Pax Deus may be better, but it is also unknown. God's peace is messy, it is extended on people on whom God's favor rests, and God in his grace extends his favor to everyone. God's favor, God's blessing is the great leveler. Mary sang in Luke 1
My soul doth magnify the Lord.
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid;
for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
Because he that is mighty,
hath done great things to me;
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is from generation unto generations,
to them that fear him.
He hath shewed might in his arm:
he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat,
and hath exalted the humble.
He hath filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath received Israel his servant,
being mindful of his mercy:
As he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his seed for ever.
The careful order of the Pax Romana is gone. Hierarchy is abolished there is no longer any preference into experiencing the Peace of God. We are all God's chosen people. That is wonderful news, but a burden if you were expecting preferential treatment because of Class, Race, Gender, Economic Privilege, Sexual Orientation or any another possible distinguishing feature you can think of.
And there's the problem, Grace. We Christians like our Hierachy, we like to say who is In and who is Out. It seems that the peace our churches offer more resembles the Pax Romana than the Pax Deus. We get caught up in making sure that the correct people are included and the wrong sort excluded. We may even 'tolerate' some of the wrong sort, but we expect them to keep quiet and pretend to conform.
Where we exclude, God includes.
Where we tolerate, God embraces.
I wish I was more like God, I can be very harsh and judgmental at times. When someone judges me I want to respond back in kind. I find myself wanting to 'Scatter the proud', 'Put down the Mighty' and 'Send the Rich away empty'.
God, let me experience Your peace this Christmas.