We are here tonight to celebrate the Gift of Christmas. The One who was born as a Child, given as a Son, and is called the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.” For the past four weeks we have been studying God’s message of hope to a people and that were distressed, suffering anxiety about their enemies who were plotting and planning their demise, and who would face even more difficult days in the future. The atmosphere was thick with tension and fear and yet the prophet of God stood up and spoke, “Thus saith the Lord.” Listen once again to his comforting words of reassurance that God has not, nor will He ever forget and abandon His people. Isaiah writes,
1Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan–2The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.3You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.4For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.5Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.6For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.7Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.(Isaiah 9:1-7 NIV)
Isaiah describes the Promised Messiah as “the Prince of Peace” and then he elaborates upon his description by saying that the government will be upon His shoulders and there will be no end to the peace that He will bring. When the Messiah initiates His perfect peace it will not be an eye in the hurricane of the calamities of humanity or a lull in the storm of world strife, but it will be a perfect peace that will never end.
There seems to be a pervasive yearning within the human heart for peace. You can drive around town and see all kinds of bumper stickers that reflect this yearning. Bumper stickers like “Visualize World Peace,” “Pray for Peace,” and “It’s Hard To Hug Your Kids With Nuclear Arms” are examples of the yearning for a close to conflicts around the world. I spent some time this past week scanning the internet, reading websites about “World Peace.” There are hundreds, if not thousands of websites that are built around this topic, but let me share just a couple of nuggets with you. There is a man whose name is “John WorldPeace,” (I kid you not!) and he has a website with page after page describing his philosophy and statistical data about the topic. John writes,
Know that we are moving toward a perfect day, no matter how far away in time, when we will have solved the problems of our relationship with each other, our relationships with the earth, our relationship with our universe and our relationship with God. We are moving toward a perfect day when inner peace and peaceful co-existences become a reality.(John WorldPeace,The Book of Peace, http://www.johnworldpeace.com/indexbop.htm)
When you dig deeper into Mr. WorldPeace’s website you can quickly discover that he is not describing the Sovereign God of Scripture, but some innocuous, universal consciousness who is not nearly as concerned with Truth as He is world peace and some kind of universal harmonic convergence that He desires, but is unable to achieve without our cooperation.
In another website I found there were listed historic “peace” days that have occurred throughout the past several years. One of the historic days was called, “Global Conversion.” Sounds like a world-wide Billy Graham Crusade until you begin reading the text. Let me share with you what was supposed to happen on this historic day in 1997.
On May 19th, 1997 a transition of energies will be occurring world wide, to herald the dawn of the Christ-Consciousness/Principle. St. Germain instructed members of “The Chapel of the Krystal Light” to congregate globally to meditate, chant and sing, from 6:00 PM to10:00 PM Pacific Daylight Saving Time. St. Germain said there will not be an opportunity for another worldwide conversion of this magnitude for 1 1/2million years. He invites all of those concerned with the spiritual well being of Planet Earth to blend positive energies of love, light and peace in celebration of this global vibration. Collectively we can raise the consciousness of Planet Earth. St. Germain has prophesied that, if we follow his instructions, world unity and harmony will begin to manifest. Thus, present day prophecies of cataclysmic destruction to Mother Earth will be transmuted. (http://www.peaceday.org/0519.htm)
As I look back on the years that have passed since “World Conversion Day” I think we can easily conclude that we missed our one opportunity for peace and that we won’t have another opportunity to achieve peace for another 1 1/2 million years if you believe the website.
Did you notice something about both of these illustrations that I’ve shared with you? There is a glaring similarity found in both sites that stands in stark contrast to the Scripture that we’ve been studying for the past month. In both of the websites I’ve shared with you the impetus is on humanity. Mr. WorldPeace says that there is coming a time when “we” will have solved the problems with each other, the earth, the universe, and with God. The Global Conversion folks say that collectively we can raise the consciousness of planet earth through blending our positive energies of love, light, and peace. That sounds wonderful, but if you just examine the evidence of what has taken place since 1997 then you can see that we have failed miserably.
