Advent: Peace

I’m not sure what it is about Christmas but for whatever reason – about two weeks from Christmas – I find myself being easily irritated.  This is a picture of our Christmas tree.  Isn’t it beautiful?  Not sure if you notice one of the strings of lights are out – and Merry Christmas it’s going to stay way – because there isn’t a store on earth anymore that sells those kinds of lights and so when you buy the new ones they are brighter than a supernova – and there’s no way I’m buying all new lights and starting over with that tree. 

Merry Christmas everyone.  Peace on earth.  

I mean- the other night after I was forced to wait in line to check myself out of Target – Target – blech – it was like 10pm and it was such an irritating experience that on the way out of the building I just looked up at the ceiling and I said – I just announced to Target – you are no better than Walmart.

I don’t know why I did that.  But I just felt like something in my soul needed to call Target out for perpetrating the fraud.  Maybe it’s Christmas.  You know – Christmas – when we jam more into our already full calendars than any other time of year.  When we spend more money that we don’t have, and travel to places we might not be that excited to travel to, when we fight with strangers over parking spots and stand in long lines judging people because – they too have been forced to use self-checkout lanes and they don’t know how to do it – all in search of that perfect gift that we can’t wait to see them open!  And return the next day.

Maybe it’s the Christmas season – maybe it’s me.  But let’s say it’s Christmas for now.  Isn’t it ironic that Christmas is called a time of peace?

So let’s talk about how Christmas brings us peace.  Because that is exactly what it is.  It’s a celebration of the arrival of the Prince of Peace.  

That’s what the prophet Isaiah called Jesus.  The Prince of Peace.  

He wrote it 700 years before Jesus was born, but he prophesied in Isaiah 9:6,

6 For a child is born to us,
a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

What are we to make of this prophecy?  If Jesus is called the Prince of Peace, yet we live in a world where peace is so elusive, was Isaiah wrong about Jesus?  

Because honestly, there was little peace going on even when Jesus was born.  I mean one of the predominant stories surrounding the birth of Jesus was the slaughter of innocent babies by a jealous and evil King Herod, who was seeking to end Jesus’ life before it got started.  What’s peaceful about that?

Fast forward 2000 years to our world.  Because let’s be honest – we don’t live in a world of peace.  Whether it be between nations, between religious sects.  Whether it is a work place environment, a school, a family, life is filled with people who are figuratively and literally stabbing each other in the back.  The world has so few places ruled by peace.  

What did Isaiah mean when he said Jesus would be the Prince of Peace.  Let’s find out what Isaiah meant.   Today we celebrate two kinds of peace that comes from Jesus, the prince of Peace.

  • Jesus is the Prince of Peace with God.  

Jesus is the prince of peace with God.  Jesus came to bring an end to the hostilities between you and God.  Jesus came to reconcile us to God, so that we can live our lives at peace with him.

Some of you are like – I didn’t even know that God and I were at odds?  This is news Phil – why did Jesus have to reconcile me to God.  What does God have against me?

Well, what puts us at odds with God is this attitude – we like to think of it as an American attitude – “Ain’t nobody gonna tell ME What to do.”  We think of that as very Frank Sinatra – I’ll do it myyyyyyy wayyyy…..  

It shows up in the voice of children who say, “You aint the boss of me!”

Let me ask you – where did we learn that attitude?  We didn’t learn it from social studies class – we learned that attitude from our great great grandparents-Adam and Eve.  

They were the first to shake their fist at God and tell him – leave us alone – we’ve got this.  Which is why that attitude is not uniquely American, it is universally human.  

See – there are two great fights that are fought by all of mankind.  The first great fight is a bad fight – and it’s a fight against God’s leadership and Lordship of our life.  We are natural born rebels – we don’t want anyone telling us what to do – not even God himself.

And so the first great fight all mankind fights is a fight against God’s rightful place as King of our lives.  We want to do it our way.  It’s a bad fight that we can never win.  

In the movies sometimes you’ll hear a character talking to another character who is about to die – and they say something like, “Have you made your peace with God?”  

The thing is you can’t make peace with God.  There can be no peace until the issue between you and God is dealt with – and the problem is that it’s sin that is between us and God.  And you can’t get rid of your sin on your own.  You can’t do enough good things – you can’t wish it away.  You can’t give enough money – it’s always with you and like an anchor it will drag you further and further away from God forever.

But Jesus – the prince of Peace – left heaven – took our sin upon himself – died and was buried and three days later rose from the tomb and left our sins in the grave – and now – when we place our faith in Jesus –  nothing stands between us and our heavenly Father.  

Jesus came to deal with the problem.  He came to remove the enmity between God and man.  He came to make things right between us.  So that now, when someone wants to be made right with God, they go to Jesus, and humbly ask him for forgiveness.  And Jesus will forgive all who ask.  And then we can be made right again.

Romans 5:1 puts it this way.

1 Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. 

