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:

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!

 

 

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?

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.

The Baby Changes Everything!

“I am the Lord’s servant” (Luke 1:38)

-It’s a great way for us to answer Him when He calls to us also!

The baby changed everything for Mary, but He’s still changing everything for us who get to know Him by faith.

Many of us have a ‘story’ of how we came to faith in Christ…how ‘I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see’.

Others grew up in the Church, being taught of the love, grace and beauty of God, and the wisdom of following Him and His Word from early in life.

You may not have a ‘dramatic’ story of conversion to faith.

None of that really matters.

What matters–for real–is the love you have for the Lord now. The willingness you have to love and serve Him, and to follow where He leads, investing in the priorities He leads you to.

Those are the things that will really matter!

 

Listen to Faith Hill’s beautiful song:

Consider and Discuss:

How did you come to know and believe in the Lord, Jesus Christ?

How has He influenced your life?

In what ways are you showing Him your love for Him and willingness to submit to Him in faith and trust–like Mary did?

Prayer focus:

Pray that the Lord would increase your faith and help you to say ‘yes’!

Mary’s Amazing Faith

Sometimes the characters in a story take on a ‘larger than life’ quality.

It even happens in historical narratives, where those who did powerful things in life are made out to be ‘Super Human’.

One of those people is Mary, the mother of Jesus.

We tend to think of her as Super-stoic, Super-spiritual, even Super-perfect.

We think of her as “Mary-with-the-halo”, and we can’t relate to her.

But she was fully human, and had the very same emotions any other God-honoring young teenage girl would have if she was given ‘The News’ that she was going to be pregnant with the child of God!

This baby would change everything–in her life, as well as the rest of the world.

This baby would put in jeopardy her betrothal to Joseph, the Carpenter. How could he believe, after all, that she had “never been with a man”? How would anyone–family, friend, or community member?

She would most likely be shunned, if not worse!

Yet, when given the news, her response was “May it be to me as you have said”.

This young, teenage girl who’s life would be turned topsy-turvy said “Yes!”

That’s pretty amazing.

Read her story–or the beginning of it–in Luke 1:26-38 below (or from your own copy of God’s Word).

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you![d]”

29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel[e] forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”

35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God.[f]”

38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.”

 

Pretty Amazing.

The faith, the courage…all from a teenage girl!

How could she do that?

Surely she must have been raised on the prophecies of the Messiah. She must have been raised being taught to listen for God’s leading and to follow Him.

But here it was happening in her time, in her own life–hard to comprehend!

Yet, she says YES!

Watch this clip from the Nativity Story:

 

Consider and Discuss:

What do you think about Mary–her faith and courage?

Has there ever been a time that God has called you to do something ‘by faith’? Talk about it!

What are you doing right now to increase your willingness to listen for His voice, and to follow?

 

Prayer Focus:

Pray that the Lord moves in your heart and mind to help you have more faith in Him and courage to follow.