Call to Hear

8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

   14      “Glory to God in the highest,

   And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

PRAY: Father God we thank you for Your word. Your word is truth and by it we are sanctified. It’s sharper than any double-edge sword and it is a light and a lamp to guide us in this life. Amen!

Peace on earth. Shepherds were in the fields minding their own business, tending to their flocks, when all of a sudden angels appeared to them in awe-inspiring fashion with a Christmas message about the arrival of the Lord’s salvation. The shepherds were terrified, but the angels comforted them with the assurance that there was nothing to fear. This was a message of good tidings, a message of great joy, a message of PEACE.

If there was ever a time that we needed peace on earth it’s now. 

This year has been a boiling pot of divisions and conflicts of all sorts. Whether it’s the ongoing cries of “No Justice! No Peace!” that we hear from the streets, the debate over wearing masks, those who follow the science about the corona virus and those who don’t and don’t get me started on the presidential election.

And then there are the conflicts in our own lives? What about the overwhelming problems in your home and on your job and in your head and heart? You know, I can listen to the angel’s message that there will be peace on earth and that’s all well and good, but if we’re honest, we would just be happy to have peace in our families. What about peace in my marriage? I’m fine with peace on earth, but will that bring me peace in my loneliness? Does that guarantee peace in my restlessness nights while I’m awake? How can I have peace when my child believes that it would be better if he was never born and threatens to run away in the middle of the night?

Peace has many meanings and it applies to a multiplicity of areas in our lives. According to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary the word means to be in 1) a state of tranquility or quiet; 2) freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions; 3) harmony in personal relations; 4) a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity.

If you do a quick search for “peaceful” images you’ll find some really breathtaking scenes. The waters are motionless, there’s a gorgeous mountain range in the background, the sun is setting or rising with the most majestic colors of orange, red, and purple. You’ll also see images of a lone soul standing on the beach greeting the morning in tree pose or warrior pose.

If I were to ask you what is peace or when are you most peaceful, you might answer something like this:

Peace is  a no-agenda weekend at the end of a long work week. It’s the mending of a broken relationship. Peace is quiet, uninterrupted silence. Which reminds me, peace is that thing you long for if you have children. AMEN!!

In the Bible though, peace is multi-faceted.  Although it often refers to the ending of conflicts, J.P. Healey says, “[it] is not…simply a negative, the absence of war. Peace is a positive notion, a notion with its own content.” The Hebrew term shalom and the Greek equivalent eriene, each carry the implication of being whole or complete socially, relationally, personally, financially, emotionally and spiritually. Again, Healey says that it means “to have physical and spiritual resources sufficient to one’s needs.” 

Today, I want to take a closer look at Luke 2:14’s promise of peace on earth. What I want us to understand regarding peace is that it can be external. It can also be internal, and the  funny thing about how we measure internal peace a lot of times is that it is dependent upon external factors. That in order to have peace within, there must first be peace without. Finally, what I want us to focus our hearts and minds on this morning in regards to peace is that our greatest peace is neither external nor internal, but instead it is eternal. We don’t get real lasting peace from  the calm of our circumstances or the calming of our minds, instead our greatest peace comes from Jehovah-Shalom, the Lord who is Peace.

Now, in order to have real peace in our lives there are three things that we need to do.

Pursue Peace

First, if you want peace in your life, you can’t wait for it to come to you, you have to go and get peace. You can’t wait for better circumstances, you can’t wait for your situation to change, you have to chase peace down.

I’ll give you two reasons from God’s word why I believe this is true. First, in Psalm 34:14 David tells us to “Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.”(REPEAT 2x) Secondly, this is almost identical to what we read in Psalm 34:14, the writer of Hebrews 12:14ff says that we must, “14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord…”

I like what A.R. Fausset says about the pursuit of peace in his commentary. He says not only are we to seek peace, “…but if it seems to flee from [you], still press eagerly after it, not giving up the pursuit, through impatience or resentment, because of the continued malice of adversaries”.  This is so powerful!! If peace escapes your grasp, if it evades you, then you must chase it down and you can’t give up because it hasn’t happened at your pace or because it requires more from you than you are willing to give! 

When depression comes – pursue peace. 