The Scripture from Isaiah says nothing about our ability to bring about peace. rather, we are told that the Prince of Peace will be in charge and that it will be the “zeal of the Lord” that will accomplish all of this.
This evening, on the eve of the day when we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, we are a world in strife, but even more than this–we are people filled with strife. Our time is no different than the days in which Isaiah 9 was written. Our world is no different the world into which Jesus was born. The world will never experience peace until the hearts of the people of the world are able to rest in peace. This, my friend, is impossible without the Prince of Peace reigning and ruling in our hearts. You may not agree with me. You may be convinced that if we were just to put our mind to it then surely we can come up with some kind of personal peace plan that would lead to a world of peace. Scripture teaches that at the core of our hearts we are bent on something altogether different. In Isaiah 59 we read,
7Their feet rush into sin; they are swift to shed innocent blood. Their thoughts are evil thoughts; ruin and destruction mark their ways.8The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks in them will know peace.9So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows.(Isaiah 59:7-9 NIV)
By the time the New Testament came into being the status of the hearts of people had not changed one bit. Listen to these words by Paul to the Church inRome.
12All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”13″Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.”14″Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”15″Their feet are swift to shed blood;16ruin and misery mark their ways,17and the way of peace they do not know.”(Romans 3:12-17 NIV)
How can we draw up a plan of peace when we don’t have any idea how to pack up our bags of strife, division, and contention and move into the land of peace and serenity? Our plans for personal peace, apart from Christ, would have as much of a chance of success as the plans of the Israelis and Palestinians.
Peace will only come to a broken world when peace first reigns in the hearts of broken people. It is only when the Prince of Peace comes to reign and rule in the hearts of people that peace will then move from the hearts of individuals into their neighborhoods, towns, cities, states, countries, and world.
During Jesus’ ministry He told His disciples that He was going to leave them His peace. Jesus acknowledged that there is a peace that the world gives, but that it is an altogether different peace than the peace He came to bring to those who will follow Him. Let me read to you from John 14:27.
27 PeaceI leave with you; mypeaceI give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John14:27NIV)
Just two chapters later in the Gospel of John the Lord acknowledged that there would be lots of trouble for His disciple in this world, but that could still dwell in the peace that was available through a relationship with Him. Read with me from John 16:33.
33″I have told you these things, so that in me you may havepeace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”(John16:33NIV)
Many of you who are here this evening have just journeyed through a year of hardships, heartaches, hassles, strife, and great anxiety. Let me ask you something: Have you experienced the peace that Jesus spoke about when the troubles came? Do you know His peace that surpasses all understanding even though your world and life have seemed to be unraveling at the seams? Remember this my friends, Jesus said that the peace of God is available “in Him.” You and I must abide in Him if we are going to know the perfect peace of God in troubling times.
I know the trials that many of you have experienced during the past year. I have friends who have experienced divorce during the past year and it has broken your heart. I know others who have faced hard financial situations this past year and it has crushed you in more ways than one. I have other friends who have attended the funeral of a spouse, parent, or one of their children and you have wondered if life is really worth living. I know people who have had their sin dragged out of their secret closet for all the world to see and the embarrassment that you have faced has humiliated you beyond anything you could have imagined. Each of these situations have kept you up at night, they’ve stolen your appetite, and left you wondering if there was any hope of a brighter day for you.
I want to speak for God this evening and let you know that the days of darkness are about to dawn with the glorious hope of the Savior who was born on Christmas morning if, if you will but put your trust in the One who came to save you from the sin that desires to destroy you and me. A new morning is on the horizon if we will put our trust in the One who came to forgive us, cleanse us, and give us a new beginning! He will not only forgive you, but He will surround you and undergird you with His perfect peace. Won’t you accept the Christmas Gift this evening? It is time for you to lay down your Christmas list and receive the Christmas Gift, the one gift that will truly keep giving for the rest of you life. Won’t you invite Him in this evening before you leave this place?