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Preach Dec 24 2007

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Enniscorthy Christian Fellowship – 24th December 2007

The Angel’s Song: Peace on Earth

Someone has said that Christians aren’t allowed to tell lies – they just sing them!  That’s because the songs we sing in church don’t always reflect the reality of our lives.  But when it comes to angels, surely they must always sing the truth. 

Tonight we’ve once again read the song that the angels sang on the night Jesus was born.  Someone has said that there are 3 phrase that sum up Christmas: “Peace on Earth; Goodwill to Men; and Batteries not included.”  Well this is what the angels actually said: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.” Luke 2:14

What a song of praise of God.  But it also was a song of promise to men!  A promise of peace or Shalom.  This means well-being, blessedness, security and completeness.  This is a promise of complete transformation of our lives - spoken into a world full of fear, discontentment and hopelessness.  So were the angels singing the truth?  Did Jesus’ birth bring peace on earth? 

1)                  World Peace?

Christmas is called a season of love and giving.  It usually make us more generous and compassionate to others.  And certainly Christmas has had a peacemaking effect at times.

There is a remarkable story from the first Christmas Day of World War I in 1914.  On that day the British and German troops put down their guns and celebrated peacefully together in the no-man’s land between the trenches. Soldiers on opposite sides sang carols, shook hands, exchanged gifts of tobacco, jam, sausage, chocolate, and even played soccer between the shell holes and barbed wire.

The army generals were shocked and worried that if that sort of thing spread then the soldiers wouldn’t be willing to fight anymore.  Unfortunately, they didn’t need to worry.  The madness of war quickly resumed, claiming over 10 million lives. 

The truth is that this baby’s first coming did not end all war and fighting.  Of course Jesus is coming back – then Isaiah tells us he will bring world peace:

“He will judge between the nations

and will settle disputes for many peoples.

They will beat their swords into ploughshares

and their spears into pruning hooks.

Nation will not take up sword against nation,

nor will they train for war any more.” Isaiah 2:4



But this wasn’t what the angels were singing about when Jesus was born.  Even if all wars had ended, there would still not be peace.  A guy called Epictetus said this about the Roman Emperor who had imposed a kind of peace on his empire: “While the


 

Emperor may give peace from war on land or sea, he is unable to give peace from passion, grief and envy. He cannot give peace of heart, for which man yearns for more than even for outward peace.”

2)                  A Peaceful Life?

But what about our lives?  Did the birth of Jesus make our lives peaceful, hassle and stress free?  Well Christmas should be a nice holiday, but for many of us it is more like this: “12 Days of Christmas video”


A survey in the US has calculated what mums should earn if they were paid the going rate for all the festive chores they do in the month up to December 25.  They included 46 hours cooking, 96 hours spent choosing gifts, 12 hours making costumes for nativity plays, 62 hours organising events, and 32 hours as party hostess. The total bill would come to around $35,000.

If only we had learned from the proverb: “Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.” Proverbs 17:1

3)                  A different kind of peace

So what did the angels mean by “Peace to men.”  Well Jesus said: “My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  John 14:27

So this is a different kind of peace.  A peace that is not dependent on our circumstances.  That cannot be robbed from us by the tragedies of life!  It is a peace that  “transcends all understanding.” Philippians 4:7 It is a peace in our hearts.

 

4)                  Peace through Jesus

It is a peace that is found in a person – the baby born a Saviour!  Paul writes: “He himself is our peace.” Ephesians 2:14  Jesus is our peace because he came to solve the root cause of all our problems, all of our emptiness, all of our fears.  Paul writes:  “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” Romans 5:1

Jesus brought us into the security and satisfaction of a loving relationship with the “God of peace.” (Romans 15:33).   The peace of knowing that no matter what happens in our lives – nothing and no-one can separate us from the love of God.  The peace of that we’re held securely in our Father’s hands.  That we have a place in heaven because our names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.  The peace of knowing that we’re never alone!  That God is always working for our good even in the toughest of situations.  The peace of knowing that we can hand over every issue and problem to our Father. 

This is the peace that comes from knowing Jesus as our Saviour! As our Immanuel, our Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, our Lord, High Priest, Mediator, our Teacher, our Good Shepherd, and our Friend.

