“Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people.”
(The angel in Luke 2:10)
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
(The angels in Luke 2:14)
The shepherds were frightened at the angel. We can imagine why. Shepherds were used to a pretty calm, uneventful lifestyle. Now they found themselves with this unexpected and intimidating, even frightful, being who was speaking to them. They were used to warding off predators, but this they had never encountered.
As created beings, we are naturally fearful. We can’t predict the future and don’t know what our lives hold, so we fear. We can’t control our circumstances, so we fear. We can’t see God’s plan working sometimes, so we fear. But as it was to the shepherds, God’s soothing instruction to us is this: “Do not fear.” Fear has reigned, but now peace has come, and God’s love toward us casts out all fear. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). Peace replaces fear in us.
This peace they announced would also be between God and people. Because of sin, people are enemies of God. Romans 5:10 says, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” We were enemies of God, unwilling and incapable of bringing reconciliation. We each had “turned to his own way” (Is. 53:6). As a result, we were in the crosshairs of His judgment. We were “by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3).
However, while having the right to condemn us, God didn’t. Instead, he took the initiative and extended Christ as a peace offering to justify us from our rebellion against Him. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). For those in Christ, we are no longer enemies of God; we are His allies. He’s accepted us and adopted us into his family. We have peace with him.
Because we have peace with God, we also have peace with our brothers and sisters who have peace with God. We are in the same family with the same Father. This means that anything that brings division or dissension within the body of his people is not from him. He extends the reach of his peace to include our relationship with others as well as with him, and this brings him glory.
We can understand why the angels were so excited and joyful as they sang that night—because the coming of Christ meant the coming of peace.