Pastor Stephen Muncherian
December 22, 2002
This morning I’d to share 2 verse from a setting which is familiar to us. The setting is the declaration of the angels to the shepherds. A familiar scene - shepherds watching sheep at night out in the fields near Bethlehem. The announcement of Jesus birth - first by one angel and then by a multitude of the angelic armies of heaven then these verse - Luke 2:13,14: “suddenly there appeared 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!”
That word “peace” is crucial for our lives. Crucial because we long for peace. Crucial because it is so hard for us to really know peace. With all the efforts of all the philosophers - all the governments - working to solve the deeper issues that plaque mankind - are we any closer to peace than the night when Jesus was born?
In the thousands of years of recorded human history only a handful might be considered peaceful. In human history over 8,000 peace treaties - signed to usher in lasting peace - over 8,000 peace treaties have been broken. Each peace treaty has lasted only about 2 years. Today once again we’re on the verge of a major war. We wonder what will happen to our families and friends.
Bethlehem - the birth place of Jesus - Bethlehem today is a focal point of conflict between Jews and Palestinians. A flash point for world conflict. All of which is nothing new. I was reminded recently that an argument between Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Church over who’s star would hang over Jesus’ birthplace led to the Crimean war (1853-1856). Britain, France, Italy, and Turkey against Russia and Latin France Three long years of war - 1,000,000 dead.
If the birth of Jesus is announced as the coming of God’s peace, where is it? Where is His peace?
Even closer to home - if the world cannot be at peace, can we? What about personal peace? Peace in our hearts - rest in our souls - an absence of inner struggle and turmoil. Peace with God.
Why do we call “rush hour” “rush hour”? Nobody rushes anyplace. Life is like that. Too much to do and not enough time to do it. Trying to keep up and seemingly falling behind. The holidays only seem to make this worse with even more things to do. And emotions - everyone is suppose to be happy at Christmas. We sing “Joy to the World” - and we’re not joyful We’re just trying to keep up. Many will see empty chairs at the family table - loved ones who are missed. Depression is easy.
The circumstances of our lives and families - the economy - the world we live in - is constantly working to rob us of peace. We constantly struggle to feel safe, less anxious, more in control of our lives. Where is the peace of Jesus in all this?
Thinking this through practically for us this morning I’d like to share three truths of application with you. Three truths that can open up to each one of us the experience of the peace that the angels declared to the shepherds.
Here’s the first truth: GOD LOVES YOU In the midst of things we need to keep saying this over and over again to ourselves. God loves me.
More than the scenes of shepherds and stars and angels and wisemen and mangers is the bottom line truth that God came - Jesus establishes - is the demonstration of God’s love towards each one of us.
Do you remember the words to John 3:16 - a very familiar verse. “For God so loved the world...” So familiar that sometimes we loose the personal significance of what Jesus was saying. In the midst of things we go through we tend to forget that we are part of that world. That He’s talking about us.
Try this with me - say John 3:16 with me and when we come to the “world” and the “whoever” part - put your own name in there. “For God so loved (Name) that He gave His only Son, that (Name) should not perish but have eternal life.”
1 John 4:9,10 says that “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 - the bottom line message of Christmas - it is not that we have loved God - not that we could ever earn or deserve God’s love - but that - God, knowing everything there is to know about us - He loved us and sent His Son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven.” (1 John 4:9,10)
One of the greatest joys I experience as a parent is as I’m coming home through the door and there’s a reception committee - my kids putting their arms out and giving hugs. When we feel beat up - worn out - frustrated - trying to struggle along and measure up - without peace - we need to be reminded that God loves - even as we are. In the midst of everything we can stop - put out our arms - say Daddy - and just let Him hug us - to know His love.
Second truth: GOD DWELLS WITH 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. Today, people drive up in their portable homes with their T.V. antennas and satellite dishes, sit back in an overstuffed chair, pop open a cold drink, stare out the window at the next motor 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.
The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:16: “Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” When we come to faith in Jesus Christ God camps out in us.
It is so easy for us to feel like we’re on our own - alone against the world. We need to be reminded that with God we’re never alone. He’s always with us.
Two truths that are absolutely essential - God loves you. God dwells with you. Let me encourage you - when things come up to rob you of peace - focus on those two truths - that really help us to focus our hearts and minds on God who is the only source of true peace.
Third truth - GOD’S PEACE IS FREE FOR THE TAKING
How many of you have one of these Albertson’s Preferred Savings Cards? The deal with these cards is that when we check out and show them this card Albertson’s automatically gives us a discount. It’s a pretty good deal. By the way I don’t get royalties from Albertson’s.
Anyway, one of the great things about this Preferred Savings Card is that anyone can have one. They’re free. They offer them to everyone. They want you to have one. Free - just like God’s offer of peace offered freely to everyone. But, not everyone has a card - not everyone accepts God’s offer of peace in Jesus Christ.
Something else is true. We could have an Albertson’s Preferred Savings Card and never use it. You might say, “Well, how foolish. Look at all the savings they’re passing up.” It's like someone who’s received Jesus as their Savior, but, doesn’t live within the promises He offers.
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 be those upon whom His sovereign delight rests.
We can intellectually know that God offers us peace. We can hear the words of the angels and marvel at their message. Come celebrate Christmas. But, unless we’re willing to let go of everything we hold onto which keeps us from His peace and to trust Him with our lives - to receive what He offers us - we can’t experience His peace.
I don’t know what you struggle with this morning. God knows. And God loves you. God desires to be with you even in the midst of that struggle. God has given Jesus to us so that we can know His peace. If you’ve never received God’s gift of life and salvation in Jesus don’t put off receiving what God freely offers to you. If you do know Him - be reminded of His love and His presence with you. With whatever you may be going through - trust Him.