Jesus did all of this “by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” Colossians 1:19-20.  Jesus brought this true peace, this true completeness in the loving embrace of our heavenly Father by paying the full price of our reconciliation with God.  As Isaiah promised more than 700 years before Jesus’ birth: Isaiah 53:6

 “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.”



It is from this peace with God we experience peace with others as we are changed by God’s Grace to express to others the same grace and forgiveness that God has given to us.  And from this we also find the peace with ourselves.  We know deep in our hearts that we are loved, accepted, forgiven, adopted, blessed, valued.

This is a peace worth singing about!  A transformation of our lives from struggling to be good enough for God, to the peace of knowing that no are his child!

5)                  Peace to You?

But we could miss out on this peace!  The angel’s song said: “peace to men on whom his favour rests.”  Who are those on whom God’s favour rests?  Well it is not those you might expect.

It has nothing to do with social standing or religious zeal!  This song was not heard first of all in the temples or palaces of the day.  It was a song for a bunch of shepherds on a hillside.  The promise was given to ordinary people in the middle of their everyday lives.  But it was not enough just to hear the message.  They responded to it.  “The shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” Luke 2:15.

This peace is not given to those who by their efforts or religion think they are good enough.  God’s favour rests on anyone who simply does what these shepherds did.  Those who accept his grace “through faith,” Romans 5:1.  Those who accept that they need to be forgiven and who accept Jesus as their Saviour. 

I pray that each one of us will know that peace in our lives.  If you haven’t already, you could accept it tonight.  Christmas is a great time for presents, parties and holidays from work.  But none of them will last.  But the peace from Jesus will stay with us forever. 

6)                  The Song Continues

This was the angel’s song.  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.” Luke 2:14.  It was a once off performance on that night from the angels, but this song is continuing today!  The angel’s song echoed on the shepherd’s hearts.  They shared this song and their experience of this child with everyone they met! 

And maybe tonight this song has been echoing in your heart as we’ve celebrated the birth of Jesus.  If it has, then our job is to continue this song to share the joy of peace with God through Jesus with everyone we meet. 

So this is my prayer for all of us this Christmas.  “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” 2 Peter 1:2 

Christmas Blessing… Mags

Pray

O Come all You Faithful


 



 

hat is those who have received God’s grace. 

The really startling thing is that this angelic advert claimed that there was joy and peace on offer to everyone – it was a universal claim.  Of course the angels never claimed that everyone was going to experience the great joy and peace that they were offering.  The peace, for example, was for those “on whom God’s favour rests.”  That is, those who receive God’s grace.   But the angels did claim that this message was relevant for everyone – no exceptions. 

notmal his song was not heard    to be given this message first!

Not the important people, religious people.

But neither is this peace given to everyone!  It is offered to everyone.  But look what the angels said:

“And on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.”

We could say, peace to those with whom he is pleased!   “among the people whom God has favored.”

Who is that?  Those who have accepted his son!  “he is our peace”

He is their Saviour, Lord, Christ and they receive the gift of peace with God!!


 

1.      An experience not to be missed

This was an amazing advert, but you have to ask, was this just a slick advertising campaign that made all sorts of promises, but disappointed in the end? 

In order to know this the shepherds had to put themselves out and check out the claims of these angels.  When they heard the message they said to one another:  “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”  This was not necessarily easy.  They had to do a bit of searching. The word for “found” in v16 means “to find after a search.”  But because they searched, they met the Saviour face to face for themselves. 

2.      A new advert

This was really an amazing advert with a great message of joy and peace for everyone in every situation but it was a one-off.  I haven’t seen any angels in the skies above Wexford recently – if you have I would like to speak with you later.  That’s because God chose to change his advertising strategy.  No longer was this message going to be taken by angels, he had a new advert:  “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” v17-18

The simple, humble shepherds became the new messengers of joy, peace and hope.  They carried the message of the Saviour to others.

God’s advertising campaign started with angels, but their involvement finished there by and large.  From then on he entrusted this miraculous message to people like these shepherds.  People like the wise men from the east: Gentiles, outsiders and yet they told Jerusalem that her king had been born.  People like 12 normal everyday men of questionable abilities called as apostles to take the massage to the world.  People who had heard the message, checked it out and discovered that Jesus really is the Saviour.   People who had experienced the grace of God. 

People like us.  God has chosen us to take the message to Co. Wexford.  Not that he has chosen our church instead of the other churches around, but he has chosen each of us who are true believers in the Lord Jesus, along with our brothers and sisters in the Lord, to declare this message to those still caught up in the struggle to work their way into heaven!

