"Glory to God in the Highest, and peace upon earth among those in His favor." Luke 2:14 This is a very significant stipulation: "Peace upon earth among those in His favor". In the previous chapter, we read Mary's exaltation that the birth of Jesus meant that God was about to "throw down rulers from their thrones" (Luke 1:52) but then we read Luke 2:14 above as well as three verses earlier where the angels claim that this birth is "good news of a great joy which will be for all the people." (Luke 2:10). We may be inclined to believe that the language is being used carelessly here. Why would God grant peace for only those who were "in God's favor"? This is offensive to our sensibilities, unless our sensibilities have been hardened by a long, practiced, acceptance of hard-noses Calvinism. We have already seen in Matthew's Christmas story that the announcement of the birth of the Messiah disturbed "all of Jerusalem". The peace the angels spoke about as the accompaniment of this announcement was not theirs. Clearly, the birth of the Messiah was good news for some people and bad news for others. This announcement was for the "good guys", not just everyone. However, right from the beginning of this Gospel message, we discover along with the exuberant Israelites that the lines between the good guys and the bad guys are not so easily drawn. There will be many surprises in store ahead for the "people of God". There will be prostitutes who are brought into the believing-in-Jesus community, while rich, promising, young lords who are left out. There will be prodigal sons received as full family members at their returning home party and older brothers who refuse to celebrate what God is doing. There will be Jewish High Priests who plot Jesus' demise and Roman centurions who ask Jesus to heal their family members. There are many surprises ahead! Even Mary herself is warned by the prophet Simeon saying
"This child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Jerusalem and a sign that will be opposed (yes, a sword will go through your own soul as well), so that the hearts of many may be disclosed." Luke 2:34-35.
It seems that Simeon is saying that even Mary would be scrutinized by the bright light that Jesus would be. And if the virgin mother is scrutinized by the light of Truth that Jesus would be, how can any of us expect to escape such scrutiny? Conversely, we can take comfort in the fact that not just scrutiny but also mercy is available for ALL people, without any favoritism based on pre-conditions. There will be many surprises about who gets in and who is left out, but the truth of the gospel remains for all people. ALL are invited. ALL who come in true repentance will be received as full and equal covenant members who will receive the inheritance of life. No exceptions, no pre-conditions. This is certainly good news for all people.