Wk4 – The Heart of Christmas: Find Peace In The Heart of Christmas
Luke 2:8-14, Colossians 1:19-22, Matthew 5:9
Merry Christmas! It is Christmas Eve and the fourth Sunday in Advent, and what a wonderful day it is to celebrate and ponder on God’s gift to us. We are wrapping up our sermon series where we have been discovering the heart of Christmas because we that know often, we can get distracted and lost in all the season’s festivities and miss the whole point of Christmas. Jesus is the heart of Christmas and with His birth came the gifts of hope, love, joy, and peace, which we’ve been looking at all month.
The first week, we learned that we are offered hope in the middle of our circumstances because of God’s faithfulness. The second week, we looked at the wonderful gift of love. When God sent His Son to be born, it was an expression of God’s unfailing and relentless love. Last week, we learned that joy is ours no matter the circumstances because God dwells with us. For this final week of our series, we’ll take a look at the last gift that Jesus’ birth makes available to us, which is peace.
I don’t think this could come at a better time. Many of us are frantically getting ready for tomorrow, making sure our house is in order for company, the cookies are baked, the gifts are wrapped, (I sure hope you’re done shopping at this point), and others are experiencing sickness, heart break, missing loved ones and just trying to keep it all together. So right now, peace sounds pretty good for many of us. Peace sounded pretty good for the people in the Christmas story too.
The Christmas story in the Bible is a beautiful story. One most of us know well or at least can tell of the high parts. We know that Mary was a virgin, Joseph almost divorced her, the went to Bethlehem because some governor wanted to count everyone for tax purposes, we know that Jesus was born in a barn because all the hotels and Airbnb’s were full, we know that some really smart guys eventually came and brought some gifts, oh and there were some smelly guys that came to see baby Jesus.
That’s great. Those are the main scenes, but the story really goes so much deeper. There’s so much more meaning and purpose for all of those characters and scenes. For one, the first announcement of of Jesus’ arrival to earth was given by a multitude of heavenly angels to a group of unlikely people, shepherds the stinky guys, who were out in a field minding their own business, watching their flocks in order to keep them safe that night.
8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
Shepherds in first century Israel were individuals who existed on the fringe of society. They were yes, stinky and dirty from being in the fields all day and all night, but they were also considered untrustworthy. Mostly just because they lived on their own for months at a time as they traveled with their flocks, not associating themselves with society. So it would have been shocking to the first readers of the book of Luke that these were the people God chose to entrust with such an important message, that the Messiah had finally arrived and that…
POINT #1 – THE PEACE OF GOD IS FOR ALL PEOPLE
The angels first had to steady the shepherds because they were terrified in the radiance of the Lord’s glory. It’s certainly not every day you get to see the sky all lit up and be in the presence of an angel. So the angel first told the shepherds, they didn’t need to fear. They were here with good news. A baby had been born who was the long-awaited Messiah—yes, the one who was promised long, long ago who would rescue God’s people. The angels also told them where to find baby Jesus, and before they left on their search, a heavenly host spoke over them: “Peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
What does that even mean? First, Jesus was ushering in peace. A peace that was never known before. A better peace than we can get anywhere else. It also says that peace is for those whom God is pleased with or whom God’s favor rest on. Now that does not mean God’s peace is just for the ones He likes the best. God loves all of His creation. It simple means for those of us who are willing to trust in Jesus, God is pleased with us or has favor on us because we have chosen to say “Yes,” to open our hearts to Him, to live our lives to Him, align our hearts with His, burn for what He burns for, be passionate for what He’s passionate about…which is His children, and then love like He loves.
In one survey, nearly one-third of those questioned, said that of all the people mentioned in the Christmas story, they identified the most with the shepherds. That doesn’t surprise me. The shepherds were average, ordinary people. Yet they were invited to see the birth of the King of kings.
What I find most amazing is that, when God wanted to announce the arrival of His Son, He didn’t do it in the presence of kings or queens, or in the presence of the High Priest and the religious leaders. He announced it to the poor, to the forgotten. It truly is good news because if God’s favor was offered to the shepherds, then surely God’s favor and peace is available for everyone.
It’s the world’s greatest need. From the time sin entered the world and affected all of creation, we have been at odds with God. The Bible says we were enemies of God and in rebellion against His rule and reign. But sin didn’t just stop there, it also caused us to be in conflict with one another and even ourselves. This is why Jesus’ birth was, and still is, such good news. It’s the ultimate answer to the brokenness that exists because of sin—the brokenness between us and God, brokenness between us and others, and even between our own inner voice.
