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Peace?

December 25, 2019
By Rev. David French

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Last night these words of Scripture were heard throughout our community, our nation, and our world. I’d like to think that people heard this Gospel truth because they were in church, where it is being rightly proclaimed and celebrated, but a recent Pew Research poll reports that only 51% of all adults will do anything religious for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, which means that roughly 49% of American adults may not hear this Good News. But, fear not! There’s always the Charlie Brown Christmas special watched by millions, where these same words are spoken at the very end of the show. 

But, that does bring up a familiar question about this angelic Gospel message of peace on earth, that is, what does this mean? How is it that the birth of Jesus over two thousand years ago equates to joy and peace for anyone today? You’ve heard the news, and there’s not a whole lot of peace out there right now. And understand, I’m not simply referring to riots or terrorism or even the “trial.” That’s what we usually think about when we speak of peace – chaos in the world. I’m talking about being a Christian in 21st century America, where there is, for the most part, peace in our land, but less in our homes. 

Dysfunctional families and divorce are now considered to be normal in our communities. There’s certainly nothing peaceful about those things. Infidelity, promiscuity, mistrust, betrayal, deceit … these aren’t just words that describe the scripted plots of soap operas. These are words that describe the chaotic and sinful world we live in and are a part of. 

What about you? Are you at peace? Most of us will say, “yes.” It’s just that, sometimes, life gets in the way of peace with the never-ending stresses of work and family life.

For some, there can be no peace because a spouse or child is so far away from home or a loved one is sick and lying in the hospital. Some people, and you may be one of them, especially at this time of year, feel the loss of a loved one: a spouse, a parent, a child.

Peace? Good cheer? Joy? In our busy lives we’re just don’t have time for any of those words to have any real meaning, so we paint on a smile, grab a cup of coffee, and get through another day. Sound familiar?  Well, ‘tis the season!  Question: Why did Jesus come into world?  Answer: He came to live in our place and die for our sins. That alone is the reason for the celebration of this or any season. 

The truth that we live with is Jesus did not come into our world to make you independently wealthy or healthy or free of trouble in your life. Jesus came for one reason that is to fulfill the law for you and pay the debt you owe for each and every one of your sins.

You see, in Christ, God himself was physically doing something to bring sinners like you and me the peace which He promises. On Christmas day, God was born into this corrupt and broken world to free us from our slavery to sin and the death it brings, using His own Son as payment for our souls.

Close your eyes and look in the manger set in a tiny stable in the far away town of Bethlehem. Now, what do you see? Isn’t it a beautiful little baby, a newborn staring up at you? What else do you see? Do you see, in that manger, God’s unconditional gift of love? Do you see, in that five or six pound bundle of joy, God’s plan to save you? You do, don’t you. That’s because of the faith God created in you when you were baptized and has been feeding and nurturing each time you gather around His Word and Supper. But seeing that the child in that cradle is the Son of God is only part of His gift to you.

The history of Jesus, or God’s plan to save you, doesn’t end with the birth of that child, it begins. God’s gift of love in a manger. He has a very specific purpose and mission. God’s word made flesh indeed begins His life at Bethlehem, but, by design, it will end on a cross at Calvary. 

On that day, God’s gift of love was no longer a beautiful little baby, but a grown man, or more accurately, a beaten and bloodied mass of lifeless flesh hanging on a cross. 

My friends, to be sure, our salvation begins in the manger, but it is on the cross that our sin was paid for, and we, by God’s grace, were saved. Remember the words “It is finished” are spoken from the cross, not from the manger. 

And, Christ on the cross is, for sinners, the very definition of peace. But, not just any peace. This is the peace that surpasses all human understanding, which brings us to back to the question: Can we, who daily struggle with sin and its sorrows that, by nature, are a part of all of our lives, really ... on this side of heaven ... truly know the peace which God promises, the peace of Christ in our daily lives? 

Dear children of the one true God, the reason we celebrate this morning isn’t just the birth of this child. The reason we gather is because it doesn’t matter what the world, the devil, or your own sinful nature brings your way. You have the peace Christ promised, because in Him you have been forgiven all your sin. 

None of the sinful realities any of us live with change what God has done for you and me and is still doing for us through His Holy Word and Sacraments. That’s what makes our celebration so different. We don’t celebrate God’s peace as having no trials or tribulations. We celebrate in the midst of our trials and tribulations. We celebrate the truth that we belong to Christ and that nothing in heaven or on earth can separate us from His love for us. 

We aren’t just celebrating the birth of a child. What we celebrate this morning is the big picture, the truth that God Himself came down from heaven and took on human flesh so that we and all of humanity might be redeemed and, by grace, be restored to a right and holy relationship with our Creator. 

To be sure, God’s unsearchable and eternal plan of salvation included a virgin’s womb and the flesh and blood of the child she bore, but as He taught throughout His ministry, He came to offer that flesh and blood to His heavenly Father as the payment for the debt of sin that we owe. And, on the cross, that is what He did.

And so, it’s only through the lens of the cross that we can truly see and begin to understand the great joy and true peace of Christmas angels. For truly, the blessings of Christmas have everything to do with God’s unconditional gift to us, the giving of His only begotten son, Jesus, as the full and final payment of the sins of people who have nothing to offer in return, nothing but our humble thanks and praise. 

To Him be the glory forever and ever, Amen.

Tags: John 1:1-14