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Jesus: Our Proclaiming Peace

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How many of you remember New Years Eve, 2019?

Did you have a lot of plans and hopes and dreams for the 2020 year?
How many of us experienced some disruption and disappointment in that year? Yes— all of us.
I want to talk to you today about the dynamic we see in the Christmas story where two very different scenes are playing out simultaneously.
One, we’ve talked about the last couple weeks— the effect this move of God has had on Mary and Joseph—It was definitely not what they planned. They are having a baby, conceived by the Holy Spirit— in a borrowed stable far from their home. No help, no support system.
At the same time, remember, 400 years had past since anyone had heard anything from God. It was perhaps one of the darkest times in history— it was probably a dark night— and we now turn our attention to shepherds out in fields near Bethlehem keeping watch over flocks of sheep. An angel of the Lord appears to them:
Contrast these two scenes--- Mary, Joseph and Jesus in a stable—
And at the same time, we read in Luke 2:9-10
Luke 2:9–10 (NIV)
9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.
Luke 2:11 NIV
11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.
Luke 2:12 NIV
12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
In one scene there is perhaps some fear, anxiety, disappointment even. In the other a joyous and spectacular display of joy and celebration.
I want to ask you a simple question today to begin—
Which scene are you a part of this advent season?
Which part of the blessed Christmas event can you relate with best today?
For some- you are overjoyed— elated and amazed by what you see God doing in the world. You can join the heavenly host and sing alleluia
The anxious new parents or the joyous angels and shepherds?
For others, you are somewhat confused, disappointed. We will talk about both, but my heart goes out to these folks today.
What should we do when we feel disappointed in God?
Some of us feel like God has let us down in some area.
It could be just like what we experienced in 2020. Graduations, weddings, gatherings of all sorts, work, school, all disrupted. Some of us lost loved ones. Many experienced great loss, and even a couple years later— it’s still lingering for some.
Maybe you feel like you tried to do everything you could to raise your kids right— and they still walk away from God.
Maybe you feel like you worked as hard as you could, and you still got let go.
Maybe you feel like you really are trying to live a life faithful to God, but everything just keeps breaking down.
Maybe you didn’t plan on battling addiction, or depression, or anxiety.
You, like all of us, didn’t plan on a lot of what you’ve been facing.
What do we do when we feel like God let us down?
Here’s something I love about this Christmas story—it is that if:
We would have needed advice, God would have sent a counselor
We needed more education, he would have sent a teacher
We needed different laws, he would have sent a lawyer or politician
But what did we need? What do we need? We need hope, forgiveness, healing, purpose—We need a savior---
God sends his own son as the savior of the world, because that is what we need!
The two stories— these two scenes are going to intersect— and I would want you to see that in both situations— the characters in this story are proclaiming peace. They are choosing Joy and Trust.
Luke 2:12 NIV
12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
You’ll recognize him by the sign. What is a sign, really? It’s a way to point us to meaning— in a direction— it is a proclamation— a pronouncement.
A baby wrapped and lying in a manger is a proclamation we would not expect.
God didn’t send a great and mighty king, with a massive palace and fancy robes and a crown or halo on his head.
No- God sends a baby. Wrapped up in strips of cloth. Born to his earthly parents in basically a hollowed out cave for animals. Wrapped in strips of cloth like you might wrap a dead person in.
A sign— that heavenly royalty, a prince--- was born to die.
The scripture goes on:
Luke 2:13–14 (NIV)
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
What a contrast. Can you imagine?
Think about that with me for just a couple seconds again.
Mary, Joseph, the infant Jesus---
A heavenly host of angels, which this actually has a military connotation here in it’s description— singing and praising God- the angel armies of God---proclaiming Peace on Earth, and Goodwill to men.
The angel armies of God proclaim the arrival of Jesus through their worship.
In my studies, I have appreciated the earliest church fathers and mothers— as they are called. These men and women were the early followers of Jesus and beyond who helped establish the church— our doctrines and our understanding of this faith we call Christianity.
They have written commentaries and devotionals— even so long ago— that can be very helpful and encouraging today— I found this interesting this week:
Gregory the Great: in a reflection on Luke 2:10-14, wrote: (He lived from 540-604 AD, and was Pope Gregory the first to our catholic friends.
“Before the Redeemer was born in the flesh, there was discord between us and the angels, from whose brightness and holy perfection we were separated… Now they honor us as friends, whom before they considered weak and despised.”- Saint Gregory Nazianzen, 540-604 AD
It’s like this reunion of worship happening in front of the shepherds. Like the angels saying— WOW— if God values these beings that much— we do too.
