Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Season of Peace

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, December 11, 2011

Luke 2:1-20, “And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.  Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.  
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
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, goodwill toward men!”
So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.”

There’s a commodity that is in short supply today; and yet is in great demand.  It’s a possession, a priceless treasure that people the world over are seeking and yet are hardly finding.  With all their dollars and credit lines, and the hard work that it takes to earn them, they are pursuing it to no avail.  Many would even give all that they own to claim it and to enjoy it in their lives, but – sad to say – they are looking for it in all the wrong places.  Wal-mart doesn’t carry it.  Best Buy never has it in stock.  The quaint, Mom and Pop stores around the square in Downtown McKinney don’t have it in their inventory, nor can you obtain it through Amazon, Ebay or any other web-based store.  What am I talking about?  A priceless gem?  A rare antique?  A one-of-a-kind handmade craft? 

No.  I’m talking about peace.  Peace.  The very season that, as we learned last time, is meant to be a season of joy, the very season that, as I hope to lead you in discovering next time, is intended by God to be a season of hope – real, lasting hope – the very season that is all of these things because, as we will come to find out on Christmas morning, is THE season of love, this season, Christmas season, is, for way too many people anything but a season of peace. 

A season of joy -  we looked at that wonderful truth about the Christmas season last time, didn’t we?  And do you remember what we learned?  We found out that joy, real joy, wonderful joy, is ours, it is!  How?  Why?  Because of this one bit of good, good news.  “For unto you – unto you – is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”  Christmas is a season of joy because of those good tidings of great joy. 

But, where are we to go to find peace?  What is the reason why someone like me would call the Christmas season a season of peace?  The angel of the Lord, shining with the dazzling brilliance of God’s glory, brought the joyful report to the shepherds that night outside Bethlehem: a Savior has been born, Christ the Lord.  It is a season of joy!  But take note, in verses 13 & 14 that it was the numberless host of heaven’s angelic messengers that praised God with these words: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” 

Peace…  Where are people like you and me to find it?  Peace.  This precious commodity, this priceless, tirelessly sought after possession, where are we to go to obtain it? 

I witnessed a sad and heart-breaking scene just a few weeks ago, when a friend of mine came stumbling out the door of his home, head in his hands, weeping almost uncontrollably.  I knew the reason for his tears, the turmoil and turbulence in his life due to many factors out of sync with God’s plan for his life.  But what he said, what my friend said, has stuck with me ever since.  “I just want some peace, David, I just want to have peace!” 

Interestingly, this man and his girlfriend live in a rundown, rent house with a 40 foot high, 30 foot wide bill board, one of those big ones like you see out along the highway, there is the huge billboard, planted right there, on one end of my friend’s front yard!  And how I wish I could put this simply message up there on that billboard: Peace?  Where is it to be found?  “And this shall be a sign unto you: yes shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger!” 

A Baby?  In a manger? Who would ever have thought to look there for peace?  Speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Zacharias, the joy-filled father of John the Baptist, has this to say about that Baby.  Take a look.  Right across the page, in Luke 1:78-79, he prophesies that the “Dayspring from on high”, that’s a reference to that Baby, Zacharias says that the “Dayspring from on high has visited us…”  God, by means of, because of His tender mercies poured out upon peace-seekers like my friend, in His Son, Jesus Christ, in this Baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed so lovingly in that manger bed, through His Son, our Savior, Christ the Lord, has made a way for those who ‘sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” to be enlightened, and - and – in and through that Baby He has made it possible for our feet, my friend’s feet, all people’s feet, to be guided “into the way of peace!” 

Christmas, it is a season of peace, at least, that’s what God’s intention is for it.  But, why is it that so many, who are so desperately searching for this rich blessing, not finding it, not experiencing and enjoying it? 

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find that many of life’s most complex problems, issues like “where can I go to get, how will I ever enjoy true peace?” I have come to realize, and maybe you have also, that many of life’s most complicated problems have a solution that is, in fact, quite simple.  I’d like to suggest to you that such is the case when it comes to our quest for peace.

Two things, two glorious facts that you simply must know, about Jesus, about that precious Baby, if you want to enjoy real peace.  Number one, Ephesians 2:14 – Jesus Christ IS our peace – He is – because of what He has done for sinners, for people like you and me and my friend, who, without Him, are sitting, living, enduring, a place, so filled with darkness, so terribly overshadowed by death.  Jesus Christ IS our peace, because of what He has done for sinners!  Praise God! 

