Day 22

December 24

Luke 2:13-14

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."

Let There Be Peace

by Todd D. Still, Ph.D.

This year’s Advent devotionals have focused thus far on three traditional theological themes of the season, namely, hope, faith, and joy. On Christmas Eve, let us turn our attention to a fourth—peace. If peace is something for which we long and even ache on both a personal and global level, it frequently seems all too elusive, not least as wars are being waged across our fragile, fractured planet and as our own sense of well-being all too often appears to be as fleeting as a winter snow.  

The two verses from Luke 2 cited above are as familiar as the most well-worn Christmas carols. As it happens, 2:14, which is widely known as the Gloria in Excelsis Deo, is one of four canticles woven into Luke’s nativity account (compare Matthew 1-2), which comes to full flower in chapter 2. Having narrated Mary’s birth of Jesus in 2:6-7, Luke shifts in the verses which follow to speak of shepherds abiding in nearby fields under the cloak of night. While doing and minding their own business, an angel appears to them and announces that a Savior, who is both Messiah and Lord, has been born in Bethlehem (2:9-11). 

Having been told by the angel how it is they will recognize the Messiah upon seeing him (2:12), they suddenly have company, no less than a heavenly host! This multitude both praises God and pronounces peace. This peace is to fall upon those with whom God is well-pleased (2:13).  

We do well to link the peace of God with the person of Jesus, the well-pleasing Son of God (so Luke 3:22). His birth, not to mention his life, death, burial, resurrection, and promised return, is the ultimate source of peace. Among other things, Jesus is the “Prince of Peace” (note Ephesians 2:12; compare Isaiah 9:6). Peace, then, is not the absence of conflict per se; rather, it is the promised presence of Christ amid “dangers, toils, and snares.”  

In our time—an age of anxiety, period of polarization, and day of discord—may we hear anew the angel’s hope-filled words to the shepherds that will put our feet on a pathway to peace: “Do not be afraid, for behold I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. For today in the city of David a Savior has been born to you, who is Christ, the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). Peace be to you, your loved ones, and all people this Christmas season.         

About the Author

Todd Still, Ph.D.

Todd D. Still, Ph.D.

Todd D. Still, Ph.D., is The Charles J. and Eleanor McLerran DeLancey Dean and The William M. Hinson Professor of Christian Scriptures in Baylor  University's George W. Truett Theological Seminary. Dr. Still is a New Testament scholar, focusing on Thessalonians and Pauline Epistles.

Dr. Still is the author of Conflict in Thessalonica and the co-author of Thinking Through Paul. He has also written three commentaries (on Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon respectively), and some fifty articles that have appeared in such venues as New Testament Studies, Journal of Biblical Literature, and Catholic Biblical Quarterly. He has also edited or co-edited ten volumes (including the award-winning Lightfoot Legacy Set) and has made over one hundred academic presentations. Presently, he is under contract to write a guide to the Thessalonian Letters (T&T Clark), a reading of 1-2 Corinthians (SPCK), and a companion to Pauline interpretation (T&T Clark). In addition to his administrative and academic work, Dr. Still is committed to and involved in local churches across Texas.