Christmas 2020 – Prince of Peace
Here we are-December 27! Hello to everyone! I’ve never done a Sunday sermon like this before-but as you’re watching this Monica and I have finally made it back to visit our families in IA. We had to cancel our visit for Thanksgiving-along with various summer visits and family reunions that got cancelled due to the pandemic. So we haven’t seen any of our families since last Thanksgiving. It’s been over a year since we’ve seen parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins! So it’s wonderful to be back. As the famous line from Kevin Costner’s film Field of Dreams asks-Is this heaven? No it’s Iowa. So we’re at the closest thing to heaven right now-that’s Iowa!
But as I said a moment ago-it’s December 27th-and a funny thing happened-another Christmas has come and gone. There’s such a build up, such anticipation, such hope for the day to come-and then it happens and disappears before we know it! Now I realize this is still Christmas weekend-and maybe you’re with family today still celebrating Christmas and unwrapping presents. And let me ask the question everybody asks-what did you get for Christmas? Did you get what you wanted, what you hoped for, everything on your wish list-or were you surprised? And the most important question-Did anybody get the Lego Death Star for Christmas? It’s the biggest Star Wars Lego set-and I ask this every year in hopes that somebody did get it so I can come over and help you build it. And to drop the hint every year that because it’s the greatest Lego set ever made-it’s the best gift to be given! But let me ask another important question-did anybody leave any of their gifts unopened by the tree? Did anybody open most of their gifts but then decide to leave a few-even 1 or 2? I’m sure no one did. You’d be foolish to do that. To say-I’ve opened enough gifts-I’m done for now. Who knows what’s in there, what you might miss if you don’t open all your presents. I think it’s safe to say that everyone opens all their presents at Christmas. Yet this morning I want to say that God has given us a present at Christmas that we often don’t open. God has given us a present that we tend to ignore and leave sitting by the tree. We’re so caught up in the festivities of Christmas that we bypass this present and fail to unwrap it because we’re quickly moving on to other things-and the present I’m talking about is peace.
Just reflect for a moment-how’s your Christmas been going? They say it’s the most wonderful time of the year-but all too easily Christmas becomes the most hectic time of the year. Have you had a hectic and busy Christmas so far? Maybe it was anything but peaceful as everybody tore into their gifts and instantly your living room was covered in wrapping paper? Or maybe your Christmas this year wasn’t hectic or busy at all-that in fact this Christmas of 2020 was the most quiet and loneliest Christmas you’ve ever experienced-as you couldn’t gather with family or loved ones. That it was a virtual Christmas on Zoom that wrapped up an otherwise dreary year. Maybe things haven’t been hectic or rushed-but they haven’t been peaceful either. Instead you’ve felt the weight of uncertainty and anxiety for what lies ahead. Whether it’s Christmas morning or any other time of the year, peace is something that’s in short supply these days. Peace is something we desperately crave yet frequently can’t seem to find. It’s that elusive reality we’re all chasing after but rarely get to experience. How many times have you heard someone say-I just need a day to get caught up on things. Or maybe it’s not a day but a week or even a month to get caught up on things. If you’re someone who feels like that-worn out and weary, needing to get caught up because life’s been too crazy and 2020 has been too stressful and worrisome-than there’s no better truth to remember this morning than the gift of peace that God gives you. And it’s spelled out in Isa 9:6-For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. The government shall be upon His shoulders and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. And this is such good news because it means God’s peace isn’t a nebulous concept. God’s peace isn’t just a feel good idea or something nice to say on a Christmas card, instead God’s peace is found in a person-and that’s Jesus. Not only is He our Wonderful Counselor to whom we can turn, not only is He our mighty God having come to this earth in human flesh, not only is He our Creator and Everlasting Father-but He is our Prince of Peace. If there’s one thing Jesus came to bring us it’s peace. Listen to the angel’s announcement to the shepherds-Luke 2:10-14 NIV. Can you imagine what that would have sounded like, the angels song breaking through the stillness of night? One moment all was dark-and the next moment the sky was lit up like a flood lamp and the symphony of heaven was singing forth! But what were they singing about? What was the theme? They were overjoyed by the fact that Jesus brings peace to the earth. This is officially the first Christmas carol-if only we knew how this tune went we could sing it! But what is God’s peace all about? How can we experience it?
