It’s easy to get lost during the Christmas season. It’s may be easier to say Jesus is the reason for the season then to really live our life like that during this time. Does Christmas really bring joy and peace and forgiveness and hope? According to most studies, this is a season of stress and distress, of sadness not gladness. A group called Mental Health America did a survey, the results showed that failing finances, missing a lost loved one and having too much to do were the top stressors. Dateline NBC conducted a scientific poll and found that 41% of us are maxed out this month, rating it right up there with asking the boss for a raise or going to the dentist.
Last week we focused on the hope we have from the birth of Jesus. Now let’s look at shepherds when they were awaken from a night of peaceful watching. Luke 2:9-18 portions: “Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord……..
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” ……So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.
After the one angel appeared to the shepherds in Luke 2:10 announcing “good news of great joy for all the people,” then suddenly an entire army of angelic messengers suddenly filled the sky with a huge chorus of adoration and said in verse 14: “Glory to God in the highest…” These angels were waiting a long time for the birth of the baby and now they bust out with praise. Can you imagine how loud this must have been?
Their praise led them to declare a proclamation of peace: “…and on earth peace among those he favors.” Said a bit differently, “On earth peace, among men who are the objects of his pleasure.” Simply put, if you are able to receive what God wants to give, the message of peace is for you. It’s available to all but only active for those who accept Immanuel, God with us, for those who believe and receive.
Notice that peace comes only after praising. We must put God and His glory first and then peace will come. While this is a neat time of the year, there is nothing magical about this season if one does not know the Christ of Christmas. The phrase “Happy Holidays” is meaningless without an acknowledgement of the holiness of God. The precondition for peace is to first praise God for His glory and grace.
The word “peace” appears over 400 times in Scripture and in the Old Testament, “peace” is the word shalom, a state of wholeness and harmony that is intended to be in all relationships. Isaiah said in 61:1:“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted…” Jesus came to bring joy and He came to bind up the brokenhearted. This is echoed in Psalm 147:3: “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” If you are brokenhearted to, Jesus came for you.
“brokenhearted” broken, deeply afflicted and saddened, downcast and dejected. Bruce Goettsche says it includes those who are:
* Crushed by loss
* Trampled by circumstances
* Broken by bereavement
* Beaten down by abuse
* Despairing because of disappointment
* Incapacitated by physical ailments
* Smothered by loneliness
* Victimized by aggressors
* Rejected by those they love
* Paralyzed by bad decisions
* Destitute because of sin
Brokenness hits us physically, relationally, emotionally, financially and spiritually. There is great comfort in Psalm 34:18: “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Aren’t you glad that Jesus “binds up the brokenhearted”? Isaiah 9:6 tells us that one of His names is “Prince of Peace.” Jesus bandages that which is broken. Jesus gives each of us personal attention; soothing the pain; healing and restoring us to wholeness. In short, He brings peace where there is no peace.
We’re all broken in some way. Some of us just hide it more than others. No doubt, there are “camouflage Christians” here today. Maybe you’re hurting but you hide it from others. Jesus came for you. The word “peace” in the New Testament means to “join together; to set at one again.” It has the idea of gluing something back together and is used in at least four ways.
* Peace with God – that’s the vertical dimension
* Peace of God – this takes place internally
* Peace with others – that’s peace horizontally
* Peace for others – that’s the proclamation of peace in the gospel
1. Peace with God. That’s the vertical dimension. We were filled with sin and without surrender to Jesus, there is no peace with God. In his classic book called, “Peace with God,” Billy Graham hits it on the head: “The greatest warfare going on in the world today is between mankind and God. People may not realize that they are at war with God, but if they don’t know Jesus Christ as their Savior…God considers them to be at war with Him.”
Romans 5:1 gives the good news: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Because of what Jesus Christ did on the Cross, you and I can now be at peace with God. God the Father poured out His wrath, fury, and indignation on His Son, who died in our place, as our sin-substitute. Colossians 1:20 says that Jesus reconciled Himself to all things “making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.”
Once we are justified by faith, surrendered to Jesus, peace is to be a primary reality for the believer. The word “with” God points to a person’s relationship with God. Isolation has been replaced with intimacy. We can face a holy God because we’re now glued to Him.