Jesus is the prince of peace with God.  Through faith in Him, the offense between God and us has been removed restoring to us a right relationship with our heavenly father.  

Before we move on – I just want to invite you – if you have never made the decision to receive what Jesus has done for you on the cross – if you are still fighting the bad fight – against God – and maybe today is the day you are ready to surrender- I want to encourage you to do it today.  Right now.  Forget what else I’m going to say – you can begin doing business with the Lord-  just tell him – I understand that Jesus came to bring me peace with God.  I’m ready to surrender my life – all of it – as much as I’m able – I give it to you.  I’m yours.  

Jesus is the prince of Peace.  He is the prince of peace with God.  But – after we come to place our faith in Him – we will also discover that Jesus is the prince of the peace of God.

See – there are two kinds of peace – there is the objective peace – an end of hostilities between us and the Lord.  Objective peace through the work of Jesus.

But there is also a subjective kind of peace.  Feeling peaceful.  And the Bible insists that one of the rewards of placing our faith in Him is that we are able to become the kinds of people who live with a peace that passes all understanding.  

Through faith in God, you and I receive the peace of God.  God is able to still our anxious heart.  To strengthen us in times of doubt.  To give us courage in times of fear.  

What does it mean to have his peace?  This kind of peace refers to the character trait we call poise.  The internal state of remaining calm.  Of not freaking out.  It’s the ability to weather the storms of life, without swamping your boat!  And this kind of peace is very personal.  It comes from God to you personally.

Now maybe you’re thinking – well, Phil I prayed to receive Jesus – I surrendered to him a long time ago – and yet – I still struggle with feeling peaceful – what do I do – didn’t it take?  

Well – this is really the second great battle we fight – and it’s a good battle.  We fight against our old nature – we fight for the transformation of our hearts.

And the good news is that this kind of peace can be learned.

And I’ll show you two things you can do to help you grow in your ability to display poise in life – your ability to nurture the subjective feelings of peace in your life.  

And for help – I’ll turn to the letter that Paul wrote to the church that met in Philippi.  We can learn to become peaceful…  and so let’s read Paul – who learned peace. He was not born with it.  In Philippians 4 he tells us that it was something he learned.

4:12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 

Again – notice it is something Paul says he learned.  So let’s back up a few verses in Philippians 4 and when we do we will see two ways that Paul learned how to grow in peace.  Two things that Paul does in times of stress that helps him learn to be able to maintain poise at all times and in every situation

Here are two ways to increase the peace of God in our lives.  The first is – we  are going to stop and think. 

Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  Philippians 4:8

This is the opposite of what many people do.  Many people try desperately to stop thinking about their problems.  Right?  How many people have turned to alcohol or drugs to numb their pain, to help them stop thinking about their stress?  

But the Bible tells us to do the exact opposite.  It tells us to think.  

What are we thinking about, specifically?  Things that are true.  Think about what we know – apart from our emotions – to be true about God and how God is described to us in the Bible.

Make yourself aware as possible about God and His love for us.  If God would send his own son – and that son would willingly die on the cross for me – does it make sense for God to do all that only to leave me stranded about in this kind or world – without help – without oversight. 

If God would die for me – then – doesn’t it mean that nothing will be able to separate me from God and his love?  

Doesn’t it mean that I am assured that I am safe in his care – come hell or high-water?  Whether I’m well fed or hungry – in death and life – aren’t I ultimately safe in the care of a God who literally laid down his life for mine?

And he tells us to think.  And when we think about God and we study what Jesus teaches us about God we learn that God is All powerful, All good, and ever present.  

These three things are all we really need to know.  He is all powerful.  There is nothing he cannot do.  He is all good – meaning he is using that power in a good way, for our benefit.  He is not mean.   And he is ever present.  So no matter what life throws our way, we know we will not walk through it alone.

Secondly, the passage tells us to thank.  

Phil 4:6  Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

It’s worth noting the sequence that Paul lays out.  Usually God gives us something and then we thank him.  

But Paul tells us to thank God before we get his answer.  Why?  Well, it makes sense if we are thinking about God.  Once we get our heads on straight that God really does love us, and really is with us, and really is working all things together for good, then we can thankful before we find out his answer.  

Jesus is the prince of peace with God.

Jesus is the prince of the peace of God.

In closing today I thought I’d pass along a short video that has been in the news quite a bit this week – but I thought it was a rather tremendous illustration of a person demonstrating the peace of God in the midst of turmoil.

Jordan Baize is a follower of Jesus who lives in Bremen Kentucky.  Last week a tornado ripped through their community.  Jordan was hunkered in his basement with a mattress over himself and his children as a tornado ripped apart his home.  

Thankfully they all survived, and when they returned upstairs, his sister began videotaping the aftermath of the storm, when she heard a sound – it was her brother Jordan…

Kings and Kingdoms will all pass away, but there’s something about that name.    Jesus Jesus – Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace.

May the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,  guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.