Often hear that Christmas is about giving and receiving, but I think it is about receiving and giving.  We receive the message of Jesus, so that we can then give it to others.  We receive God’s love, so that we can give it to others.  It is only if we have received it can we give it to others.

How eager are you to take this message to others?  It seems like you could not hold these shepherds back from telling of their experience.  They were eager to share the most exciting and life-changing experience of their lives. 

Perhaps this Christmas we might again be touched by God’s amazing plan of salvation – a message relevant for everyone and share it not out of a overburdening sense of duty but as a joyous expression of the fact that meeting the Saviour, the one born in a manger was the most important, exciting and life-changing experience of our lives!

 


Enniscorthy Christian Fellowship – 25th December 2007

Simeon’s Song: Salvation 

Christmas has so much to do with waiting.  Its always such a long wait to Christmas Day until we can open our Christmas Presents, isn’t it.  Sometimes it feels such a long time just to wait for the morning to come if you wake up too early.

But sometimes it includes a longer wait: A postcard featuring a colour drawing of Santa Claus and a young girl was mailed in December 23rd 1914 to Ethel Martin of Oberlin, apparently from her cousins in Alma, Nebraska.  But its journey was much slower than expected.  It finally arrived this December, just in time for Christmas 2007 – 93 years later.  Nobody knows how it ended up being sent again after been lost for so long. 

That’s some wait, isn’t it.  I wouldn’t want to wait that long for Christmas.  And yet, that is like the wait we read of by the old man Simeon.  He had waited all his life for Christmas – for the opportunity to see this child born a Saviour.  Did you hear his words of joy?

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,

you now dismiss your servant in peace.

30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,

31      which you have prepared in the sight of all people,

32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles

and for glory to your people Israel.” Luke 2:29-32

What an amazing song of praise.  For centuries God’s people had been waiting for God’s promised deliverer – and here he was.  Not a warrior king come to bring political deliverance and economic prosperity as some thought he would be – but a child who would be a Saviour – one who would save his people from their sins, who would lead them to God.

If our greatest need had been information

God would have sent an educator

If our greatest need had been technology

God would have sent an scientist

If our greatest need had been money

God would have sent an economist

If our greatest need had been pleasure

God would have sent an entertainer

But our greatest need was forgiveness

So God sent us a Saviour

And Simeon was so overjoyed to have seen him.  For his eyes to have seen God’s salvation!  For his eyes to have seen the Light of the World.  He is the only salvation in this world: “Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”  Acts 4:12

Have you seen him this morning?  Not with our physical eyes, but with eyes of faith.  Have we again seen Jesus, in one way an ordinary baby in a manger, but in reality the salvation of the Lord and the light of the world.  The wait is over. 

If you haven’t seen him yet – why wait any longer?  John the Baptist, when he saw Jesus as his salvation he said: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”  Look to Jesus and find in him your salvation!!

If you have then rejoice that we are so privileged this morning to celebrate his birth – our Saviour and once again “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews  12:2

There is so much joy if we do because then we can say with confidence as David wrote:

“The Lord is my light and my salvation—

whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life—

of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1


 

Someone must have found it and p

yearChristmas.  It arrived this year in northwest Kansas.

The Christmas card was dated Dec. 23, 1914, and mailed

It's a mystery where it spent most of the last century, Oberlin Postmaster Steve Schultz said. "It's surprising that it never got thrown away," he said. "How someone found it, I don't know."

The card was placed inside another envelope with modern postage for the trip to Oberlin—the one-cent postage of the early 20th century wouldn't have covered it, Martin said.

On the first Christmas, God came wrapped in swaddling clothes. Like that card from 1914, we don't fully understand how the Word became flesh, but we can be certain that it was a gift of infinite love.



Topics:  Christmas,  Incarnation,  Trinity
Occasions:  Christmas Day, 
Source:  The Associated Pres, 12/14/2007

if our greatest need had been an ….

But our Greatest need was forgiveness, and so God sent a Saviour.

