The joyous birth of our Lord Jesus Christ in Bethlehem heralds the sublime message of peace on earth. There are no other religious or political figures in history to which the phrase “peace on earth” is ascribed other than with Jesus Christ—He is the King of Peace.
The birth of the Messiah was long anticipated, but His humility was not understood. His birth has astounded scholars and theologians, then and now—the King of kings and the Lord of lords would be born in a manger—unlike other royals. David the shepherd and psalmist praised God with prophecy saying:
“Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless His name; Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.
Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples.” (Psalm 96:1-3)
Amidst the stars of midnight, the heavenly hosts declared the fulfillment of David’s prophecy in a splendid majestic hymn chanted high in the skies and proclaimed to humble shepherds. Even the heavenly hosts were astonished at God’s immeasurable love and humility. God, in the highest, accepted to be arrayed with the earthly, so that the earthly could ascent amongst the heavenly.
“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14)
The angels’ song declared the time of visitation had arrived. These were tidings of jubilation in God’s glorious incarnation to save the world with His marvelous plan infused by His love for mankind—in the fullness of time of the birth of Christ.
“But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5)
Bewildered by this awesome occurrence, the shepherds were frightened. The consolation of an angel revealed the timely message. As the shepherds accepted the angel’s perplexing wonderful report with much joy, so must we.
“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.” (Luke 2:10)
The shepherds scurried to Bethlehem to witness the newborn King. His birth marked the beginning of the end—the end of a cursed earth and the beginning of a new birth for humanity—for the birth of Christ would deliver Him to His death, resurrection, ascension, and the forgiveness and restoration of mankind. How can one’s heart not pound with joy for the Lord God shone His light and became as one amongst us here on earth? Jubilant melodies resounding in this magnificent angelic hymn include the refrain of Psalm 150 during the Kiahk praises.
Unto our God is due the glory and praise with a joyful psalm.
Enmity has dissipated and heaven and earth are reconciled in Christ Jesus.
Endowed with the peace of God, we offer goodwill toward one another.
The birth of Christ drew a sharp contrast between good and evil. Hatred was spurred on by Herod who ordered the massacre of infants below the age of two. The infant child Jesus was the pivotal motive for this atrocity and had to flee with His mother, Mary, and the guardian father, Joseph, to Egypt. Egypt had been the place of refuge for another Joseph—Joseph the son of Jacob. Both Josephs were comforted by messages in dreams and both men of the Old and New Testament found safety and sustenance in Egypt.
One must wonder what the children—the genuine simple-hearted like the shepherds in the night and the infants martyred in Bethlehem— are witnessing today in Egypt: rage, hatred, destruction, and mourning. There was a time that Egypt’s prolific beauty and bounty enticed merchants and travelers of all faiths and nations from near and far to settle in this land. Mountains, sands, seas, culture, science, and religion appealed to the simple and to the intellectual. What will become of the next generation? Will they know how to give unto our God glory and praise with joyful psalms? Will they know how to pursue peace? Will they know how to offer goodwill? They will only know what they have been taught—not by word, but by what they have witnessed.
Egypt is comprised of a people and a land blessed by God, but envied by Satan. Egypt has been the cradle of salvation and the preservation of the Christian faith. Christ was born in Bethlehem—the house of bread, but was nurtured in His early years in Egypt—the land where grain was stored by Joseph the son of Jacob, and saved many people during a severe famine. Christ our Lord is the Bread of Life who satisfies His wearied people with His most excellent grain. People today are suffering a new famine of hopefulness. The Lord Jesus is our reservoir of hope, courage, peace, and goodwill. Though the situation in Egypt appears bleak today, we are imploring our Lord Jesus Christ to bestow peace on earth as was chanted by the angels.
Let us give God all glory. Let us pursue peace on earth. Let us offer goodwill toward all mankind. May the Lord shine His light upon us and may He preserve the life of our honored Patriarch, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, for many years and peaceful times.
To God be the glory, forever, Amen.
His Grace Bishop Youssef is Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States (www.suscopts.org)