Almost every Christmas program at some point makes mention of the appearance of angelic hosts to humble shepherds keeping watch over their flock.
And the message they brought is universally known – “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
“Peace on earth!” – an amazing Christmas greeting…
But an elusive dream that men have sought after for centuries!
In fact, it is not unusual to hear some famous political figure or noted world figure observe that if he could have one wish it would be for “world peace.”
This was certainly the case one Christmas season almost a century ago in the city of Detroit, Michigan. It was 1915, during the opening years of World War I before America was embroiled in the bloody business. By this time, European families were facing another Christmas without their fathers or sons, who were busy fighting and dying across Europe.
And the famous automobile maker, Henry Ford, decided to do something about it!
In November of 1915, Ford decided that the war in Europe had gone on long enough. There had been already too much killing and suffering, and furthermore, the U.S. government was entirely wrongheaded in its strict isolationist stance. “If I can make automobiles run,” he rhetorically asked a reporter at the time, “why can’t I steer those people clear of war?” He planned “to put a stop to the silly killings going on abroad” by leading a peace delegation across the Atlantic to negotiate personally with European heads of state.
Ford came up with the idea of sending a “peace ship” of 150 pacifists to Europe to see if they could negotiate an agreement that would end the war. He chartered the ocean-liner and sailed from Hoboken, New Jersey, on December 4th, 1915.
Ford’s peace ship reached Stockholm in January, 1916, and a conference was organized with representatives from Denmark, Holland, Norway, Sweden and the United States. However, unable to persuade representatives from the warring nations to take part, the conference was unable to negotiate a peace-treaty.
Three weeks into the trip, Ford finally heeded his advisers and recognized that his peace mission was not only going nowhere, it was degenerating into a farce. Claiming a bad cold, he abandoned his fellow “peace pilgrims” in Oslo, Norway, and returned to the US.
One of the wealthiest men on the planet mounted one of the most spectacular missions for peace in recent history – and failed. He failed because he looked for the wrong kind of peace and attempted to make it in the wrong kind of way.
Two thousand years earlier, another peace mission was undertaken. And even though it was not publicized and glamorized by the news media of the day, it succeeded gloriously.
It was the mission that the angel’s announced to humble shepherds on a cold winter’s night that very first Christmas season when they announced that God had brought about a glorious “peace on earth!”
It was the mission to restore peace between God and these sinners who had rebelled against Him.
How was the mission accomplished? At a huge price.
Out of sheer love for sinners, God sent His Son to make peace on earth at the cost of his own life. That peace is offered to all men everywhere who want it, regardless of race, age, social status, or past deeds. Anyone who wants to be made right with God can have this “peace on earth,” even if the world is not so peaceful around them.
At the first Christmas, the angels were announcing that God should be praised and exalted in the highest places of the universe – Heaven itself – because He had brought about a marvelous thing on earth…
Peace. What men spend their entire life searching for – to bring about harmony in their life.
They seek it through many means – money, relationships, fulfillment, possessions, power, prestige, or even Ford’s failed attempt at stopping a war.
And when we look at life with the end in view, we instinctively know that the peace we so desperately long for is not found in things or in relationships or in places or the fleeting pleasures on earth.
It is found in a relationship with the Prince of Peace.