December 28, 2017

Those are the seven verses immediately leading up to the Linus speech, and it’s some pretty specific reporting. Caesar Augustus, Cyrenius, Galilee, Nazareth, Judaea, Bethlehem—political events, time lines, locations, itineraries, genealogy—all this who/what/when/where/why stuff is leading into anthropois eudokias. So we have to assume that, if he was that careful about all the externals, then he was equally careful about God’s use of the birth of Christ to proclaim a blessing “for those in whom he was well pleased.” Luke was describing a gift of peace for men who have benevolence in their hearts. That’s why it’s not enough to simply say, “Yes, Christ brought peace into the world.” You have to add, “And he expected us to keep it.”

And that requires reaching out to our enemies. That would require things like:

Richard Spencer calling up Cornel West, or Cornel West calling up Richard Spencer, and one of them saying, “I would like for us to meet so that we can explore what we might have in common.”

Raul Grijalva, the Tucson congressman regarded as the most liberal legislator in Washington, and Jim Jordan, the rural Ohio congressman regarded as the most conservative legislator in Washington, sitting down together for Christmas dinner.

Bill Maher inviting Donald Trump to be a guest on his show—and Donald Trump accepting—so that the two men, rather than saying mean-spirited things about each other, could discuss what it means to be American.

These are all events that we regard as impossible.

Unless you believe that God can change hearts.

At the risk of entering into a new heresy, I’m going to give my own lay theory about Luke 2:11.

I’ll grant that the Catholics are right about what Luke wrote down in the first century. But in the spirit of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his theses to the Wittenberg Church door, I’m going to be very Protestant and suggest that our understanding of God’s will is a progressive living thing, evolving and accessible to all. When encountered by four men in the year 1965, the words “good will” were understood in both senses—as a blessing to all and an injunction to take God’s good will and transfer it abundantly to others.

Would God do that? Would God work out the meaning of scripture through the mundane work of a cartoonist (Charles Schulz), a television producer (Lee Mendelson), a director (Bill Melendez), and a jazz pianist and composer (Vince Guaraldi)? Would God proclaim a gift of universal peace and, at the same time, command us to preserve that peace in the form of something so humble as an animated American television special?

Yes, I think He would. I think He did. I think the gospel turns up in the strangest places. I think it even turns up in a nation full of ill will.


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