If we really have seen Jesus, as our Saviour and Lord – then no matter what happens from now on – we can die in peace knowing that we are forgiven, accepted, safe in Jesus hands…

Putting Christ Back in Christmas

 Police in Hamilton, N.J., are investigating a kidnapping. Or, rather, a theft: the figure of baby Jesus was taken from its manger in a Nativity display in front of a private home. "Whoever did it must've really planned this out, you know like a bank robbery," said homeowner Candy Konczos. The Messiahnapers left a ransom note demanding $800 "if you ever wanna see your baby Jesus again." The doll was bought from Sears and worth about $69. A police spokesman said the case "does smack of kids playing a prank," but the ransom note is "kind of unsettling." The note was signed "Me, him and the other kid who was really scared and didn't want to take your baby Jesus and the whole time all he did was say stuff like you're going to hell." (Trenton Trentonian)

Topics:  Christmas,  Stealing,  Ten Commandments

Occasions:  Christmas Day, 

Source:  This is True, Dec. 22, 2002


Illustrations

It was just a few days before Christmas, when two men decided to go sailing while their wives went Christmas shopping. While the men were sailing a storm came up--a mighty storm that tossed the boat back and forth across the water. Finally the tiny sailboat was forced upon the shore of a small island. The men jumped out of the boat tried to push it back into the water. Suddenly, they realized they were being fired upon by the island's hostile natives. As they dodged poisonous darts, standing waist deep in freezing water in the middle of a storm, one said to the other, "I realize that today hasn't exactly gone as planned, but this sure beats Christmas shopping, doesn't it?!"

 

Peace:  Nagging Wife vs. Jail? Jail Please.
Ahmed Salhi never thought he would beg a judge to throw him in jail, but while serving a nine-month house arrest sentence, he couldn’t take his wife’s nagging anymore. After only one week of the sentence Mr. Salhi went back to the judge and begged him to jail him for the remain sentence. “I need some peace,” he exclaimed! The judge granted his request.

As Solomon said, it is “Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife” (Prov 21:19). So ladies, help keep us out of the desert and out of jail.

Topics:  Wife,  Marriage,  Spouses
Occasions:  Mothers Day, 
Source:  Ananova, Oct 12, 2005,

PEACE

This story has been told in a variety of ways, but this is the researched version that appeared in newspapers nationwide on December 25, 1994 from the Associated Press, dateline London. Eighty years ago, on the first Christmas Day of World War I, British and German troops put down their guns and celebrated peacefully together in the no-man’s land between the trenches.

The war, briefly, came to a halt.

In some places, festivities began when German troops lit candles on Christmas trees on their parapets so the British sentries a few hundred yards away could see them.

Elsewhere, the British acted first, starting bonfires and letting off rockets.

Pvt. Oswald Tilley of the London Rifle Brigade wrote to his parents: “Just you think that while you were eating your turkey, etc., I was out talking and shaking hands with the very men I had been trying to kill a few hours before!! It was astounding.”

Both armies had received lots of comforts from home and felt generous and well-disposed toward their enemies in the first winter of the war, before the vast battles of attrition began in 1915, eventually claiming 10 million lives.

All along the line that Christmas Day, soldiers found their enemies were much like them and began asking why they should be trying to kill each other.

The generals were shocked. High Command diaries and statements express anxiety that if that sort of thing spread it could sap the troops’ will to fight.

The soldiers in khaki and gray sang carols to each other, exchanged gifts of tobacco, jam, sausage, chocolate and liquor, traded names and addresses and played soccer between the shell holes and barbed wire. They even paid mutual trench visits.

This day is called “the most famous truce in military history” by British television producer Malcolm Brown and researcher Shirley Seaton in their book “Christmas Truce,” published in 1984.

 

Christmas is a strange time of year. That’s when people celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace by buying toy rockets, submarines, artillery, and hand grenades for their children.


Calvary Church, Wexford – 22nd December 2002

An ‘Advert’ you can Believe

You can always tell when Christmas is getting near because of the many adverts on TV for Christmas presents.  There seems to be more adverts on TV than ever before.  When you think about them, many TV adverts make outrageous claims just in order to sell their product.  Buy this game and you will never be bored again.  Use this and women will swoon at your feet.  Drink this and you’ll be cool and popular and a great laugh.  Drive this car and your life will be complete.

The problem is that very rarely do these promises live up to the reality of them.  The toy may be fun for a while, but kids will always go back to playing with the box it came in.  No deodorant will overnight make you irresistible to the opposite sex.

