When my folks left us three kids alone in Omaha to visit my grand parents in California at Christmas time in 1956, they gave us each presents early. I got The Explorers 08-swiss-stampStamp collection; the album along with several hundred stamps.  I gave my 10 year old grandson the same stamp collection at Christmas a few years ago and for a while he was interested. But, like me when I was 10 years old, it didn’t last too long. But I’ve revived my interest and have a fairly serious world wide stamp collection now. I’ve enjoyed it immensely and look forward to it being more significant in my retirement years that lie ahead.

Most people don’t collect stamps for educational purposes but if you pay any attention at all you will learn some things.  I never learned about a country named “Helvetia,” did you? Yet, I have a large collection of stamps that are identified as such.  It’s Switzerland!  Art Farstadt says, “It’s the Latin name for the abode of the Helvetii, ancient tribes who lived there. Because some Swiss people speak German, some French, and some Italian (not to mention their own local dialect, Romansh), the inscriptions on the stamps are often in the (supposedly) ‘dead’ language, Latin!”

Now even us good protestants use Latin at Christmas time. We sing “Gloria in excelsis Deo!” Please indulge me here. One Swiss stamp holds this Old Latin Vulagte inscription “IN TERRA PAX HOMINIBUS BONAE VOLUNTATIS.” Scott’s Stamp Catalog translates that phrase for us: “Peace on earth to men of good will.” Many English translations reflect that rendering of Luke 2:14. But the King James and the New King James translates that phrase “Peace on earth and good will toward men.” The King James translators accurately translate a much larger number of Greek manuscripts that read “good will to men,” the word men is generic of course and means humans, not just men!

The overall teaching of the Bible is that there are no men of “good will” by God’s standards. As Paul writes, “All have sinned and have fallen short” of God’s standards. If the Vulgate is right, the coming of Christ to earth is only for good people. If that’s true there will be a very small group of people to experience “peace on earth” this Christmas or any other Christmas. But I’m convinced that the amazing grace of God and the Good News of Jesus Christ is for all people not just a select group. It is best communicated in the traditional protestant reading, “Peace on earth, Good will to men.” Even if we sometimes feel a lack of “good will” toward God and towards others the Christmas Gospel of Good Will toward all men is offered freely to us all through faith in Jesus Christ.