Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail,
With peace on earth, goodwill to men.”
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The concluding stanza to this poem, and indeed, the statement that resolves the conflict the writer created is a truth you and I believe, though all around us indicates something else. This is, indeed, what faith is — something you believe against all odds — something you believe, not because you are exerting a great deal of mental and moral fortitude, but because you have been given the ability to believe. Faith is self-evident. You believe because you believe.
The skies opened, the undeniable words were spoken: “Peace on earth, goodwill to men,” and then the skies closed and all was just as it was prior to the angelic announcement. The sudden silence must have been as deafening as the choir. So did Jesus bring peace on earth? Where is the evidence of it?
Indeed, just two years after this child was born there was a massacre of all Jewish male two-year-olds by King Herod, fearing that a King of the Jews had been born that would challenge his kingdom. “Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more’” (Matthew 2:17-18). Peace on earth? Where? On what earth? Certainly not this one. This child didn’t bring peace; He brought death and destruction on His entire nation.
But Christ’s kingdom is not of this world. He (and we) are not vying for political power. Peace is a real thing; it’s just a personal peace. Jesus brought peace with God. He destroyed the enmity that was between God and us because of our sin. And He brought His kingdom to earth, it’s just that it’s an invisible kingdom. All of the things Christ brought to us are spiritually experienced and understood. “My kingdom is not of this world,” He told Pilate, and Pilate and many others since then were unable to grasp that.
So “Peace on earth; goodwill to men,” is something we have already, and something we are living out every day in spite of whatever the world around us shows us. Christ brought it to us, and we carry it out to the world through His Spirit who lives in us. We are Grace Turned Outward. We are peacemakers because we have His peace, and we are bringers of goodwill because we are living out the life of Christ through His power.