The clearest example of not living up to its advert was the ship, The Titanic.  It was advertised as unsinkable.  And yet on its maiden voyage it sank.  Even as it sank some passengers somehow still believed the hype and refused to get in the lifeboats.

 

Now you might think that adverts have got nothing to do with the real Christmas.  But you would be wrong.  At that time there was an advertising campaign that has been unsurpassed in 2000 years.  There was the most outrageous claim ever made in it and there was also a nifty song to go with it.  And most amazing of all  it was made by angels.  We read it last week, but let’s read it again: Luke 2:8-20.

3.      An Outrageous Claim

a)      Great joy and peace to men

This was the advertising claim to beat all.  The angel grabbed his audience’s attention and then said:“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” v10.  This was then reinforced with a song: “Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.” v14

What a claim!  A promise of joy and peace.  A promise of joy – that deep quality of delight and happiness that goes beyond circumstance and situation, and peace which means well-being, security and completeness.  It is not just a small improvement in our lives – it is a complete revolution of our lives from the sadness and struggle and discontentment within our hearts to joy and peace.  It is a message of hope in a world that gives no reason for hope.

This claim is just as appealing today as when it was first made.  In the calendars that we are giving out this year is the following:

“The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings, but shorter tempers; wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints; we spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. 

We have bigger houses, but smaller families; more conveniences, but less time; we have more degrees but less sense; more knowledge but less judgement; more experts, but more problems, more medicine but less wellness...

These are times of world peace, but domestic warfare; more leisure, but less fun; more kinds of food, but less nutrition.  There are days of two incomes, but more divorce; fancier houses, but broken homes.”

It reads uncomfortably true of society today.  But in the middle of all of this, comes this promise of great joy and peace.  It is what we need today.

b)      For everyone

The really startling thing is that this angelic advert claimed that there was joy and peace on offer to everyone – it was a universal claim.  Of course the angels never claimed that everyone was going to experience the great joy and peace that they were offering.  The peace, for example, was for those “on whom God’s favour rests.”  That is, those who receive God’s grace.   But the angels did claim that this message was relevant for everyone – no exceptions. 

I’m sure we all love the presents and the food and time spent with family and friends, but if this is all Christmas is about then it’s not relevant for everyone.  Maybe you’ve experienced this as well.  You are sitting down and writing your Christmas cards – or watching your wife write them.  You’re writing “hope you have a great Christmas” “Merry Christmas” etc. and then you come to writing a card to someone who has recently lost someone close, or maybe they are ill, or perhaps they are on their own.  “Merry Christmas,” can sound so empty and hollow. 

Over the past 4 years, Lorna and I have lost 3 of our grandmothers, all around Christmas time.  Those years the party and presents were somehow just a little out of place.  In Co. Wexford sadness has hit many this year. Many of us will be thinking of Mick Egan and his family this Christmas, or those who have lost husbands and fathers in the tragedies in the Slaney.

And then we might think about the places where Santa does not reach with his presents.  Where the idea of presents under a tree is as alien as little green men from Mars. 

The presents and feasting may not be relevant for everyone, but the real message of Christmas is.  It really is a message of great joy, and peace and hope for all mankind.  The angel’s message will never be out of place, wherever it is heard – it is a message for “all the people.” v10  

c)      A Saviour

Christmas sometimes is a time when we try to escape from reality.  But the real message of Christmas –isn’t about escaping reality – it is about changing our reality because a Saviour has been born.

Into our world, our struggles and our pain, has come Immanuel, God with us and he has come to save us!!  He has come to rescue us from the evil around us.  To release us from the pain and poverty of living in a cursed world  To save us from our own self-destructive sinful nature – to save us from ourselves, to change our hearts and make us into the people we long to be.

Jesus did not come to give us the answer to all our questions, to give us everything we might want, but to be the answer to our problem:

If our greatest need had been information

God would have sent an educator

If our greatest need had been technology

God would have sent an scientist

If our greatest need had been money

God would have sent an economist

If our greatest need had been pleasure

God would have sent an entertainer

But our greatest need was forgiveness

So God sent us a Saviour

Sometimes we can lose sight of the fact that the message of Christmas is really that “a Saviour has been born” – that we can be saved.  We don’t need to struggle to be better, we don’t need to struggle to be good enough for God.  There is one who has come as a Saviour to save us, because we couldn’t save ourselves!