When anxiety comes – pursue peace. 

When you begin to worry about the circumstances of your life – pursue peace.

Seek peace with that neighbor who is hard to deal with. 

Seek peace with that family member who won’t speak to you. 

Seek peace with that coworker who keeps eating your lunch even though you put your name on it. 

And if they resist your peaceful efforts don’t give up the hunt.

You know, it’s also really hard to have peace in your life when you’re overwhelmed. When all you’re thinking about is all there is to do. It’s hard to have peace when your heart and mind is filled with worry. We’ve all been under a great deal of stress this year. Whether it’s the back n forth, stop n go of the school year, or the lack of human interaction. Maybe it’s been  a recent diagnosis or the loss of someone you love. Whatever it is, and I’m not trying to make light of these situations, but if you want peace in your life you’ll have to pursue it. You gotta go get it. We can’t expect peace to magically appear while we are bemoaning our circumstances. We will have to fall on our knees and cry out to the God of all comfort and the God of peace. We will have to comb through the pages of God’s word which is the gospel of peace (ROM.  10:15; EPH. 6:15) and when we do that we will discover that God says:

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.MATT. 6:34

6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. PHIL. 4:6-7

casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.1 PT. 5:7

For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.ROM. 8:6

I know that some of us are in some real chaotic situations right now. It can feel like the more you look for peace in those situations the further it runs away. Isaiah  26:3 comforts us with these words, “You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You” ( Isaiah  26:3). I want to encourage you to stay in the hunt for peace this morning! Don’t give up, because there is a peace that the Lord has made available to us and you can’t wait for it to come to you – you have to go and get it!

Make Peace

Here’s the second thing that I want to say about peace. I realize that it’s possible for us to be on the lookout for peace and not find it. So what do you do in that situation? What do you do when you’ve searched high and low for peace and you’ve chased it down but it still gets away from you? Well, that’s when you make your own. Not only does the Bible tell us to pursue peace, but we are also told to make peace. Let’s read Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.”

Let me give you an example of what that could look like.

In 1968 Shirley Chisholm became the first ever Black U.S. Congresswoman after winning the race for her district in NY. In 1972 she decided to step things up by running for the presidency making her the first Black person in history from either of the two major parties to make a run at the office of president. All of her opponents were white men, but George Wallace is by far the most memorable of them all. George Wallace was the Governor of Alabama at the time and he believed in “segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.” That was one of his slogans.

During the campaign, Wallace was shot five times in a failed assassination attempt. He spent several days in the hospital and during his stay Shirley Chisholm, his opponent, his Black opponent, went to visit him. For some strange reason this upset a lot of people. However, according to Ellen Fitzpatrick of the Atlantic magazine, the point that Shirley Chisholm was trying to make was that it is “…important in a democracy to respect contrary opinions without ‘impugning the motives’ and ‘maligning the character’ of one’s opponents. To view it any other way, Chisholm argued, was to encourage ‘the same sickness in public life that leads to assassinations’”. It is my belief that Shirley Chisholm was what the Bible calls a peacemaker.

In Romans 14:19 Paul says that we are to “pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.” Look, sometimes folks are under the impression that because they aren’t physically or verbally fighting with somebody else that they have peace with that person. That’s not necessarily true. It could be you listening to me today or watching us online. You haven’t talked to that friend or family member since that last disagreement. Your neighbor has been a pain in the neck and as soon as you pull into your garage you shut the door to avoid them. And we can convince ourselves that because we aren’t in an active battle with those people that we have peace with them. Warren Wiersbe reminds us that shalom means more than a truce in the battles of life” and “the absence of war doesn’t guarantee the presence of peace”.

So here’s a question. How are you going to make peace when you can’t chase it down? Well, you might have to forgive somebody who hurt you. And they may need to actually hear that from you in writing or a phone call or in a face to face meeting. You will have to love them past the pain that was done to you. Maybe you just need to listen to them tell you about how YOU hurt them. Maybe you’ll need to show up for that performance or game the next time instead of letting work get in the way again. Broken promises are one of the best ways to create conflict between people. You might have to bake some Christmas cookies and bring them over. (Ryan, I’m talking to you. I’ll be expecting my cookies soon.)

