Peace On Earth

The angels said it “Glory to God in the Highest, and Peace on Earth, good will to men on whom His favor rests”. (Luke 2:14)

They said that this ‘Peace’ was bound together with the birth of the Savior, Christ the Lord…Jesus.

So…that was 2,000+ years ago…where is the Peace On Earth?

 

There seems to be just the opposite. Wars, conflict, complaints, friction, negativity.

These seem to be the ‘norm’…not “Peace on Earth”.

 

On Christmas day in 1863, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem to echo the sadness of his own life, after he had seen both his 1st and 2nd wives die in tragic form, and in the midst of the American Civil War. He asked the question…where is this “Peace”?

     “In despair I bowed my head…there is no peace on earth, I said; for hate is strong and mocks the song of ‘Peace on Earth, good      will to men’.

It seemed that was is about to give up hope.

 

Yet, it is here, and it is real…for those ‘on whom His favor rests”.

Those who have acknowledged Him, those who have acknowledged their own sin and desperate need for forgiveness and salvation.

Those who have given their lives, past, present, and future over to Him.

They can have peace.

Peace with God, the Peace of God, and Peace with others.

Peace in the midst of trying circumstances.

Peace in the midst of swirling messes of conflict.

 

Peace on Earth is still here!

 

 Longfellow couldn’t stop hearing the bells…and they reminded him that present circumstances, tough as they may be, don’t always show the reality behind the scenes!

‘Then rang the bells more loud and deep, God is not dead nor does He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail–with Peace on Earth, good will to men!”

 

This season, may the peace of Christ fill your hearts–no matter what is going on around you!

 

Listen to Longfellow’s words put to music:

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JOY!

When He came, Jesus brought several things to this world:

Peace

Meaning

Direction

Healing

Redemption

Power

…and because He offers us of all these things, He also brings us JOY!

JOY–(According to the World English Dictionary)

A deep feeling or condition of contentment or happiness.

The Source of happiness and contentment

An outward show of pleasure or delight.

Joy is internal, in the sense that it’s deep and abiding, no matter our circumstances, and Joy is external, in the sense that it shows itself on our faces, in our words and attitudes.

JOY came to the world when Jesus came! Earth received her King!

…and, as ‘every heart prepares Him room’, WE can each receive Joy–a Source of deep contentment, assurance of peace, and security of soul.

Welcome Him in today!

Celebrate His love today!

Come and Worship!

Think of all the main people involved in the Christmas story–Mary, Joseph, The Wise Men and Shepherds.

What did they DO when presented with the message of Jesus’ birth?

In one way or another, they worshiped! They submitted themselves to God! They bowed down!

In many ways, that is really the only reasonable response.

 

Think about it: If you were Mary or Joseph, and you knew that God was working through you to bring His Son into the world, you couldn’t just go along your way, as if everything was normal.

If you were a Shepherd and Angels announced to you that “This day, in the city of David, a Savior is born” , and “you will find Him

lying in a manger”, you couldn’t just go back to your sheep.

If you were Magi from the east, looking to the land of Jacob for ‘a star’ to arise, you couldn’t pretend you didn’t see it. You’d have to go!

 

…and when you saw Him, you couldn’t just say ‘Nice baby” and go on…you would almost Have To Worship! You would be compelled to bow down and surrender your love, your adoration, your gifts.

 

Tonight, as you prepare yourselves for Christmas morning, make sure you stop. Make sure you bow down. Make sure you worship Him!

 

 

O Holy Night

Some Christmas hymns have origins that are incredible, and it seems that the ‘odds’ were stacked against their survival…yet, we still sing them today. “O Holy Night” is one of those hymns.

Written in 1847 by an agnostic poet friend of a French priest, it was first a poem. For his source material, the poet used Luke chapter 2. After it was written, he realized that it should be sung by the people (not only recited by the Priest), so he approached his friend–a Jewish composer, who went along with it even though he didn’t agree with it. The song resulted in a wildly popular French Christmas hymn. However, when Church Leaders found out who wrote and composed it, they banned it from official liturgy! The people, however, continued to sing it and it was brought to America and translated in 1813. The song struck a chord with many because of it’s anti-slavery overtones. It continued to be sung in churches, and, in 1906 it became the first music ever played over the radio waves!

 

The song has a way of bringing us back to ‘that night’ when Christ was born, and it captures “The thrill of hope” that Jesus birth brings.

What is the only real response to His birth–to the hope that Christ brings? The chorus tells us: “Fall on your knees, o hear the angel voices! O night divine, o night when Christ was born! O night, o Holy night, O night divine!”

The Gospel–the good news about Jesus–doesn’t stop only with our own salvation. It continues changing our lives, our relationships, and the values we have. This song makes a strong point about our need to Love One Another, as Jesus taught us to–and how that shows itself, practically.