Jesus is good news of great joy for everyone, at all time, whatever they are going through at this very moment.  It is what you and I need, and it is what everyone outside of this building needs as well.  We need Jesus, the Saviour.

4.      A Fragile Plan

This was an outrageous claim, and if true certainly deserved celebrating.  But weren’t the celebrations of the angels a bit premature.  After all a lot had to happen before the Saviour’s work was completed.  Christmas is only the start of the story and as I was reading the Christmas story again it is the frailty of God’s plan that struck me.

a)      As vulnerable as a baby

Think about how insecure this plan seemed.  It all rested on the life of a child.  Lorna has been reading some books about pregnancy and about looking after kids and telling me what they say!  You just are struck with how vulnerable a baby is.  You can understand how parents can become completely over-protective. 

During the pregnancy, the woman is supposed to watch what they eat and not get too tired, not do anything to risky.  The birth will hopefully occur in the hospital with the expertly trained staff.  When the baby is born things have to be sterilised, the room kept at just the right temperature.  The list of things to think about is endless.  You sometimes wonder how children survived in the past.  And I guess the fact is that many children didn’t survive because life is fragile, even today.

But when God brought his son into the world, did he ensure everything was perfect so his child would be safe and healthy? Well not really.

There was the fragile home situation.  If it had not been for Joseph’s obedience to God, Jesus would have been born into a single parent family when there was no social welfare.  Even with Joseph, Jesus’ family was poor.

There was the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem when the baby was due - perhaps on a donkey (Stephen said I should speak on the donkey so I thought I’d mention it).  And probably God’s Son was born in a stable, a feeding trough was certainly his bed.  Not really the ideal place to have a child. 

Then you add the threat of the paranoid and ruthless King Herod, who had no qualms about murdering his own family when he suspected them of plotting against him.  Added to that was the threat of the Roman Empire -  a powerful occupational force that would strongly remove any revolutionary.  And the threat of the religious leaders who wanted to keep the positions and traditions that they had enjoyed for many years.

The hope of mankind, our salvation, rested on the life of this child.  What were the chances that this baby would survive beyond childhood? A fragile and vulnerable plan.

And yet the angels celebrated as if it was already accomplished!  Why?  Because they trusted God.  They knew that God in his power and might would protect the Saviour. God had spoken:  “You will give him the name Jesus because HE WILL save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21.  God had promised and so God would fulfil his promise.

Disease, poverty, Herod, the Roman Empire and the religious leaders would not be able to stand in the way of God’s plan of salvation.  This child was the Saviour of the World and God would ensure that one day he would shout from a cross, “It is finished.”  One day this salvation would be paid in full.  The angels rejoiced as if it were already completed because God had promised it.

b)      Fragile yet secure

Sometimes our salvation looks flimsy.  God’s plan for my life sometimes appears as if it hangs by a thread.  There are many things that would seem to threaten it. 

We are living in a world that makes living for God so difficult.  Sin and defilement and ungodliness are all around us and would seek to trap us.  There are people who would try to trip us up in our Christian faith.  Perhaps sometimes even families makes living for God difficult.  Perhaps it is the dangers of materialism.  Perhaps it is the religious system around us that would seek to take us away from living for God.  But most of all there is the struggle against all the unseen forces:   “the rulers... the authorities... the powers of this dark world and ... the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  Ephesians 6:12

When we think about trying to live for God in this world, our salvation seems so fragile. What chance is there for me living out my Christian life?  Surely I am going to fail! 

We who are in Christ this morning, may look fragile, our salvation may look vulnerable to attack, but it only seems that way!!  Our salvation is secure this morning because we are held by our Saviour: John 10:28-30:

“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no-one can snatch them out of my hand... no-one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”

And God has promised:“ that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

God’s salvation will be fulfilled in us and nothing can stand in his way.  We all know our weaknesses but we can rejoice as if our salvation has already been completed because it is guaranteed.  We have received the Holy Spirit which is the down payment, guaranteeing the rest:  “Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession.” Ephesians 1:13-14

 

It is not up to you and me.  If it were our salvation would indeed be fragile and vulnerable.  We are secure in God’s hands and he will save us completely!!  So this morning, we can rejoice in our salvation.  “I will rejoice in the Lord,  I will be joyful in God my Saviour.” Habakkuk 3:18

5.      An ‘insignificant’ audience

This amazing message of hope and joy and peace was blazed across the sky by angels and they celebrated the certainty of its fulfilment.  The only problem was that this message was given when most people were asleep!