This is the way Paul put it as he wrote to the church in Colossae, expressing the role that Jesus plays in making peace.
19 For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, 20 and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.
21 This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. 22 Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.
Did you catch that? Holy and blameless without a single fault! Who wouldn’t want that. No one in this room ever really wants to do the wrong thing. We want to honor our Heavenly Father, just like we do our earthly parents. We don’t want to let any of them down. But we have, more than once. And we’ll likely do it again. This is why this story is such good news!
Paul said that God made peace with everything in heaven and on earth. That doesn’t mean that beings in heaven had to get reconciled with God. It means that once we, God’s creation, are reconciled with God, we’re reconciled with Heaven. We are holy and blameless, pure.
To understand the kind of peace that came with Christmas, we have to first understand that, although Jesus arrived in a cradle, His whole life was destined for the cross. That was His whole purpose for coming to earth. He then intentionally lived a sinless life and willingly offered His life through crucifixion. Jesus had a choice, and He chose it long before He came as a baby. Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make people in our image, to be like ourselves.”
John 1:1 In the beginning, the Word already existed.
Paul said it’s the blood of Jesus Christ that makes peace between us and God. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross pays for the sin we have committed, it appeases God’s anger toward sin, and it destroys the power of evil in our lives. Please here this clearly, being reconciled to God is the key to experiencing peace in every other area of our lives. But you first have to get reconciled.
POINT #2 – JESUS RECONCILES US TO GOD
When we receive the gift of forgiveness that is offered to us by faith, we become family of God and He offers us His power to help us navigate the difficulties of life. Some may believe that being made right with God means they will never face any problems. That’s a false hope. Jesus said you even following Him, you will have trouble and trials. Peace doesn’t mean you won’t have any problems. Peace means that your problems won’t have you.
We’re still going to have circumstances that don’t go our way or challenges to navigate. What God’s peace promises is His presence in our lives. And if He is with us, then there is nothing we should fear. We can tell Him our deepest, darkest secrets. (He knows them anyways.) We can go to Him for guidance and strength. We can lean on Him when we get hurt or weary.
Once we are reconciled back to God, what God desires for us then to do is two things. One, make peace with ourselves. Every past mistake, personal struggle, or worry for the future is met with the love and grace of God. So give yourself love and grace. Who are you to not? If God gives it freely, then you should too. Which leads to the second thing desires for us to do.
God also wants us to make peace with others. When we come to recognize the grace given so freely to us, our hearts become transformed into a way that we too can offer grace. God expects you to give grace since you have been given forgiveness. A forgiveness that you know you don’t deserve, but you got anyways since Christ came to meet you on earth.
Jesus’ first coming was the arrival of God’s light of the world. Like sitting around a lit Christmas tree at night, the glow of God’s presence washes over us. It calms our fears and steadies our hearts. But at Christmastime, we also make note of another arrival that is to come. One day, Jesus will return and make all things right once and for all. See, His peace covers our past, meets us in our present, and is a promise for the future.
POINT #3 – PEACE IS OUR PURPOSE
What the world needs more of is people who have the peace of God in their hearts and who are willing to share that peace with others. It’s not optional for us to embody this peace. It’s an expectation that Jesus has for His followers. Joining God in making the world a better place is the purpose of our lives. In fact, Jesus speaks to this in the middle of His most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, and this piece is called the Beatitudes.
9 “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.”
The angels told the shepherds that peace was available to those on whom God’s favor rests. Jesus basically said the same thing when He stated that peacemakers will be blessed, and they will be called children of God. When we are willing to seek reconciliation with others and fight for harmony rather than division, we’re identified with the heart of God who longs to reconcile the world to Himself. We then look like the Father, and we are recognized as His children.
There are many people who don’t value peace in their relationships, and so they live in a constant state of conflict. Some people are looking for a fight because they aren’t in one. It reminds me of what Linus said to Charlie Brown in a Charlie Brown Christmas. Charlie Brown was having trouble getting into the Christmas spirit, and Linus observed, “Charlie Brown, you’re the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem.”
Unfortunately, this is the outcome for people who believe Christmas is about other things besides Jesus and the hope, love, joy, and peace He brings. This Christmas, may we be people who embrace the gift offered to us through Jesus who died for us so we might live in right relationship with God, ourselves, and others.
As we close, ask yourself, what kinds of things are robbing you of peace right now? Then do yourself and favor and make time today to share with God the stresses of your life and trust that His favor is truly on you today. Remember who God is, what Jesus purpose on earth was, and who you are, a child of God. He’s got you, and He longs to bring you peace. So get out of the way, and let Him bring it to you.