Peace on Earth, goodwill to all men— it’s a proclamation. But what are we experiencing on the other side of the scene? What might you be experiencing right now in life?
You think Mary and Joseph have experienced anything like Peace on earth, and goodwill to men?
How about you? I read this story, and I read, the more I learn— I see everything except Peace on earth.
Take a look with me to review this heart-wrenching story.
A young couple is engaged, they are good people. They are given a pretty impossible situation. She is going to have a baby— the promised Messiah who is conceived by the Holy Spirit inside her— and he will be FULLY GOD, and FULLY MAN.
Joseph is handed a nearly impossible role as well— to be her protector, to stand by her side, and to be faithful to God, Mary and to Jesus himself.
Lets be real here for a couple minutes— can we? I believe these are real people— just like you and me. They are very human— obviously.
This could very easily feel like disappointment for them. This could very easily get REALLY HARD, REALLY FAST.
Think about it. They had plans. They were going to get married, settle down in a little house that Joe was going to build. Work together to save up some money— then maybe then--- they would begin to have some kids… These two have plans— just like you and I have plans. But God interrupted those plans. He presents them with one of the most complicated, untimely, inconvenient, dangerous, and unfair assignment. And they both - as scripture records— say “ok”. Let it be to me as you have said.
Now fast forward— they have been ridiculed, criticized, shamed, maybe even humiliated. They have travelled about 90 miles all the way to Bethlehem, for a government mandated census.--- They can’t find any safe place to stay—So they are given a little stable/barn. And don’t think HGTV cute little shiplap barn. This is a little shack or even a cave at best— for animals. They have what I could only imagine is a traumatic high risk birth— and here they sit in the night. And then, we’ll talk about this on Christmas day— but they are immediately thrown into being refugees— because Herod, the evil selfish King at the time, wants to kill the baby— They are led by God to flee to Egypt— before they even can go home and decorate the nursery.
Peace on Earth— Goodwill to men? Seems like Hell on earth to me.
All because they were trying to do what God asked them to do.
All of this trouble— this wasn’t what they planned for certain. I don’t know if this is stepping too far, but I think they both could be struggling with this— It’s at least possible that they feel like God is really stretching their trust, and their faith. And I think we might feel the same way sometimes.
In spite of the disruptions, Joseph and Mary proclaim peace through their obedience.
But during that night they are visited by those shepherds— they are told of the Heavenly Trans-Siberian Orchestra show they just witnessed— all because of the baby boy.
Two very different scenes here— but they are rooted in worship and obedience. Those are the two powerful testimonies that we can observe here— the two ways that we too can proclaim a peace in Jesus.
I want to encourage you today— with two simple truths from scripture that hopefully will give you some strength in facing your disappointment.
Two truths to encourage us when we don’t understand:
You don’t have to understand the plan to trust that God has a purpose.
Proverbs 19:21 NIV
21 Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
You have plans, I have plans, Mary and Joseph had plans— but praise the Lord that his purpose will prevail.
I thank God that people’s opinions can’t stop God’s purpose. I even praise God that my disappointments can’t stop God’s purpose.
Remember last week— Joseph considered getting out of the whole deal. But last weeks scripture reminded us of God’s patient peace in Josephs life— and God’s ultimate purpose:
Joseph and Mary had little understanding, but they had instructions.
Matthew 1:21 (NIV)
21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.
Wait a minute, God— you’re working in my waiting--- you’re working in the middle of my disappointment.
There’s still a purpose in all of this confusion and chaos? Yep.
A second truth that I hope will encourage you today is:
2. Your disappointment with God might be a divine appointment from God.
There are times in your life, I promise, that you are going to be disappointed— and let down, and you’re going to wonder where God is— and that is going to actually be a divine appointment from God. Look what Joseph and Mary experienced. This wasn’t what they planned at all— but God was preparing them for the divine appointment of his purpose.
I’m going to take you quite a ways back to tell you a little story that is pretty insignificant now in some ways— but very significant in other ways today— but it was a huge disappointment to me at the time.
In HS, I was able to participate in several different sports, but Track and Field was the one that I excelled in the most.
I was a good all-around athlete, so I could do many of the track and field events fairly well—During my senior year, I was on fire at my schools conference track meet- I had a great day. You can only compete in four events, but I placed first or second in all my events—our team even won the championship-- and I had plans to follow my father footsteps and attend Michigan State University and be a track athlete. I was going to be a Spartan.