A crucial part of any advertising campaign is to ensure that people will see your advert.  One of the political controversies of last year was when SKY Sports made a deal to buy the exclusive rights to broadcast all the Irish soccer matches.  They were willing to pay huge amounts of money to the FAI partly because it would make more people buy SKY TV, but also because of the increased revenue from advertising.  Guaranteed audiences sell advertising time because every company wants their adverts seen by the most amount of people.

But the angels gave their staggering message when nobody was listening apart from a bunch of shepherds.  Their advert was wasted on a bunch on uneducated, unimportant, poor people.  Well that is how this world would look on them.  Some people have claimed that shepherds were considered to be at the lowest rung of the social ladder, virtually outcasts in society.  Certainly they were nobody special.  They had no position or influence to imply that they should hear important news first.  At best, they were ordinary.  But not to God.  God gave this amazing message of hope, joy and peace to men he valued for no other reason than he loved them. 

I am always amazed at who God chooses.  Look around you here this morning and I’m sure you will agree!  Why do you think God told us about this wonderful message of hope and joy and peace?  None of us were important in the world’s eyes.  None of us have done anything to deserve the privilege.  The only explanation that I can think of is that God values you and he values me.  God sees us as important because he loves us.

6.      An experience not to be missed

This was an amazing advert, but you have to ask, was this just a slick advertising campaign that made all sorts of promises, but disappointed in the end? 

In order to know this the shepherds had to put themselves out and check out the claims of these angels.  When they heard the message they said to one another:  “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”  This was not necessarily easy.  They had to do a bit of searching. The word for “found” in v16 means “to find after a search.”  But because they searched, they met the Saviour face to face for themselves. 

And these shepherds confidently stated that all the things they heard and saw “were just as they had been told.” v20 What the angels claimed was true.  The experience of meeting the Saviour was just as they said – a reason for great joy for everyone.  They went away “glorifying and praising God.” v20

The proof of the pudding is in the eating.  The proof of the advert is in the buying.  The proof of the Saviour is in the saving.  Only those who put Jesus to the test and put their lives in his hands find out whether he can be trusted or not.  Its not enough to listen to the advert – you need to “Taste and see that the Lord is good” Psalm 34:8

Those who have, have discovered that Jesus lives up to his hype.  “He is not a disappointment!”  Have you met the Saviour – could you say that he really does do what he claims to do?  Many of us here this morning have discovered that what is claimed about him is true – that he is the Saviour.

7.      A new advert

This was really an amazing advert with a great message of joy and peace for everyone in every situation but it was a one-off.  I haven’t seen any angels in the skies above Wexford recently – if you have I would like to speak with you later.  That’s because God chose to change his advertising strategy.  No longer was this message going to be taken by angels, he had a new advert:  “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” v17-18

The simple, humble shepherds became the new messengers of joy, peace and hope.  They carried the message of the Saviour to others.

God’s advertising campaign started with angels, but their involvement finished there by and large.  From then on he entrusted this miraculous message to people like these shepherds.  People like the wise men from the east: Gentiles, outsiders and yet they told Jerusalem that her king had been born.  People like 12 normal everyday men of questionable abilities called as apostles to take the massage to the world.  People who had heard the message, checked it out and discovered that Jesus really is the Saviour.   People who had experienced the grace of God. 

People like us.  God has chosen us to take the message to Co. Wexford.  Not that he has chosen our church instead of the other churches around, but he has chosen each of us who are true believers in the Lord Jesus, along with our brothers and sisters in the Lord, to declare this message to those still caught up in the struggle to work their way into heaven!

Often hear that Christmas is about giving and receiving, but I think it is about receiving and giving.  We receive the message of Jesus, so that we can then give it to others.  We receive God’s love, so that we can give it to others.  It is only if we have received it can we give it to others.

How eager are you to take this message to others?  It seems like you could not hold these shepherds back from telling of their experience.  They were eager to share the most exciting and life-changing experience of their lives. 

Perhaps this Christmas we might again be touched by God’s amazing plan of salvation – a message relevant for everyone and share it not out of a overburdening sense of duty but as a joyous expression of the fact that meeting the Saviour, the one born in a manger was the most important, exciting and life-changing experience of our lives!