As you listen to the song, try closing your eyes and imagining–especially at the beginning–that you were there!

Imagine the Thrill! Imagine yourself literally ‘Falling on your knees’.

Finish by ‘praising His holy name’!

While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks

Imagine the darkest place you’ve ever been–away from streetlights, building and cars.

Maybe you’ve gone camping or to a cabin…

Now imagine that dark stillness is suddenly shattered by a bright light, and the light turns out to be an ANGEL announcing something important…to YOU!

 

That was the experience of the Shepherds on the night that Jesus was born.

They were used to being out away from town (and there weren’t any street lights, and no ‘spillover’ light from local shopping centers!).

It was dark and quiet, except for the bleating of their sheep, as it was every night.

Suddenly the silence was broken, and the dark night was illuminated by an ANGEL!

“They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.  The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!  And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:9-12)

The SAVIOR and Lord was born!

…a baby in a manger? Seriously?

Then, as if this news and this appearance hadn’t already made their knees knock, there came more Angles!

“Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” (Luke 2:13-14)

Then the angels left.

Darkness again.

Quiet again.

They went back to their sheep and shepherding….NOT!

They said,

 “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger.  After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.  All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.” (Luke 2:16-20)

This was a momentous moment in world history, and for some reason, God had announced it to them!

They couldn’t help but be changed!

Take a listen to this song, and consider, how would YOU react if God in the flesh was announced to you by Angels?

What is the best reaction for us today?

The Journey

Mary and Joseph, two young people on the cusp of a new life together, were invited to join the adventure of living for God!

The Journey they took was, at times, long and hard.

They had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem–about 100 miles, walking (Mary probably rode a donkey–which was no picnic, being 8 months pregnant!). There are two possible paths they would have taken–one, about 80 miles, would have been more dangerous, but the other–a bit flatter–would have taken about another 10 miles.

In either case, it would have been a difficult journey, but they said YES to it.

I’m sure there were times on that journey they wondered what was ahead. The probably had some anxiety or fear.

However, they also had the assurance that an Angel of God had appeared to them each separately and told them what was going on–and that the child Mary was carrying was the Son of God! If that was so, then they really didn’t need to worry…after all, God Himself would be interested in bringing Him to the world, so there would be some divine protection!

I wonder if they thought of the prophecy:

Micah 5:2 “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah.
Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past.”

Did they realize that the decree of Ceasar Augustus (Luke 2:1-5)was putting them in a position of fulfilling God’s prophecy?

Without that decree, they surely would not have made The Journey to Bethlehem–especially given Mary’s pregnancy!

Yet, there it was: A Roman decree that they had to obey, which brought them to Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth–precisely how Micah had prophesied!

Luke 2:6-7: “And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

The Journey was worth it, and it was directed by God, every step of the way. They could trust in Him.

…and so can you!

Bonus: One of my favorite arrangements of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” of all time!

Joseph’s Story

Joseph.

Not much is known about him, but he must have been someone ‘special’ too.

Special, in that the Lord knew he would listen and follow. The Lord knew that he was a righteous man. The Lord knew he would follow through.

What do we know about him?

He was ‘righteous’ (Matthew 1:19)

He was apparently tuned in to the Lord (Matthew 1:20-24; 2:13-15)

He was a carpenter (Matthew 13:55)

And he was willing.

That’s about it. Don’t know how long he lived, what he thought about Jesus as he grew.

Think about this: Joseph had to be the ‘father’ to the Son of God!

How do you teach the Son of God?

How do you discipline Him, direct Him, advise Him?

All of these things had to have been difficult for Joseph, but like Mary, he was willing and faithful.

…and that’s exactly what we are asked to be!

Joseph doesn’t get much credit in church history, not much ‘press’, but he’s a good man, a good father, and a willing participant in God’s AMAZING plan!

Many of us have opportunities like that too–not to be the earthly father of the Son of God, but to be part of God’s plan in this world.

Most of us, like Joseph, will serve in relative anonymity. Not many will really know what we do.

That’s not important.

What is important is that we say ‘yes’, everyday…not only with our voices, but also with our actions.

We say ‘yes’ as we faithfully love our spouses and lead our families.

We say ‘yes’ as we do the absolute best job we can wherever we’re working.

We say ‘yes’ as we try to sensitively but consistently bring the Lord into our daily lives and conversation, and

We say ‘yes’ as we love one another as Christ did.

Today, you and I can be like Joseph.

Despite all the questions we have, we can say “YES”!

Watch the video, (The clip begins at the 5:25 mark and goes to 7:15)

Consider…

1) What is one way you have said ‘yes’ to God in your daily life over the past week?

2) What is one more way He is moving you to say ‘yes’ to Him this week?

Prayer Focus:

Pray about your willingness to serve the Lord, and your desire to ‘welcome Him’ into your everyday life.