Pastor Stephen Muncherian
December 8, 1996
I invite you to turn with me to Luke 2:13, 14. Our scripture passage this morning is very familiar to us. It is the declaration of the angels to the shepherds. We remember this scene - shepherds watching sheep at night - out in the fields near Bethlehem - and the announcement of Jesus birth - first by one angel and then by a multitude of the angelic armies of heaven.
Luke 13: “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 men with whom He is pleased!” or as some translations more accurately render it - “and on earth peace among men upon whom His sovereign delight rests.”
This morning we are focused on “Peace”. If the birth of Jesus is announced as the coming of God’s peace, where is it? Where is His peace?
In 3,500 plus years of recorded human history only 286 years have been without war. Over 8,000 peace treaties - signed to usher in lasting peace - have been broken. The average time these treaties have remained in force has been two years. Only 8 percent of human history could be called a time of peace.
The very land of Jesus’ birth has consistently been a site of conflict, struggle, and war.
Just one direct example: A silver star hanging over the birthplace of Jesus was a major cause of the Crimean War.
For many years, the silver star decorating the site of Christ’s birth had been an object of controversy. The Eastern Orthodox Church wanted to replace it with a star of their own. The Latin clergy objected. The Eastern Church was backed by Russia and the Latins by France. When Turkey - which ruled over the Holy Land - sided with the Latins, Russia declared war on Turkey. Great Britain, France, and Italy then rallied to Turkey’s side.
The Allies finally won - after three long years of war - 1,000,000 casualties - and a cost of 1.5 billion dollars. Two years after the war, the silver star was permanently taken off.
Where is the peace of God? The sad reality is that this world will not experience true peace until the return of Jesus Christ.
This morning I would like to move beyond the philosophical to the personal. If the world can not be at peace, can we? What about personal peace - peace in our hearts - rest in our souls - an absence of inner struggle and turmoil?
What I find - as a personal struggle - and where many of us struggle - is that the circumstances of our lives - the world we live in - is constantly working to rob us of peace. We constantly struggle to feel safe, less anxious, more at peace. And that peace seems increasingly elusive.
Especially at this time of the year. Holidays are miserable.
Life is like “rush hour”. I have no idea why they call “rush hour”, “rush hour”. During rush hour nobody rushes anyplace. And everyone is frustrated because the more we want to rush somewhere the slower we seem to go. Millions of people trying to get somewhere and not being able to go anywhere.
Life is like that. So much to do and not being able to do it. Constantly trying to keep up and seemingly falling behind. Can any of you relate to this? I feel this: so much to do so little time to do it. And then, here come the holidays with even more things to do. Where is the peace of Christ in all this?
And, every holiday season the suicide rate goes up. Empty chairs at the family table - loved ones who are missed. People get depressed - everyone else is happy - we’re all supposed to be happy at Christmas - We sing “Joy to the World” - and we’re not joyful. We begin think, “There must be something wrong with me.”
Church - I struggle every year at Christmas - during these days - because I really do not feel “at peace”. And, I know that I am not alone in these feelings.
This morning I want to share just two thoughts with you which I have found very helpful. In these two thoughts is the potential to experience the peace that the angels declared to the shepherds - and to each one of us.
1. GOD LOVES YOU
In the midst of things - I keep saying this over and over to myself. More than the scenes of shepherds, stars, angels, wisemen, and mangers is the bottom line truth that God came - Jesus establishes - is the demonstration of God’s love towards me - towards each of us. And, when I feel beat up - worn out - frustrated - without peace - it is good to feel loved - accepted - cared for. We do not have to measure up, achieve, struggle for, or accomplish anything - He loves us.
Consider this verse: John 3:16. This is one of the most familiar verses in the Bible. Consider, that while we are told that God’s love extends to the whole world - it’s application is specific towards you. Sometimes it helps to say this verse and put our own name in it. Say it with me. And, when you see “world” and “whoever” - put your name there.
“For God so loved (your name) that He gave His only Son, that (your name) should not perish but have eternal life.”
The Bible says (1 John 4:9,10) “God showed His love for us by sending His only Son into the world, so that we might have life through Him. This is what love is: it is not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven.”
One of the greatest moments I’ve experienced recently happened a few nights back. It was after a long day of work - I came through the door into our house and our 1 year old came running down the hall - put up his arms for a hug and said, “Daddy”. That was one of the best hugs I’ve ever had.
God’s love feels so great - when in the midst of everything we can stop - put out our arms - say Daddy - and just let Him hug us - to know His love.
2. GOD DWELLS WITHIN YOU
When I was a kid we used to do a lot of camping. Now a days I’m not sure people know what it means to camp. When I go through a campground today there are trailers and mobile homes - with T.V. antennas and satellite dishes. Today, people drive up in their portable homes, sit back in an overstuffed chair, pop open a cold drink, stare out the window at the next mobile home and think they’re camping.
When we went camping, we went camping. We pitched a tent or slept out in the open. We swam in the river or lake not in a swimming pool. We cooked over a real flame not in a microwave.
When the Bible says that God dwells with us - one idea associated with “dwelling” is that God literally “pitches a tent” - He camps out. In the Old Testament the dwelling place of God, with man, was the Tabernacle - this huge tent in the middle of the Hebrew camp. In the New Testament - because of Jesus Christ’s saving work - the dwelling place of God is even closer - God pitches His tent in our heart.
What is it that the Bible says (1 Corinthians 3:17) - “Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” - God has camped out in you.
Sometimes I just need to be reminded that I am not alone. And, it is so easy to feel alone.
Dwelling on these two thoughts - God loves me - God dwells with me - The reality of God’s presence in our lives helps us to not be so captivated by those things which rob us of our peace - but, to be focused on our relationship with God - God who is the only source of true peace.
We will not always have all the answers we want - there will seldom be peace around us - but, it is reassuring to know that in the midst of whatever circumstances we are in, our loving God is there.
I said earlier that I struggle - especially during these days - because I really do not feel “at peace.” I know the root cause of my struggle - and I share this with you under that category of “Don’t do as I do - do as the Bible says” - The root cause of my struggle is that I constantly focus on things and circumstances and not God. And, I rob myself of God’s peace.
How many of you have one of these Lucky Rewards Cards? If you present this card when you buy groceries they automatically give a discount. You don’t even have to have coupons - they automatically deduct the amount of their coupons from your purchase. Before Thanksgiving, if a customer purchased $300 worth of groceries and had this card, they gave you a free turkey. It’s a pretty good deal. By the way, I don’t get royalties from Lucky’s!
Anyway, one of the great things about this card is that anyone can have one. They’re free. They offer them to everyone. Just like God’s offer of peace - it’s offered to everyone. But, not everyone has a card - and not everyone accepts God’s offer of peace in Jesus Christ.
Something else is true. A person may have a Lucky Rewards Card and never use it. You might say, “Well, how foolish. Look at all the savings they’re passing up. It’s like they’re robbing themselves.” It’s like someone who has received Jesus as their Savior, but, does not live within the promises He offers.
We can intellectually know that God offers us peace. We can hear the words of the angels and marvel at their message. But, unless we are willing to meditate on what God offers us - to seek Him out - to let go of everything we hold onto which keeps us from His peace - and to trust Him with our lives - we cannot experience the peace He offers.
When the angels declared “peace among men upon whom His sovereign delight rests.” - The scope of His peace - the gift of His peace is offered to all mankind - But, to really experience His peace means that we must personally accept His gift - we must be those upon whom His sovereign delight rests.