To me, these ethereal, other worldly and elevating words serve to emphasize the grounding, earthly, and very human nature of Jesus and the messages he brings and represents.
The angel and the multitudes are coming to share this powerful news with a group of sheep herders in some barren field. This messages from a window of the heavens could have been offered to the usual suspects—kings, courts, the wealthy and powerful—but it was not. The messengers chose those next to the ground, poor and isolated, to receive this astounding vision.
To me, I can leave to the side the seemingly supernatural constellation of angels as allegory; it is the choice of the receivers, feet firmly planted in soil, that is critical for me, reminding me this is a message for all humans, here on earth.
This echoes in the triumphant chorus – peace on earth. A phrase we hear and write almost without thinking – or at least I do! This is a reminder to me that the kingdom of God is not about heaven; it is about, and for, earth. It is not waiting out, tolerating a world structured on domination and subjugation in the hopes of something better in an afterlife. It is here. And now, and for us. All of us.
This loftiest of phrases, gilded by trumpets and angels’ wings, is about how we live together in our complicated, complex, gritty world here and now. Peace on earth, not peace somewhere, later, if you bide your time and wait out the injustices. Peace for all. Now. Here.