[Scripture Readings: Is 52:7-10; Heb 1:1-6; Jn 1:1-18]
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.” This greeting of the angels is the very essence of the spirit of Christmas. It sums up the whole season and, more importantly, the whole event of Christ's coming.
PEACE is what all people seek. If you ask people what they mean by peace their answers will come down to “a sense of repose.” Repose or rest results from or accompanies a well-ordered state of being. St. Thomas Aquinas defined peace as the “tranquility of order.” Order happens when all things are in their assigned place, the lower subordinate to the higher. In this order there is unity. Ordered things share in tranquility precisely to the degree of their unity. In short, it is unity which gives peace.
St. Benedict's motto for our monastic way of life is “Peace”; Pax. It is an ordered way of life and each of us taking our place in that order creates unity. We unite—as shepherds and kings did—around One Thing that is the 'source, guide and goal' of our being and so must be the source of our unity. The result is peace.
These same principles of peace apply to each person's quest for interior peace. We must order the various aspects of ourselves in unity around One Thing: the source of our being Who is this Child born to us tonight, the Prince of Peace. As the source of unity He is the cause of our peace. And as our Christmas greeting tells us, what we bring to it is GOOD WILL. The translation in our gospel describes it as “those on whom His favor rests.” Who does God favor? It is those who accept and return His love.
God loved us first. Good will is the good intention to love Him in return and let that love give order to our lives. We receive His favor because we want it.
Jean-Pierre de Caussade explains the relationship between “good will” and “favor.” He has written that a good will is the sole foundation of every spiritual state. It is about all anyone brings to the spiritual journey, so God finds favor with our good will; He builds abundantly on this foundation. DeCaussade writes: “Goodwill has nothing to fear. If it fall, it can only do so under the almighty hand which guides and sustains it in all its wanderings. It is this divine hand which turns it again to face the goal from which it has strayed…It is made to feel how much it ought to rely on God alone, abandoning itself absolutely to His infallible guidance.”
It is precisely this appreciation of good will that we, made in the image of God, experience at Christmas time. It is experienced in the giving of gifts. It began in childhood when we learned that gifts came to good boys and girls. (We knew we had something to worry about!) But…we got gifts …anyway! Mom and Dad knew about the good will. They knew our faults were but faults of frailty. Love just doesn't notice them. And love well knows how to turn them to advantage. The parents favor rested upon us.
It is love that is coming into the world today. Love will teach and it will heal. And we can learn from it and we can rest in it if we have this good will. It is with the will that we love and seek unity with what we love. And in seeking this unity with Love-Itself we will receive His favor … and His peace on earth.