I want you to open your Bibles this morning to Romans 5. This is a passage that clearly explains the peace Jesus brings-and as you’re turning there I want you to think about that word peace. How would you define it? Peace is such a broad term-there’s many angles to it. The dictionary gives 17 definitions for peace-that’s a lot! But it summarizes peace by saying that it’s being in a state or relationship of nonbelligerence or concord (have you been nonbelligerent lately?). It goes on to say-not at war, untroubled, tranquil, content; to become reconciled with. And it’s that last part of the definition that we’ll see in Romans 5. The peace we have from Jesus is more than just a feeling of tranquility. His peace is something factual; it is a reconciliation-Rom 5:1. This is telling us that we have peace with God because we have been reconciled to God through Jesus. Now that presupposes the idea that formerly we weren’t at peace with God; that we were at odds with Him, being belligerent towards God! Have you thought of yourself like that? Belligerent towards God-I’ve think we’ve all been that way. If you’ve ever seen the gospel tract by Billy Graham called Steps to Peace with God -a common response from people-maybe even from yourself is the thought-I didn’t know I was at war with God-I figured we were at peace. This is the common idea out there. Lots of people assume that by living life and trying to be a decent person they’re okay with God-that all is peaceful and heaven is their default destination when they die. The problem is that as men and women on planet earth we’re not okay with God and heaven isn’t our default destination. Last week we looked at Romans 3 which said that every one of us has sinned and fallen short of God. That because of Adam and Eve and their self-reliance-their wrong assumption that they could do their own thing and ignore God’s command-sin entered the world and spread throughout the human race so that we’re now born into a state of war with God, not peace. The human race is like a tree that’s diseased at the roots and it’s spreading to all the branches and leaves. We’re all impacted by sin, we’re all guilty of it-no one’s excluded. None of us measure up. None of our best efforts to please God or live a good life will ever be enough. Our sin creates a barrier, it severs our relationship with God and we’re stuck in that state of war not peace. We need Jesus, the only one who was sinless, to be our substitute and offer up His life to pay for our sins.
Look at how the chapter continues-v. 6. He didn’t die for people who were already at peace with God, He died for those who weren’t-the ungodly, belligerent ones-that’s you and me. How incredible! Look at v. 8. We were still at war with God, we were still fighting our losing battle of self-reliance against Him, we hadn’t cleaned ourselves up, nor could we-so Christ died for us-and verse 10 puts it all together-v. 10-11. We have peace with God through Jesus. Our sin that formerly separated us has been paid for by Him, it’s been forgiven. Our hearts have been cleansed and made new. The war is over-and the Lord’s won as we’re reconciled to Him and given eternal life when we put our faith in Jesus. He brings the peace we desperately need. So the big question is have you experienced that peace? Have you put your faith in Jesus and been reconciled to God? Or are you still trying to make peace with God yourself, on your own terms? Hey Lord, you know I’m doing the best I can, trying to live well-that counts right? That’s the argument we often make-look at my performance, Lord. But the war isn’t won, peace isn’t achieved by your performance-it’s won through Jesus. You’re not justified by your efforts to please God; you’re justified by your faith in Jesus who’s already pleased God. Look back at v. 1. It’s believing and trusting in what Jesus has already accomplished on your behalf. So come to the Prince of Peace and surrender yourself to Him-that’s where true and lasting peace is found.
