|Vintage Christmas | Peace|
|December 6, 2008|
Part 2 of 5 | December 07, 2008
Watch the original ACC video below that ties into the message
Welcome to the second week of our series called Vintage Christmas. In each week of this series, we’re visiting with a different member of the family featured in the story you just heard.
This week in our story, we met a husband and father named Gary. Gary experienced the same thing that a whole lot of people in our country are experiencing right now…the loss of his job.
This week, it became official. America is in a recession. I personally know people who have lost their jobs in this tough economy. You probably do, too. And it could be that your job is the one that is in jeopardy. Or maybe you’ve already lost your job.
Times like this thrust so many of us into the realm of the unknown. We don’t know what’s coming next. We don’t know what we’re going to do.
And then when you consider that we are a country at war…when you see terrible things like the recent terrorist attacks in India…life becomes even more unsettling.
The bleak economic news, the constant threat of terrorism and war, coupled with all the worries and angst that many of us carry around everyday in our personal lives….you add all that up and the cumulative effect is that we can wander through our lives with absolutely no peace. Gary sat at the desk in his office as the little bit of peace that he had in his life was completely wiped out. Maybe you’ve had a similar experience this year. Or maybe you’ve been wandering around for years with a total lack of peace.
What you need to understand is that this is not God’s will for your life. In this series, we’re turning back the clock. Instead of a confused and commercialized holiday, we’re going for an old-time, old-school, Vintage Christmas. We’re traveling back through the years to the very first Christmas, as described in Luke 2. And as we go back to Luke 2 again today, God is going to remind us that he has a very special gift that he wants to give all of us this Christmas…peace.
In his book, Running on Empty, Arron Chambers wrote that, “since 3600 BC, the world has only known 292 years of peace! Outside those few peaceful times, there have been 14,351 wars, large and small, in which 3.64 billion people have been killed. The value of the property destroyed would pay for a golden belt around the world 97.2 miles wide and 33 feet thick.” (Chambers, Arron. Running on Empty: Life Lessons to Refuel Your Faith. City: Life Journey, 2005, pg. 125.)
Peace has always been the most rare, most precious commodity on earth. Political peace is completely lacking in our world. And peace is also lacking in many of our lives. And that can become even more evident at Christmastime. But if you want to have a Vintage Christmas this year, then peace is a key ingredient.
In this series, we’re focusing on the shepherds in Luke 2. Last week we listened as the angel who appeared to them announced “good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” This wonderful news was that Jesus had been born in the town of Bethlehem.
This week we’ll listen in as more angels join in the joyful birth announcement to the shepherds. Starting in verse 8, the Bible says, “There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’” (Luke 2:8-14, NIV)
This announcement of the angels is where we’re going to zero in this week. When they announced the birth of Christ, they shouted out, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
Now, some of us know how the King James Version reads in these verses. A lot of us know it because that’s the version of the Bible that Linus quoted in, A Charlie Brown Christmas. The KJV says, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” This is easily the most poetic version of these verses from Luke 2. The problem is that it’s not the most accurate version. As beautiful as those words are, they’re not an accurate translation of the original Greek text. And the New International Version isn’t the best translation here, either. It’s the Bible most of us own, but it still seems to miss the mark in these verses.
A much better translation is from the English Standard Version. “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 those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:13-14, ESV)
The birth of Jesus would bring glory to God. His birth would also bring “peace among those with whom he is pleased.” That’s a lot different than “peace on earth, good will toward men,” isn’t it? “Peace on earth, good will toward men” sounds universal. It sounds like Jesus’ birth would bring peace to everyone on earth. That’s not true. If it were true, our world would live in complete harmony and peace.
The peace of God is not universal. It is conditional. Don’t get me wrong…his peace is available to everyone. But it is conditional because it is based on our response. We can have peace when we are living lives that are pleasing to God.
You can’t have the peace of God apart from the will of God. If we are living our lives in opposition to God’s will, then we should not expect to live with God’s peace. We know God’s will because it is found in God’s Word. The takeaway here is that if you are living in a way that is contrary to the commands of God in the Bible, don’t expect God to grace your life with peace.
In fact, if you are living outside the will of God, the worst thing he could give you is peace. If you found peace apart from God’s will, you would be content to remain in your sinful lifestyle. But if you lack peace in your life, you’ll keep searching for it. And it is God’s desire that your search will end with him.