Conclusion

There is always a lot of hype around Christmas.  There is a lot of the advertising slush that we would do well to avoid and ignore.  In many ways it is as Jim called it the other day – the silly season.  But let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater.  Let us cling to the truth of the message that the angels declared, let us go and see this child born a Saviour and once again rejoice that there is hope, that we are saved and take this message to those around us!


Enniscorthy Christian Fellowship – 24th December 2007

Promised 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 Counsellor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

Peace through Jesus

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  John 14:27

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” Romans 5:1

 “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 53:6

“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”” John 20:19  

 “You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.” Acts 10:36

 “For he himself is our peace.” Ephesians 2:14

“He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” Ephesians 2:17-18

 “For God was pleased to have all his fulness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” Colossians 1:19-20

Peace of God

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23

“The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.” Psalm 29:11

“Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.” Isaiah 26:12

“You will keep in perfect peace

him whose mind is steadfast,

because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3

 

Future Peace

 “He will judge between the nations

and will settle disputes for many peoples.

They will beat their swords into ploughshares

and their spears into pruning hooks.

Nation will not take up sword against nation,

nor will they train for war any more.” Isaiah 2:4



Benefits of Peace

“Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.” Proverbs 17:1

“Better one handful with tranquillity

than two handfuls with toil

and chasing after the wind.” Ecclesiastes 4:6

Prayer for Peace

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 1:3

“Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” 2 Peter 1:2

 “May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”  Hebrews 13:20

Other Info.

What was the Good News? Not that God had sent a soldier or a judge or a reformer, but that He had sent a Saviour to meet man’s greatest need. It was a message of peace to a world that had known much war. The famous “Pax Romana” (Roman Peace) had been in effect since 27 b.c. but the absence of war doesn’t guarantee the presence of peace.  The Stoic philosopher Epictetus said, “While the emperor may give peace from war on land and sea, he is unable to give peace from passion, grief, and envy. He cannot give peace of heart for which man yearns more than even for outward peace.”

The Jewish word shalom (peace) means much more than a truce in the battles of life. It means well-being, health, blessedness, fullness, prosperity, security, soundness, and completeness. It has to do more with character than circumstances. Life was difficult at that time just as it is today. Taxes were high, unemployment was high, morals were slipping lower, and the military state was in control. Roman law, Greek philosophy, and even Jewish religion could not meet the needs of men’s hearts. Then, God sent His Son!

“Good news” could refer to the proclamation of God’s salvation (Is 52:7), but pagans applied it also to celebrations of the cult of the emperor among all people in the supposedly worldwide empire. Particularly in celebration of his birthday (pagans publicly celebrated deities’ birthdays), the emperor was hailed “Savior” and “Lord.” But Jesus’ birth in a lowly manger distinguishes the true king from the Roman emperor, whose loyalists in Luke’s day would have bristled at (and perhaps responded violently to) the implicit comparison. “Signs” are common in prophetic literature (e.g., Is 7:14; Ezek 12:11) and function as much to provoke and explain truth as to prove it.

2:13–14. This choir contrasts with the earthly choirs used in the worship of the emperor. The current emperor, Augustus, was praised for having inaugurated a worldwide peace. The inverted parallelism (God vs. people, and “in the highest” vs. “on earth”) suggests that “in the highest” means “among heaven’s angelic hosts.”

Christ’s coming means peace. Not the abolition of war necessarily, but a different kind of peace.

However, this peace the angels speak of is not for everyone. The Greek word used here for “all people” is laos, from which comes the word “laity.” The laity are not second-class Christians (with clergy being first-class). The laos are all the people of God. Laos was the word used to describe the Israelites, God’s special people. We who are the new Israel are the laos. The best translation the Greek scholars have come up with for this message of peace is: “Peace among men [and certainly women as well] who are the recipients of God’s good pleasure.” If you are able to receive what God wants to give, the message of peace is for you. Would that it were for all. It is available for all, and when and if we receive what God wants to give us, we have peace.

First was “Savior,” a Hebrew word meaning rescuer; then “Christ,” a Greek word for “the anointed one, the chosen one.” The third was a word used by Greek-speaking Hebrews to refer to God Himself. So Jesus was to be the Rescuer, the Anointed One, God Himself, and the Bearer of this peace.

How surprising that this profound message of peace was entrusted to shepherds.


 

 

 

Homiletical Outline

Introduction:

Homiletical Proposition

Exposition

Conclusion

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