Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” [Luke 2:13-14 NLT)]
While visiting a church recently, the pastor announced a new security precaution: ten minutes after the service started, the outside doors would be locked from the inside and no one could enter the building. Yesterday afternoon, another church offered a four hour class for their congregation. Led by a private security company, topics included ways to identify threats, how to develop layers of security, and techniques for conflict resolution. While talking with my daughter about a recent school shooting in her area, I learned that my grand’s school has regular “lock-down” drills in preparation for such an attack. Is no place safe from violence?
In 1947, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists created what is known at the Doomsday Clock. Designed to show the world how close it is to destroying itself with technology, the clock was originally set to 7 minutes before midnight with midnight being catastrophe—the end of the world as we know it. After the Soviet Union tested their first atomic bomb in 1949, it was reset to three minutes before the hour and, by 1953, it was down to two minutes. I was in first grade at the time; rather than “lock-down” drills, we had air-aid drills and practiced ducking under our desks in case a bomb was dropped. In 1991, with the end of the Cold War, the clock’s hands were set back to seventeen minutes before midnight. Since 2007, disruptions from climate change have figured into the calculations. This past year, the clock was set to only two and half minutes until midnight. Locking down a church or school, ducking under a desk, or building a bomb shelter won’t protect any of us if the minute hand reaches the twelve.
The world is in turmoil; we’re no closer to peace now than two thousand years ago. We live in a divided and troubled world and it grows more brutal daily. It’s no longer just atomic bombs that threaten us—cyber warfare, biologic weaponry, thoughtless rhetoric, fake news and catastrophic weather events all contribute to the danger. Where is this peace on earth we sang about these last several weeks?
Scripture tells us wars and violence will continue (and even get worse) until Jesus returns and establishes true lasting peace. Indeed, the end times appear to be on the horizon but what are we to do until then? I suppose we’ll continue having lock downs, going through metal detectors, getting luggage x-rayed and handbags searched, securing church doors, and meeting with security companies but that’s merely trying to stay safe. It’s not enough.
When we accepted Jesus, His Holy Spirit brought a fruit basket as a house-warming gift. In it we find peace along with several other qualities that will help us be peaceful: love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, calmness and self-control. We all got the same beautiful basket and, as Christians, we’re all capable of letting His peace rule our hearts, actions and words. While our behavior may not move the hands of that clock backward, we might be able to make our little corner of the world a kinder, gentler, and better place.
Over two thousand years ago, the angels sang, “Peace on earth.” Let our lives continue that song as we move into this new year. Heavenly Father, let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.