In Matthew 10, Jesus said, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.
Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law - a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.’” (Matthew 10:32-36, NIV)
At first glance, this seems to contradict the angels’ announcement in Luke 2. They announced that Jesus’ birth would bring peace. Then in his adulthood, Jesus says, “I didn’t come to bring peace.” Seems pretty contradictory, doesn’t it?
It is contradictory if you think that the angels said that Jesus would bring universal peace to everyone. But it’s not contradictory at all if you understand the truth: the peace of Christ is conditional.
Look at what he said again. “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33, NIV)
Jesus is setting the condition for his peace. The condition is acknowledging him in our lives. Acknowledging that he is the Lord by our words and our actions. That’s the condition. Now, for those who reject that condition, look at what he says next.
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34, NIV)
If you reject the Lordship of Christ, you forfeit the peace of Christ. In other words, if you believe that Jesus isn’t your boss, that he can’t tell you what to do, that he has no bearing on how you live your life, you should prepare to live your life with no peace. You’ve never met anyone who found peace apart from Jesus Christ. I don’t care what they say. If they claim to be at peace, they’re deluded or they’re lying. Peace is a gift that is only given to those who are following Christ in their lives…and I mean in their entire lives.
A lot of people who claim to be Christ-followers are living without peace because there is an area of their lives that they still haven’t surrendered to Christ.
Like we talked about in our last teaching series, a ton of Christians don’t have peace in their finances because they haven’t put God first in their finances. They’re living selfishly instead of generously, so God is withholding his blessing. If you don’t surrender your finances to God, don’t expect to have financial peace.
I’ve talked with a lot of believers who don’t have peace in their marriage because they haven’t followed God’s will in their marriage. The wife is a nag instead of a supporter of her husband. The husband is a bum instead of being the servant-leader of his family as God has designed. Because they don’t follow the will of God in their marriage, they forfeit the peace of God in their marriage.
Whatever the area of our life is, if we kick against God’s will for that part of our life, then it should come as no surprise when we have no peace in that part of our life. And that is true even when you think about something like a holiday, like Christmas.
When the angels announced the birth of Christ, they proclaimed that he would bring peace to all who live in a way that pleases him. As we chase after a Vintage Christmas, we see that Christmas is all about peace.
But a lot of us won’t have peace this Christmas because our Christmas isn’t centered around the will of God. You can’t have the peace of God apart from the will of God, so if your Christmas isn’t one that pleases God, don’t expect to find peace.
If it’s a celebration of holly and tinsel and gifts and parties and jingling bells and decked out halls…but it’s not a celebration centered around the Son of God…don’t expect to have peace.
So how do you make sure that your Christmas celebration is centered on the Son of God? One perfect way to do it is to stay in the Word of God.
We have a Christmas blog on our website right now. There will be a new post on that blog everyday through Christmas Eve. Each post has a Scripture link and some devotional thoughts that I wrote about the passage. If you don’t have internet access, you can still pick up a paper copy of all the devotionals in the foyer.
There is a reason that we’re making this available. Because we know that if you stay in the Word of God, you are a lot more likely to stay in the will of God. And if you stay in the will of God, you will find the peace of God.
In John 16, Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.” (John 16:33, NIV)
Jesus said, “in me, you may have peace.” If you want a Christmas, and an entire life, of peace, you have to center it on Jesus. Apart from him, you will come up empty every time.
Now, let’s go back and look at what the angels said again. When Jesus was born, they said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:13-14, ESV)
Did you notice that “Glory to God in the highest” came first? Then peace to us. God’s glory comes before our peace. God’s glory is more important than our peace. When you don’t give God the glory that is due him in your life, don’t expect him to give you peace.
And sometimes, God is most glorified by disrupting the peace in your life. God’s glory supersedes your peace, and if God will receive more glory by disrupting your peace, then that is what he’s going to do.
Go back and look at how the whole scene with the shepherds and the angels began. “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” (Luke 2:8-9, NIV)
The shepherds were tending their flocks at night, which probably meant a very run of the mill, peaceful night out in the field. Suddenly, from out of the clear midnight sky, an angel appeared. These shepherds found themselves completely enveloped by the glory of the Lord. We’re not entirely sure what that means, but we can gauge a lot by the reaction of the shepherds. Their reaction was incredible fear.
