An army of angels appeared over a tiny town in Israel one starry night. It was the largest gathering of heaven that the earth had ever seen; a triumphant crowd of messengers here to announce a perfect plan. Out of all of the words in all eternity, this is what they were sent to say:
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Luke 2:14
We see a lot of “Peace on Earth” signs during Christmas, but it’s less often that we hear the phrase “goodwill toward men.” However, I believe that the most beautiful parts of God are generally the ones that take a second look; the thoughts that don’t fit into a neat slogan. I’ve been meditating on what goodwill toward men means, looking for a greater message behind it than “God isn’t angry with us.”
One way goodwill toward men could be rephrased is “the will of God is to be good to us.” All too often, I fall a little short in my thinking, content with a God who is passively kind. I sometimes picture Him as a grandfather, quietly watching to see what happens. That picture sells Him so very short, because He is actively good. So good that He sent a piece of Himself to earth as a helpless, impoverished baby in Roman-occupied territory. He made it possible for us to reach out and touch His face, to ask Him our questions, to look into the face of God. He allowed a human mother to carry the One who carries our burdens. The ultimate Teacher let us humans teach him how to walk and fish and read the Torah. The birth of Christ was a symbol of God’s good will.
His will is so good that God incarnate spent His time walking with tax collectors and fishermen. So good that He chose to get close to the world that had turned from Him, roaming among the sick and weary, listening to them and healing their diseases. So good that he poured out His life as hope to the forgotten. So good that the Prince of Peace offered Himself to be beaten and crucified. So good that He arose, Victor of Eternity, and came back to see His creation that He now called friends.
That is goodwill towards men. Even when it doesn’t make sense, even when our hope seems to die, even when nothing is as we expected. Jesus, born in a manger, means His will is always good to us. He does not appear as we think He should be, but the way He comes to us is always good.
Here in 2017, we join with the angels to spread this message. Today, we are surrounded with God’s glory, and we have seen this plan unfold in our own lives. We have felt His peace, and His grace has proven the goodness of his will. We are called, just like the heavenly host, to remind our world that God has goodwill toward them. Will you join your voice in a refrain that’s rung true for 2,000 years? Do you cry out to those around you that He’s glorious, and that He is dying to be good to them?
Deeper yet, will you let your own heart believe it? Today, you may need to release something that didn’t happen, or something that did. In the season giving, you may need to give a disappointment to God, trading it for a belief that His will is good towards you. This remains the truth, even when we don’t understand. Goodwill toward all men means goodwill toward you, my friend. When God doesn’t look like you expected Him to, whether it’s wrapped in a manger or seemingly silent in your pain, He is still near. He is still good, and He always plans the ending: goodness and peace toward you. This Christmas, can you believe that about Him? Can you stir yourself up to believe in His goodwill again? Can you give Him the gift of your trust this Christmas? He will do good things with it.