But unfortunately a lot of people don’t do that. As I said at the beginning, too many people ignore God’s gift of peace and leave it wrapped and untouched by the tree. There it sits as people search and look and try hard to discover peace themselves-to feel peaceful-but it’s always elusive and never found apart from Christ. If you’ve ever read anything by the great science fiction writer HG Wells-the guy who wrote War of the Worlds and The Time Machine-he once made a very telling comment back in 1930-The time has come for me to reorganize my life and find some peace. So I cry out but I cannot adjust my life to secure any fruitful peace. Here I am at sixty-four, still seeking peace-and it is a hopeless dream. What a sad statement-yet how true is that of people you know? Maybe that’s your story. Searching and searching for peace but never finding it. Trying to feel peaceful in a year like 2020 but never getting there. And all the while it is there-ready for you to unwrap and experience in Jesus. What does it say in Col 3:15-And let the peace of Christ rule in you hearts to which indeed you were called. That’s what the Prince of Peace has come to do-rule our hearts with His peace. That His peace takes center stage and pushes everything else to the side. Is that true of your heart? Does His peace rule in you? Or does fear and worry and anxiety rule in you? Does the uncertainty of how this year will end rule in your heart? Or even more convicting-does the hope that 2021 will be better rule in your heart? I think that’s a common thought we’ve all have and hope for. Surely 2021 has to be better! How could it not? How could it be any worse? Good riddance to 2020-welcome 2021 we’re waiting for you! But what if it isn’t better? What if 2021 isn’t easier or back to normal? What then? The peace of Christ still rules in our hearts-because He’s the One we’re trusting in not 2021! Or Phil 4:7 says-the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. And I don’t know about you-but I need God’s peace that surpasses all my understanding. When I lean on my understanding, when I try to figure things out on my own, or base my confidence on where things are headed, there’s no peace. But when I let His peace-the Prince of Peace-stand guard over my heart and mind, when I’m clinging to Him and trusting in Him-He won’t let anything through that will disturb that peace.
Several years ago, Michael W Smith put out his first Christmas album with a song called-All Is Well. We sang it on Christmas Eve-and last week the Waters family sang it during 1st service. And it’s a song that perfectly describes the peace we can experience at Christmas:
All is well, all is well, Angels and men rejoice
For tonight, darkness fell into the dawn of love’s light.
All is well, all is well, Let there be peace on earth
Christ is come, go and tell that He is in the manger.
All is well, all is well, Lift up your voice and sing
Born is now Emmanuel, Born is our Lord and Savior.
The truth is that all is well because Jesus our Savior has come. There is nothing to worry and fret over, nothing to fear, nothing to want that Jesus hasn’t ultimately satisfied and obtained for you by His death and resurrection. All can be well in your life-even the hard things-because Jesus has come. He has loved you, forgiven you and saved you by His grace. You can have the hope of eternal life; you can be filled with unlimited joy. You can be at perfect peace because the Prince of Peace was born for you at Christmas. Listen to what Jesus says in John 14:27-Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I don’t give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. Let that be true of you this Christmas. Unwrap the gift of peace that Jesus gives you. Don’t ignore it, don’t forget about it under the Christmas tree or lose sight of it or try to find your own peace in 2021. Let the peace of Christ rule your heart, driving away all worry and fear. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus offers His peace and says do not be afraid. I return back to the angel’s announcement to the shepherds-Luke 2:10-14 NIV. No fear-just peace. Might the Prince of Peace rule in your hearts this Christmas.
I started off the message by saying that it’s December 27th-and a funny thing happened-another Christmas has come and gone. There’s such a build up, such anticipation, such hope for the day’s arrival-and then it happens and disappears before we know it! 363 days until Christmas! But while the day of Christmas comes and goes-the peace of Christ stays. The peace of Christ doesn’t disappear or vanish before we know-it stays all year as an ever-abiding reality, an anchor for our souls, the peace of Christ is the guardian of our hearts when we trust in Him. Have you done that? Are you doing that? This is why we exist as a church-to tell people that glorious good news about the child who was born, the son who was given-and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.