Peace on Earth to Men of Good Will
By Bishop Karl Prüter
Saint Willibrord Press 1969
The most astonishing thing about the Christmas story is the fact that the evangelist bothered to tell it. For we do not believe in Christ because of the circumstances surrounding His birth. And neither did the early disciples, for judging from the silence of the Scriptures, the events surrounding His birth were unknown in His lifetime.
What is it about the Christmas story that is remarkable or even worth telling? Is it the coming of the Magi? Hardly, for what significance could that have for a follower of Judaism? The Magi represented a foreign religion and something that would interest few Jews.
Or was it the homage paid to the infant Jesus by the shepherds? This is a little closer to the central theme of the gospel account.
For to many the coming of Christ was the fulfillment of prophecy. But the evangelist lay less stress upon the mode by which the prophecy is fulfilled than on the fact that so few, and then only the humble or the alien, were aware of the great events of that historic night.
The evangelists are trying to bring home the message that Christ has come to save all. He is not the savior of the privileged but the underprivileged. He has not come primarily for those who have regarded their religious status as secure and certain, but those who are willing to travel far and wide to search for a King, or to those whose learning is so meager as to cause them to accept eagerly the obvious signs of the times.
For often those of great learning, close their minds to the simple things, the common sense ways of living, and the obvious glory of God that is within easy reach.
Thus in our day and age we see countless thousands turning their backs to the church and searching among the cults or even searching for some esoteric drug that will produce some imagined religious ecstasy.
A world that rejects the simple message of the gospel is likely to lose itself in the pseudo sophistication of the cults.
The big difficulty with the Christmas story is its very simplicity.
God has come into the world to touch every heart and every mind. To demonstrate once and for all that He cares for us as individuals.
For whatever else might be said, God has by Christmas, demonstrated that He will come to us, before He will let us stray away from Him.
It is man who in his pride will not bow his knee or humble himself to find his God.
Often the pride of learning, and that mad insane desire that we all seem to have for freedom, even freedom to destroy ourselves, prevents us from surrendering our wills to God.
God not only comes but surrounds Himself with the most humble circumstances. Shepherds will not fear to come to the stable, but the rich and the scholars may be too proud. The self assured Jew who is content with the prophecy of Scripture that the Messiah will come to him is inclined not to go to Bethlehem which is, to him, a provincial town. Yet the Magi, coming from afar, sees the obvious, that God is as likely to come to one place as another. If God is to come at all, who shall escape Him?
If He is to come to Bethlehem is there any remote place to which He shall not come?
If He is to be found in a stable can those who live in King’s houses say that He is hard to find?
If the Magi who traveled from Persia find Him, what shall the Jews say to whom He was promised?
What shall we Christians say who for two thousand years have proclaimed His coming?
Matthew and Luke knew the answer. The shepherds gave it, they went and worshiped. With less knowledge of what this birth was to mean to mankind than you or I possess, they came and worshiped the newborn King.
God has come into the world and God is everywhere manifest to those who have eyes to see. Not eyes that can see but eyes that wish to see. What was the message of the angel?
“Peace on earth to men of good will.”