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Journey Toward Christmas: The Lord Shall Bless His People with Peace

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Our God is a God of peace who give peace to those upon whom His favor rests.

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Text: Luke 2:8-15; Isaiah 9:6
Theme: Our God is a God of peace who give peace to those upon whom His favor rests.
Date: 12/24/17 File name: JourneyTowardChristmas04-02.wpd ID Number:
I’m sure many of you here this morning remember Paul Harvey. He was one of the preeminent story-tellers of our era. Several years before his death, Harvey told a series of stories about the meaning of Christmas. In one of those stories he told of a father whose son — the son’s name was Charles — had eagerly gone off to fight for the Union Army during the American Civil War. He did so without his father’s blessing. One winter day, unbeknownst to his parents, Charles had walked out of his family’s house on Brattle Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and headed toward the train station. He boarded a train bound for Washington, D.C. where he enlisted to fight for the Union. Like many young men of that day, the son saw war as a chance for adventure and glory, but he also saw it as his duty, later telling his father that he was more than willing to lay down his life for the nation if need be. After months of sitting in camp, the son finally saw battle and was severely wounded at the Battle of Mine Run.
News of his son’s injuries reached the father on Christmas Eve 1863. The following day Charles’s father wrote a poem entitled “Christmas Bells” that expressed his anguish. That father was the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. You know part of that poem because the last refrain is a stanza in the Christmas Hymn "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day". It’s not terribly lengthy so let me read the entire poem.
I HEARD the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."
It was the Old Testament prophets who announced God’s promise to give His people a Savior who would lead His people into peace. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6, NIV84). This is perhaps the most quoted Messianic prophecy of the Old Testament. The people of Israel looked forward to the day when “of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end” (Isa. 6:7). For a nation of people who frequently experienced war with their enemies, persecution by their neighbors and subjugation by foreign powers, this was indeed a powerful hope.
Now, let’s jump ahead 500 years past Isaiah’s prophecy to the night sky over the small
Judean village of Bethlehem. Shepherds are gathered around a small fire. Some are fitfully trying to sleep on the rough and rocky soil. Others a milling about recounting the days activities, perhaps a few are even arguing over politics and religion. Abruptly the still darkness is pierced by blinding light and a symphony of praise as angels announce the birth of Messiah. “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:13–14, NIV84). This day of angelic visitation to shepherds had been planned from eternity past ... a moment in time picked out before the foundation of the world. The world was made for this day, and all that this day means in history. On this day the shalom of God was given men.
Unfortunately, peace in this world has been hard to come by. Over the last 3,500 years of history human society has experienced a mere 268 years free of major conflict. In the 20th century alone, it is estimated by historians that 231 million people died in world wars, civil wars, and other regional conflicts. In an address to the Royal Society of Literature in London in 2,000, Margaret Drabble, a British novelist, referred to the 20th century as “A Beastly Century”.
If Jesus is the Prince of Peace why do we see so little of it in our world? Because the promise of Shalom is for God’s people, not a fallen world.


“The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.” (Psalm 29:11, NIV84)
1. and yet, even for many believers, peace seems impossible to experience in our troubled world
a. too many professing Christians are struggling with anxiety, or disappointment or fear or apprehension
b. they see troubles on every side and peace of mind and soul is not one of the blessings they consistently experience
ILLUS. Like Gideon in the Old Testament, we sometimes find ourselves asking, 'if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us?


1. there was a time in King David's life when he found himself fleeing from Absalom during his son's rebellion and attempted coup
a. David felt intense pressure and a deep anxiety of soul
b. but David fixed his thoughts on God and remembered the joy that comes with trust in him
1) comforted and at rest despite overwhelming danger, David concluded: “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8, NIV84)
2. as most of you know, the Hebrew word for peace is Shalom
a. it is a multi-faceted word occurring over 200 times in the Old Testament
1) about 25 times it is used either as a greeting or a farewell
2) when it is used in such a way it implies a blessing upon that person's life
ILLUS. It would be as if upon greeting a good friend we would say, "God bless you! I wish for you prosperity, health, wholeness and harmony in your life."
3) when a Hebrew greeted a friend with "Shalom!" he was wishing that friend all these good things
3. shalom was also a word which implied the absence of strife or tension or hostility between individuals or nations
4. the word shalom takes on its deepest significance in the Book of Psalms and the Old Testament prophets
a. two-thirds of the uses of this word express the fulfillment that comes to human lives when they experience God's presence
b. for us as well as David, peace in difficult circumstances is a result of our relationship with God
5. but this peace with God does not come through our efforts
a. it has always been God who initiated peace on the behalf of His people


1. it was the Old Testament prophets who announced God's promise to give His people a Savior who would lead his people into peace
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6, NIV84)
2. the people of Israel looked forward to the day when ... "of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end" (Isa. 6:7)
3. but the prophecy also tells us that this peace will not be purchased cheaply
a. Isaiah is clear that man's lack of peace comes from alienation from God and antagonism toward others due to a human nature twisted by sin
4. how will the Prince of Peace secure the peace of his people?
a. Isaiah gives us a hint ...
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5, NIV84)


1. it’s now 500 years past Isaiah's prophecy, and some shepherds are going to receive astonishing news
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 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 of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:8–14, NIV84)
2. as the night sky is suddenly populated by the Host of Heaven the first words from the angel is fear not
a. these are not chubby cherubs who have descended from heaven, but terrifying supernatural creatures who have authority to execute the judgment of God
1) in the Bible angels shut the mouths of lions, slaughter thousands of Assyrian soldiers, bring judgment upon entire communities, and open prison doors
2) “fear not” is an appropriate greeting from an angel
b. but they are also the manifestation of a very present help in time of need
3. here they are sent to deliver the greatest news that has ever been delivered — a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord


1. what is your greatest need in life? Think about it ...
a. if this question was asked about 10 or 20 years earlier, what might have been your response?
b. what about after 10 or 20 years from now?
1) do you think you will have the same response?
2. from our human perspective, we have lot’s of “great needs”
a. from God’s perspective, we have but one great need — Forgiveness and Restoration
3. do you realize this greatest need in life? ... have you trusted in Jesus to forgive your sins and give you freedom?
ILLUS. In his book Born Again, Chuck Coleson writes of his conversion experience during the height of the Watergate Scandal. A friend had been witnessing to him. One evening that friend began to read from C.S. Lewis' book Mere Christianity. As Coleson listened he heard how pride keeps men from God. Coleson testifies that it was a agonizing experience. He writes: "I saw myself as I never had before. And the picture was ugly." He continued to search and read. Again and again he came back to C.S. Lewis central theme: "Jesus Christ is God." Upon his confession of Christ Coleson writes: "I felt old fears, tensions, and animosities draining away. I was coming alive to things I'd never seen before; as if God was filling the barren void I'd known for so many months, filling it to its brim with a whole new kind of awareness. There came something more: strength and serenity, a wonderful new assurance about life, a fresh perception of myself and the world around me."
4. through Christ Jesus Chuck Coleson found what all men need ...
a. peace with God which comes through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ


“And the work of righteousness shall be peace; And the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.” (Isaiah 32:17, KJV 1900)
a. what is this work of righteousness referred to by the Psalmist?
b. the answer is found in the 5th chapter of Romans
1. through the Prince of Peace we have a new position before God
a. faith in Jesus Christ changes our relationship with God
b. how does the Bible characterize our relationship with God before Jesus came into our hearts?
c. listen to Paul . . .
“the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” (Romans 8:7, NIV84)
1) the KJV uses the word enmity
2) enmity means hatred with intense ill will and vindictiveness that threatens to kindle into hostility
d. but through Christ our hostility toward God ends
"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith. . ." (Rom. 5:1, KJV)
1) because of Christ you and I can be in right with God
2) our new position before God is one of friendship because He justifies us in Christ
3) and when we are right with God, we will have peace with God
2. through the Prince of Peace we have a new possession from God
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Romans 5:1, NIV84)
a. Jesus Christ is our great advocate before God
3. Paul pictures a court room scene
a. we are the defendants
b. God is prosecutor, judge and jury
1) He has announced His universal verdict upon all men
2) the whole world is guilty!
3) He has not only announced the verdict, He has pronounced the sentence — all men will die and are rightly condemned to hell
c. He has announced the verdict, He has pronounced the sentence, but praise God, He is willing to renounce both
1) we have sinned, but we can be justified by faith in Christ
2) man auctions himself cheep in the slave market of sin, but Jesus has come along and paid the price to buy us and set us free
4. through the Prince of Peace we have a new privilege in God
"through whom we have gained access by faith into his grace." (Rom. 5:2 , KJV)
a. because we have peace with God we have access into His holy presence
“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16, NIV84)
b. believers have a wonderful accessibility into God's presence
1) it is a privilege that only a small percentage of mankind knows
5. only faith in and acceptance of the Prince of Peace can bring the peace of God flooding into your life


ILLUS. Two millennium ago in the night sky over a small Judean village called Bethlehem, the stillness of the evening was shattered by angels descending near the earth to spread the joyous news of the birth of a Savior. Their message brought announcement and a promise. The promise was one of quiet repose. "Glory to God in the highest and or earth peace, toward men of good will." Two thousand years later we seem to find few men of good will and a distinct lack of peace in the world. The pictures from around the world are stark. As we sit here this morning there are approximately 20 major armed conflicts taking place around the world. In Muslim-dominated countries, Muslim-led governments actively persecute and kill Christians.


". . . righteousness and peace kiss each other." (Psa. 85:10, KJV)
1. what does he mean?
a. I think what the Psalmist is trying to tell us is that a real inward peace only comes through a personal relationship with God, and then God’s children become a people of peace and even peacemakers
b. only when we've experienced peace with God can we begin to live in peace with each other
2. one of the finer points of Biblical truth regarding national or world tranquility is that peace must have people in it
ILLUS. All men desire peace, but very few desire those things that make for peace.
a. peace is not represented by a Christmas card that gives you fuzzy warm feelings
b. peace is the active pursuit of people who have had an encounter with Jehovah-Shalom: The Lord our Peace
c. Jesus told his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9, NIV84)
ILLUS. Maybe it begins with a simple gesture as putting aside our road-rage when someone cuts us off in traffic this week, or steals our parking spot at the mall.
3. peace makers are characterized by two criteria
a. one: they refuse to retaliate and return evil for evil
1) peacemakers will turn the other cheek
2) " will pray for those would use them
3) " will forgive when they are wronged
4) " give the enemy a cup of cold water
5) peace makers rarely accomplish great feats in life but instead do small tasks in the power of Jesus’ love
b. two: they make every effort to introduce others to the Prince of Peace who can give them peace with God
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem seeking to capture the dissonance in his own heart and the world he observes around him. He heard the Christmas bells one December day and the singing of “peace on earth” (Luke 2:14), but he observed the world of injustice and violence that seemed to mock the truthfulness of this optimistic outlook. The theme of listening recurred throughout his poem, eventually leading to a settledness of confident hope even in the midst of bleak despair.
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."
Our God is Jehovah-Shalom: The Lord our Peace. He has sent the Prince of Peace — Jesus, who is the Christ — into our lives that we might have peace with God. He came to give spiritual peace to the souls of men. That peace is available to you this morning.
But God has also called us to be peace makers. That task is not always easy, but usually worth the price. What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit? It means to know the peace of God.
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