We don’t deserve peace among those he favors.. In fact, what we deserve is death and eternal punishment. But, because of God’s great love, He provided a way for us to be set at one again with the God of the universe. Do you have peace with God today? Or are you far away from Him? Do you feel disconnected? Then you probably have not truly surrendered your whole life to Jesus.
This is a critical question some of you may need to ask yourself today: “Do I say I’m a follower of Jesus, yet when I consider how I live my life, I’m not? Stop listening to me now and really accept Him into your life and make a covenant with Him asking Him to give you the power to change your life. Next,
2. Peace of God. This is an internal peace and it is only available to you if you have taken step 1, once that is done then inward peace can saturate our lives. Jesus said in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” This inner peace is a gift from Jesus and comes to us as a key element of the fruit of the Spirit.
We will experience this peace in proportion to the room we give the Holy Spirit in our lives. This is the peace you can have when you make a very difficult decision that often seems crazy. This is a “peace that surpasses all understanding”. This is a peace that when you feel scared and unsure about the next step, or about the illness you have, or the trouble in your life, and then you remember that it is time to FULLY trust God.
You are crying out inside for God to help and protect but you finally cry ‘I trust you God…my life is yours, let your will be done’ and peace comes. It is when you’re no longer scared and will be ok. You feel blessed and possibly people can’t understand your joy….it’s a joy you only get when you trust.
As God gives us peace, let’s reach out with this peace to others, remembering that God loves broken-hearted people. Bruce Goettsche wrote: “Sometimes the church seems to imply that a hurting person is a deficient person. We think they don’t have enough faith or they just aren’t living right. A hurting person is just human. People hurt. And God knows that we hurt. God not only understands…He wants to help. He sent Christ because He loves the hurting of the world.”
God understands. He always understands. Can I challenge you to look for the hurting during this holiday season? Make a point to reach out to someone who has gone through a death or a divorce. Include those who are alone. That friends was the great thing about 104 people outside of our family that were served on Thanksgiving Day.
3. Peace with others. This is horizontal. When we’re at peace with God, and we have internal peace, we can then be at peace with others. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said: “The followers of Jesus have been called to peace, He is their peace, but now they are told that they must not only have peace but make it.” Jesus said in Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.” Jesus didn’t tell us to be “peacekeepers,” but instead “peacemakers.” This could be translated as “peace workers.” It takes effort to bring conflict to an end. When we work at resolving conflict we are doing what God does.
Peace is a fruit of the Spirit and we must share it with others. Seeds from a fruit needs planted to grow, good fruit is not just for us but for those around us. Here’s a question. Are you planting peace in others or are you sowing seeds of strife? Determine right now to be a planter of peace not a sower of strife. Is there anyone you need to make things right with? Anyone you need to “be at one with”? Some of you are dreading Christmas because you’re in conflict with someone in your family. Maybe a root of bitterness has gone down deep in your life. It’s time to let it go.
4. Peace for others. That’s the proclamation of the peace in the Gospel. The only way for people to have peace with God, to have peace inside, and to be at peace with others, is for people like us to tell them about the gospel of peace. Peter declares to you in Acts 10:36: “You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.” The shepherds hurried off to tell the good news, we must share this peace with others.
A survey indicated 82% of people without a church are receptive to attend church if invited and escorted by a friend. That’s good news, isn’t it? Here’s the bad news. Only 21% of church-going Christians invited someone to church in 2015.
You’ve been given an invite in your bulletin today and I think the Lord, wants you to use this to give to someone in the next two weeks. Ask people if they are ready for Christmas. If they say they are or aren’t, ask them if they have a church to go to. If the answer is no, then tell them about our 9:00 Christmas Eve service or our 9:15 Christmas day service. If you don’t have the invite with you, stop back and give them one, ask if they need a ride. Put one with a gift your giving, put inside a Christmas card. There’s a stack in the back.
So how serious are you about wanting peace this Christmas? Need internal peace, truly surrender. Need peace in your heart, trust God. Need peace with others, step out and make peace. Want peace for others, invite others and tell others how to find peace, a peace that surpasses all understanding.
Paul said it best: 2 Thessalonians 3:16: “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.”