Then I progressed to the State Championship track meet, where I was sure the MSU coaches would be— and I knew this would be my chance to get their attention.
I did not compete well at all. It was hot— and I was tired from a long season— and the most devastating thing happen to me:
I was running the second leg of our 4 x 400 m relay team--- and about 60 m from the finish of my leg— I was leading the race, but got bumped by a guy passing me slowly— and I dropped the baton. Not only did I ruin the day for myself— but also for my other teammates. It was terrible.
But you know what happened? Michigan State University never called. But the coach from Western Michigan University did. He wasn’t at the state meet. He had an assistant that did attend our conference meet. I never planned to go to Western--
I never planned to go to a wonderful Christian ministry group
I never planned to develop a passionate, deep faith and leadership skills
Here I stand, recognizing that I wouldn’t be married to my best friend, the greatest person I know in this world--or have three wonderful daughters, three outstanding sons in law---and a grand-son that I’m just crazy about already— or more than 20 years working in a college setting, I would not be standing here in front of you today preaching about the birth of Jesus as your pastor!
We probably wouldn’t be sharing this moment if things had gone according to the Plan...
I know you’ve got some things that have not gone like you planned. This is not what you planned.
I hope you can at least see— from the two very different scenes this morning— that even though for Mary and Joseph, this was NOT what they, or anyone would have planned— but that in the eyes of the angels and shepherds — this is the critical moment in history.
Even though you may not understand— God has a purpose.
And your disappointment could very well be a divine appointment.
Let’s take Mary— and fast forward all the way to the cross. Think about that for a moment.
Mother of Jesus- that young girl who said yes to God— 33 years or so later. She is standing there watching her son— God’s son, hang on a cross, beaten— her perfect son, who knew no sin ever— hangs bleeding—and while creating is mocking the Son of God--- he says Father, forgive them. and “it is finished”.
Mary watches the whole thing.
You don’t have to understand the plan— to know that God has a purpose.
When you realize how much he loves you— He knows you have your plans— but his purpose will always prevail.
Listen to this little change— I want to mature and live saying
"When I know God has a purpose, I don’t need to understand the plan”.
And that’s where I want you to be able to live this Advent season— and into your whole future.
There will be things that we don’t understand— but we proclaim peace anyway— Through Worship and Obedience.
We trust that our disappointments, might be the divine appointments that God has planned for us.
Mark Batterson is an American pastor and author. Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C.
He said this:
“Every divine appointment is preceded by preparation. If we submit to the preparation, God will fulfill his purpose. If we won’t, he waits. Why? Because God never sets us up to fail.” - Mark Batterson, Pastor and Author
This ultimately is the essence of the Christmas story— Nobody would have planned this! God was preparing everyone involved for his purposes.
Mary and Joseph had a plan— I have a plan— you have a plan. But God has a purpose.
I want you to really get today this: WE ARE GOD’s PURPOSE.
Mary will give birth to a son— and you are to give him the name Jesus, WHY? Because he will save his people from their sin! That’s us! WE ARE GOD’s PURPOSE— even way back then.
What do we need? We need forgiveness— we need healing in our innermost being— we need that missing PEACE. We needed hope--- that’s why God sent us what we needed—a savior-It’s Jesus.
He gave his life —For ours. In our place. He saves us from our Sins— by taking on the sins, and paying the price for those sins—
So we can experience the PEACE of God. Even when things don’t go the way we planned. It’s not just this happy— lucky— chance Peace--- we can proclaim peace with the angels— even when we feel like we are in the stable.
In the middle of your pain or loss or disappointment— right now— we are here for each other. I want you to be able to thank him that things didn’t go as planned. I pray that you will find good news, of great joy.
Let’s pray:
Do a work in our hearts— I pray for anyone who is hurting right now. We mourn with those who are feeling disappointed in you God. I pray that as we cast our cares on you— a burden, a fear, a health crisis, — I pray that you will give us a peace that passes all understanding— knowing that you are always good. We pray that we would know and trust that you have a purpose, and that it will prevail. Our challenge is to worship like the shepherds and angels, and to trust and obey like Mary and Joseph.
If there is anyone who doesn’t know you in that special personal way— in their heart of hearts— we pray that they might respond to your Holy Spirit even today and believe in you— and that they would put their trust in you Jesus— That they would know that God has a purpose for life— and that they are a huge part of that purpose.
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