And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” NIV Luke 2: 8-12
I remember watching Charlie Brown's Christmas every year as a child. The highlight of the show for me was when Linus began reading from the gospel of Luke. He would show to us that the true meaning of Christmas wasn't found in presents under the tree, wasn't found in Christmas decorations and lights, wasn't found in Christmas plays where his sister Lucy insisted upon being the Christmas Queen, and wasn't even found in the biggest Christmas tree. Rather the true message of Christmas came in the message of the angels that was given to the shepherds on that first Christmas night. The true message of the angels of peace and good will is the real meaning of Christmas. Everything else is just extra.
Many Christmas movies have tried to capture this feeling of peace and good will and everlasting joy that was foretold by the angels. One movie out this year is "Love the Coopers". The movie begins by showing a very dysfunctional family. There is hurt, there is jealousy, there is competition, there are unresolved arguments, there are failed dreams and expectations. In short nothing is right in this seemingly average family. As you watch the movie, you wonder, will peace and good will come to this family?
And I think many real families struggle to find peace and good will and joy that the angels foretold so long ago. We know many families just like the Cooper family portrayed in this year movie. All families have their struggles, their pains, their unresolved issues. Yet at Christmas time we try to put that aside. We invite Uncle Herbert to Christmas dinner, even though we don't like him very much, because Uncle Herbert is family. We try to find peace and good will in our families so we can have a happily ever after just like in the movies.
But the message of the angels goes even further than fairytale family endings. The angels do not give a message which is peace and harmony in our families. The angels don't say glad tidings for everyone who is just like us. Rather it is peace and good will to all people. No one is to be excluded. My feelings of good will mustn't only extend to Uncle Herbert and the other relatives who drive me batty. Rather my feelings of good will, as told by the angels, my feelings of good will and peace and joy are to extend to everyone. Good and bad, family member or stranger, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, or Atheist, it does not matter- the angels message of peace and good will is extended to everyone. It is not given to people just like me, people who I like, people who agree with me, or people in my circle. Rather, it is given to all people. Feelings of us versus them are not included in the angels message. According to the angels, the world is not just cowboys with their white hats and the bad guys with their black hats. The angels don't see the world in terms of the good Robin Hood and the bad Sheriff of Nottingham. No in the angels views, we are all one human family. No one is excluded. Everyone is included.
In today's world, politicians are using division to gain potential advantage over their opponents. The politicians use hard stands against immigration or terrorism to show their leadership skills. The media often portrays some people as being always good and others being always bad. They use talks of division to gain ratings. Certain social media sites use their platform to bring further division to the world. I think such messages are totally against what the angels said on that first Christmas. The angels message came to all of the world and not just some. Their message is not a message of peace and good will just to the righteous. It is not a message of joy just to the people who do the things just like I want them to do. Rather the angels message is given to everyone whether I like them or not. Let us struggle hard against the forces which try to separate our world and cause us to see some as mortal enemies and others as allies. Let us put aside our feelings of fear, angst, dissension, hurt, and self-righteousness and try to live the world of harmony that the angels proclaimed.