And, then, fact number two that I’d like for us to explore this morning is this: Jesus Christ is our peace, He is!  Because of what He gives to saints

The manger, we love it, don’t we?  As we come to grips with the awesome reality of God becoming man, this unusual baby bed, this rustic cradle, we love it, because of what it stands for, what it declares to us about this Baby.  The Word HAS become flesh and dwelt among us, the Only Begotten Son of the Father, full, as He is, of grace and truth, in this marvelous way we have been given the privilege to behold His glory!  Wow!  Yes, we love the manger, that crude cradle.  But listen, don’t forget.  This would be no season of peace, if, following the cradle, there had been no cross!  He is our peace, Ephesians 2:14 – Jesus Christ is our peace!  How do we know that?  Because of what He has done for sinners, for the powerless, the ungodly, for His enemies!  For people just like you and me!  The prophet Isaiah, who in the ninth chapter of his prophecy, spoke of a “Child to be born, a Son to be given”, One upon whose shoulders the government would be placed.  Do you remember how Isaiah depicted Him, what he called Him? 

Isaiah 9:6, “And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”  Jesus Christ is our peace… Our Prince of Peace…  And here’s how we know that.  Isaiah 53 – The Child to be born would be “wounded, literally pierced through for our transgressions, the Son to be given, He would be bruised – literally – crushed, for our iniquities.  And, then – catch this – Isaiah 53:5, He is our peace, how do we know that?  Because of what He has done for sinners!  Look at what Isaiah says about Him there in chapter 53, verse 5.  “He was wounded – pierced through – for our transgressions, He was bruised – crushed – for our iniquities.”  And then it tells us that the “chastisement of our peace” the ripping, tearing, cutting blows intended to supply us with peace were upon Him – why?  So that by those stripes, as a result of all that pain and suffering and agony – for us – we might be healed! He is our peace, this Baby, yes, because He came to be born in a manger.  But much more, because He bled and died, in our place, for us, on a cross! 

Christmas, it really is a season of peace, because of what Jesus has done for sinners!  We don’t have time to look at the rest of this powerful 53rd chapter of Isaiah, but here’s your assignment: read and study the rest of it, in light of Ephesians chapter 2 and 1 Peter chapter 2.  Christmas, it is a season of peace because of what Jesus Christ has done for sinners! 

But, then, there’s fact number two, remember it?  Jesus Christ, He is our peace – He is!  If you are a Christian… How do I know that?  Because of what He gives to His saints!  Quickly move with me to John chapters 14 & 16.  Peace, peace with God, what Jesus Christ has done at Calvary, for sinners, for the powerless, for the ungodly, yes, for us who in our sinful rebellion against God are no less than God’s enemies!  That peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, has an incredible by-product, the one that my friend so yearns for – what is it?  It is the gift that Jesus Christ, our peace, gives to His saints: peace within!  Peace in our hearts!  John 14:27 and John 16:33 - The scene is the upper room, Jesus’ final hours with His closest men, before He must go to Gethsemane and Calvary.  It is a troubling scene for Him, because He knew what was ahead.  It was perhaps even more distressing for the disciples because they didn’t know fully nor understand completely, what was about to take place.  Ever been there?  A place of ominous uncertainty?  A place of impending doom and dread?  Flip on the news, look at our society and you’ll feel it, won’t you?  I mean, even with the lights and the tinsel, the music and the ornaments, the tree and the packages under it, for most of us, it’s there.  This sense of foreboding anxiety, and fear. 

My Loved Ones, what season is this?  “For unto you a Child is born, unto you a Son is given, and the government, the final ruling authority over all these things, will be upon His shoulders, upon the shoulders of the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.  What season is it?  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth – in McKinney and Sherman and Wylie and Princeton, and The Colony – on earth peace, good will toward men…”

My Loved Ones, this is the season of peace…  And how do we know that?  Because Jesus Christ, who is every Christian’s peace, has given a marvelous gift to His saints, and what is that gift?  John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Christmas, what season is it?  God has written it not on a billboard, but in manger, and on a cross!  Jesus Christ, our peace-MAKER, our Intercessor, our Mediator, our Sacrificial Peace Offering, God’s Marvelous Gift to us, Jesus Christ, our Peace-Giver, our Comforter, in these times of turmoil and uncertainty, our Ever-Present Help in trouble.  Christmas IS the season of peace.  Why?  You know why, because Jesus Christ has come. 

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