“God is with us: May the Peace of the Lord be with you!”
The Fourth Sunday of Advent: Lighting the Candle of PEACE
December 24, 2017
by Pastor Jerry Ingalls
Did you know that one of God’s greatest promises is wrapped up in the word ‘peace’?
Jesus promises His followers a peace from God that goes beyond human understanding and when we focus our minds and hearts on the promises of God, the God of peace will be with us (Philippians 3:6-7 & 8-9).
What is this peace that God offers us?
God’s peace is not a temporary cease fire although it is a coming back to the table together! It is not sweeping the conflict under the rug or hiding it in the closet, although a covering of the sin is necessary and provided to those who humble themselves and ask. The peace that God offers is a setting of the table where the only Mediator between God and humanity sits down personally. It is what King David promised in the 23rd Psalm: The LORD is my shepherd…who sets a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
Listen to one of the most famous promises about God’s peace that is fulfilled at Christmas. From Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
Within that prophecy is the greatest promise ever given by God to humanity: Immanuel! The mystery and the miracle of God being with us. So, let’s answer the question I asked earlier: What is the peace that God offers us? This is what Immanuel ultimately means: God gives you peace by giving you Himself!
Now, let us listen to the best story ever told; the fulfillment of God’s promise of Immanuel. From the Gospel of Jesus according to Luke 2:1-14, “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’”
Did you hear it again? There is the promise of peace offered to humanity by the great multitude of angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
What separates people from the peace of God that has been offered to humanity?
Paul says that it is sin that separates us from the peace of God (Romans 3:23; 6:23). When we sin, we push away from the table of peace that God has set up for our fellowship. When we sin, we tell God that we can provide for ourselves, that our ways are better than His ways, that our personal pursuits will bring us greater joy and satisfaction than whatever He can offer. Sin started in the Garden of Eden by Adam & Eve not taking God’s Word for it. That same sin of not taking God at His word has continued ever since by all who have lived, including us.
Some of the ways we know that we are being robbed of our peace is when our lives are under the control of anxiety, worry, neurotic or psychotic thoughts or behaviors, addictive tendencies, unhealthy choices, lust or anger, destructive relationships, pride, doubt, idolatry, or fear.
But, any of these, each of these, when experienced in our lives can become an invitation in our lives. An absence of peace can become something of an alarm in your life and mine. We all have moments where we lose our peace of mind or we at least feel it threatened. It is what you do in that moment that makes the difference. I am encouraging you today, to remain in that moment for Jesus is there. Don’t medicate yourself from the lack of peace; address what is causing you to feel that way. Invite the God of peace into that moment.
Sin separates us from God and sin’s consequences destroy our communities. God acted in love to give us the solution to these situations: Immanuel—God gives you peace by giving you Himself!! The only answer is God’s presence in us, in our families, in our schools, in our communities! That is why Jesus Christ came that Christmas morning over 2,000 years ago. To once and for all, make a way for our sins to be forgiven so that there is no longer a separation between God and humanity. Through His birth in a humble manger and His death on a humble cross, Jesus was exalted above all and given authority over death as witness by His resurrection. His shed blood has the power to cover the wrath/judgement of God for sins (propitiation) and forever restore peace between people and God in a restored relationship through the forgiveness of sins.
How do we live this reality? How do we take the large promise that God is with us and personally let the peace of God rule in our hearts and in our lives?
Paul directly answer this question in Colossians 3:12–17 by teaching us to let God’s peace rule in our hearts, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Set the table for God’s presence in your life by confessing that you are a sinner and in need of the forgiveness that only Jesus Christ can offer you. This eternal life that we speak of is God’s presence in you! Invite the God who is with us to be the peace in you and through you.
May the peace of Christ rule from His throne in your heart.