The Bible says that the shepherds were “terrified” when the angel appeared. The original Greek text literally says that the shepherds “feared with great fear.”
God interrupted a very tranquil, uneventful night in the field for the shepherds. In fact, he scared them to death. But he did it for a very specific purpose. He disrupted their peace so they could find Jesus.
The Bible says, “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” (Luke 2:15-16, NIV)
If God had not disrupted that peaceful night for the shepherds, they would have never found Jesus. Did the initial experience scare the fire out of them? You bet it did. But it was through that scary experience that they found Jesus.
Sometimes we can be too “at peace.” It’s really easy to allow ourselves to slip into a complacent, status quo life. Everything in our life is so “at peace” that our faith becomes less of a necessity and more of a comforting convenience. We begin to take our faith for granted. We begin to take our God for granted.
God wants us to seek him because we desperately need him. If you don’t think you need God, he will do something to change your mind. There are times when he has to disrupt our peaceful existence to remind us just how much we really do need him.
Recently I visited a lady from our church family in the hospital. Her hospitalization was very unexpected and unwanted, as most of them are. But as I was visiting with her, one thing she said really stuck with me. She said, “I didn’t know I could pray like this.”
And my response was, “Maybe that’s why you’re here.”
Every trial you have in your life is an opportunity. Every tough time you go through is an opportunity for you to come out more mature and more godly on the other side. Sometimes God has to disrupt the peace of our lives to move us closer to him.
Think about what God did the lives of the shepherds in Luke 2. He took them from the perceived peace of a quiet night in the field to total fear when the angels appeared. But he used that fear to take them to Jesus. And when they found Jesus, they found true peace.
If you feel like there is no peace in your life, God is probably trying to get your attention. Maybe there is a sinful area of your life that you need to surrender to him. Maybe you’ve just grown so complacent in your faith that he has to shake you up. God disrupts our peaceful existence for the express purpose of bringing us closer to Jesus. And when that happens, you find a greater peace, a true peace that you didn’t have before.
David Bloom was one of the anchors on NBC’s Today show before he died from a pulmonary embolism while covering the war in Iraq in 2003. A few short hours before he died, he sent an email to his wife, Melanie. Here’s a short sample of what he wrote.
You can’t even begin to fathom, cannot begin to even glimpse the enormity of the changes I have and am continuing to undergo. God takes you to the depths of your being, until you’re at rock bottom, and then, if you turn to Him with utter and blind faith and resolve in your heart and mind to walk only with Him and towards Him, picks you up with your bootstraps and leads you home. I hope and pray that all my guys get out of this in one piece, but I tell you, Mel, I am at peace. Deeply saddened by the glimpses of death and destruction that I have seen, but at peace with my God and with you…”
David Bloom had no idea that he was about to die, but the trial that he was enduring in the Iraqi desert accomplished its purpose. It brought him closer to God. He resolved in his heart and mind to please God in his life. And when that became his life’s purpose, he found real peace.
In Philippians 4, the Bible says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7, NIV)
Sometimes God disrupts the perceived peace in our lives to remind us that true peace, divine peace, peace that transcends human understanding, is found in Jesus. It’s the peace that the shepherds found at that first Christmas. And it’s the peace that can be ours this Christmas.
One of the songs we sang this morning is the Christmas classic, The First Noel. When the song was originally written, noel was actually spelled with a “w” and an extra “l.” N-o-w-e-l-l.
This word, nowell, was actually a phrase before it was shortened to one word.
And many people believe that the original phrase was “now all is well.”
The angels appeared to the shepherds with a message of peace. Peace was now available because Jesus had come, and now, all was well.
I don’t know everything that’s going on in your life right now. Some of us are experiencing a time of blessing in our lives. Others of us are in the middle of a really tough time. But for all of us, peace is available.
If you are in a wonderful season of life, thank God for it. Don’t grow complacent and forget him. Recognize him as the source of all your blessings.
If you are in a time of hurt or fear, see it as an opportunity to grow closer to the Lord. Lean into him. Rely on him. Recognize him as the only one who can bring you through and realize that he has blessings waiting for you on the other side of the trial.
Everyone here can have peace this Christmas, and every other day of our lives, because Jesus has come. He gave his life as a sacrifice to fully and finally forgive us of all of our sin. He rose again three days later to seal our victory and give us a new life. And he is coming back again to bring his people into his presence for all eternity.
Jesus has come. Now all is well.
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