“And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to all men'.”
I have this lovely Nativity scene at home, which, believe it or not, I picked up at Shoppers Drug Mart two years ago. The stable is made of real wood and covered in real moss, and it has ceramic figurines of Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, a shepherd, three wise men, an angel and a donkey and a cow. It's a very peaceful, quiet scene – all these people, doing reverence before the newborn Messiah.
But really, it was the beginning of war. And the declaration of war? Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to all men.
The Bible is filled with statements which contradict the visible situation. In the beginning, there was darkness. God said, “Light Be!”, and there was light. God calls the things that are not as though they are. The fact that He sent us commandments to love one another, place Him first, don't steal, wives submit to your husbands, don't commit adultery and so forth, indicates that this was not the natural state of affairs with humans.
When the angels proclaimed GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST AND ON EARTH PEACE, GOOD WILL TO ALL MEN, they were stating God's desire for us humans. He was not being glorified at the time – that would have to change – and although the angels said, “Peace on earth”, God was, in fact, on the warpath.
You can tell this by the reaction to Jesus' birth. When the wise men went to ask King Herod where the King of the Jews was born, Herod set out to kill Jesus. Herod knew full well Whom they were referring to: after all, he didn't say, “Oh, there must be some mistake: I'm the King of the Jews – see? Notice the fancy robes, the crown, the big palace. How can I help you?” Instead, he called his rabbis and advisors together and asked them where the prophecies said the Messiah would be born and when they said, “Bethlehem”, and the wise men gave him the slip, Herod sent in his soldiers to kill every baby boy born in Bethlehem – in fact, every one born in the past two years, just to be on the safe side.
Herod had grown up surrounded by teachings of the prophecies and the hope that God would send a Deliverer for his people, but when that hope actually showed up on his doorstep, his only inclination was to destroy him. The same thing happens with us.
When we are confronted with truth – something that calls us on our sins, on the evil in our lives, and forces us to re-think our lives, our priorities, our place in God – we have a violent reaction. We try to shoot the messenger. If someone points something out to us – even if it's done in the utmost love and caring – we'll call them self-righteous, fault-finding, judgmental, finger-pointing, you name it: the Herod within us goes on a rampage, to wipe out the representative of the truth.
It doesn't work, of course: remember that Herod managed to kill every baby boy in Bethlehem, except one: Jesus, who had been whisked off to Egypt because an angel had tipped off Joseph and Mary. That angel also warned the wise men to leave Bethlehem by a different route, and not tell Herod where they'd found Jesus.
But the truth is always protected, in God's mysterious way of doing things. Who would have thought to look for the Messiah in a stable? You'd have to have been following a star -- or watching for the sign the angel told the shepherds. Not only that, but the truth is always accompanied by the glory of God, so that means that, really, we have nothing to fear from accepting it. When we finally make that decision to declare our own war on Satan ... to choose to walk in truth and not lies ... WE ARE PROTECTED. God is right there at our side, with an army of warring angels standing by, and Jesus saying, “This one belongs to Me”. Sure, there's pain involved in determining to banish lies from your life, but there's pain in any war ... and this is a war that you can walk into confidently, knowing that you are guaranteed Victory.
Satan will throw anything at you to make you think you can't win. Doubt, worry, regret, guilt; he'll even try to make you think that because you can't change the past, you're stuck with it forever, which is the biggest lie of all.
And God said, You can't change the past, so don't bother trying. But turn to My Son and receive a new future.
When Jesus was born, God didn't just fire a shot across Satan's bow – He dropped the H-bomb. And you can do the same. Tackle the lies head-on, and then receive the glorious truth that every one of us can overcome the lies and the effects of those lies ... in Christ. As we confess our faults, as we allow the Lord to reveal our deficiencies to us through the Holy Spirit, we can lay all of those down at the Cross, thank Jesus for taking them off our shoulders and onto His, and receive our new life ... a new life where we don't make the same mistakes again ... and where we can move steadily forward, walking in God's ways and receiving the enormous blessings He's promised us. Good will toward men. That does not mean let's-all-pat-each-other-on-the-back-and-say-nice-things; it means God's will towards men. The angels re-affirmed that night, that God's desire is for His will to be done among us. And His will is nothing but good things – health, prosperity, freedom from want and worry. God's desire for us, too, is fellowship with Him.
It would be a pretty lonely and uninteresting time in Heaven if all who were saved were those who led perfect lives ... for one thing, nobody would make it. We all have to deal with sin and repent and be saved. For another, one of the things about being in heaven is that you're constantly praising God. What do you think praise is? Sure, it's “holy, holy, holy, only Thou art worthy ...”, but it's also every one of us, saying, “I was a rat ... a sinner ... a weasel ... I lied, I had a problem with drinking, with sexual temptation, I stole from people ... but praise God when I turned to Him, He pulled me out of that muck and made me new again! I was a sinner ... but when I accepted Christ, I'm not a sinner anymore!” God wants to hear all our stories ... and all the different ways He rescued us ... You are holy, You are mighty ... Your amazing grace saved a wretch like me ... Let's take another look at that declaration of war.
GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST, AND ON EARTH PEACE, GOOD WILL TO ALL MEN.
Shouldn't the declaration of war say, “We're declaring war on Satan! Get ready to attack him on every front! Storm his spiritual beachhead and drop the H-Bomb!” Not with God. Why? Because God -- not we -- declared the war. He gave us our marching orders: spread the Gospel, glorify God, pursue peace. Let's not get obsessed with seeking Satan out and blowing him off the map. Focusing on choosing God's will and worshipping Him rather than attacking the devil is a very un-human thing to do: attacking the devil puts our focus on him and not on God. If we spend our time looking for demons behind every tree and worrying about what the next attack is going to be, then we're not seeking God first.
We have to get it into our heads and hearts that God has already dropped the H-bomb – 2000 years ago, between Bethlehem and Calvary – and we need to focus on the fact that the battle is already won. The more we focus on God and our Victory in Christ, the less Satan is a factor. He's going to try, but if we keep our eyes on God and move forward with what He wants for us, then our armor will cover us and Satan's fiery darts will fizzle before they ever get to us.
But this spiritual H-Bomb only works for those who choose to receive the Victory. Praise God, He has given us that choice. Every time someone receives Christ, another little H-Bomb goes off in Satan's camp. Every time someone turns to God and receives His will – Good will – in our own lives, Satan is forced to hand over all the things he robbed from them over the years. Every time someone says “yes” to Jesus, they are set free forever from the yoke of past sins and mistakes and get a brand new start with strength and blessing and power ... exceedingly, abundantly, more than they could ever ask or think.