At Christmas, the words of the angel have echoed down through the ages: “Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace on earth to those whom he loves”. They echo still in all their strangeness.
If we think of God at all, we tend to think that the divine glory means that God is awesome, majestic, unutterable and infinitely beyond. But that’s not what the angel says.
Once the baby is born in Bethlehem, we see the glory of God in the weakness and powerlessness of a child born in poor circumstances. The real God is the opposite of what we expect. “Glory to God in the highest heaven” because God becomes one of us. The true glory of God doesn’t stay in heaven but touches the earth.
The glorious love of Christmas is love with mud on its boots. That’s the love to which we say yes each Christmas. The peace which the angel announces is not what we expect either.
When Jesus was born, what was called the pax romana prevailed, the peace brought by the Roman Empire and its armies. But as one conquered leader said of Rome: “They create a devastation and call it peace”. That’s not the peace of Christmas. It doesn’t come by way of brute force or human violence. It comes to the earth because God gently embraces those who have been his enemies.
He becomes one of us: that’s the embrace.
We had been enemies of God, preferring to set ourselves up as God and against God. In a world where it’s God against us and us against God, there can never be peace. But a new world is born once God and the human being become one. Then true peace becomes possible; and that’s what the angel announces.
So may this Christmas be a time of peace for all, and may the glory of God illumine your path as the new year unfolds.
+ARCHBISHOP MARK COLERIDGE