One of the best peacemakers that I know of is my wife. She’s really good at making peace because I have given her so many opportunities to practice. Where I have oftentimes allowed a root of bitterness to spring up in me she will cut it down through an unrelenting pursuit of peace. And listen, as important as it is for us to have peace with each other and to be at peace with ourselves, there is a greater peace that we can all benefit from.

Receive it

The greatest peace that you will ever enjoy will not come from the people in your life, it will not come from getting a better paying job. It won’t come from a vaccine and it won’t come from well behaved children. It won’t come from  making friends with your enemies and it certainly won’t even come from  having everything your heart desires.

At the time of the events in Luke 2 the famous Pax Romana (Roman Peace) had been in effect since 27 BC. This “peace” first began with Octavian and would last for more than 200 years, ending in 180 AD. “The Stoic philosopher Epictetus said, ‘While the emperor may give peace from war on land and sea, he is unable to give peace from passion, grief, and envy. He cannot give peace of heart for which man yearns more than even for outward peace’”.

So where do we get this “peace of heart” that Epictetus spoke about? Well, we already established that we can’t wait around for peace, we have to go get it and if we can’t find it then we have to make it. The third, final and most impactful way to have peace in your life is to simply receive it.

Some people think that peace comes from sitting in the lotus position where everything is quiet and still, but then when they go back into their normal lives where everything is rocky, unpredictable and chaotic their “peace” is gone. But we serve a God who promises to give us a peace that surpasses all understanding. A peace that will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. A peace that can only be found in the Prince of Peace. Listen to what Jesus says in John 14:27. “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). The apostle James says that friendship with the world leaves us in a constant state of war with God (James 4:4). And what we learn from the prophet Isaiah is that “…your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear” (Isa. 59:2). Peace is the antithesis to war. Unity is the answer to division. But listen my friends, we do not have it in us to make peace with God. We have an unending bent toward separation from God. What does God’s word tell us? “There is none righteous, not even one. There is none who seeks God” (Romans 3:10-11). “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, but the free gift of God’s grace justifies us and we are redeemed through Jesus Christ (Romans 3:23-24), the Babe who was wrapped in swaddling clothes, the Child angels declared would bring peace on earth.

Listen to Ephesians 2:13–18,

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father (Ephesians 2:12–18 NKJV).

Jesus Himself is our Peace.

Jesus Himself makes our peace.

Jesus Himself preached peace.

And He did it through the cross and the shedding of His own  blood.

Through the cross Jesus reconciled us to God. Through the cross He established peace between us and God. It was to YOU listening to me today that He preached peace and if you will receive it by faith then it’s yours for the keeping. One of my all-time favorite verses in the Bible is  Romans 5:1. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Jesus has come to calm the raging storm of sin in your life if you will just have faith. He has called a cease fire between you and Him.  The war can end today if you will just believe Him and receive the peace that only He provides. The Word of God tells us that  “as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:” (John 1:12). The Bible tells us that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). God demonstrated His own love toward us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). He became sin, not knowing sin (He was separated from God, having never known separation) so that we might become the righteousness of God through Him (2 Cor. 5:21).

If you want peace today and in the coming year, you will have to pursue it, chase it down. If you can’t find it,  you’ll have to make it,  but the greatest peace you’ll ever enjoy comes from Jesus. Receive it. 

Call to Respond

You might be here this morning or you might be watching online and you have never truly known the kind of peace that I’m talking about today. There is brokenness in your relationships. Depression and anxiety has beat you down far too long and you want peace. Well, if you want it, GO GET IT. If you can’t chase it down – MAKE IT. Do you know that it’s possible to have peace while a storm is raging around you? His Name is Jesus. He is the Prince of Peace. He is Jehovah Shalom – the Lord Who Is Peace. You may be at a point in your life where you are being tossed around in the waters of your own sinfulness. Or maybe you realize that you have been at odds with God far too long and you are ready to put an end to the war. Jesus gives the peace you need. Not like the world gives. He gives His own peace and through faith in His redeeming work you can have all the peace you’ll ever need. You just have to RECEIVE IT.

 

 

 

Peace on Earth (Luke 2:8-14)
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