We begin our Christmas Sunday message with the stunning passage of Luke 2:8-14
8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.
9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified,
10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.
11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!
12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those whom God favors.”
A bunch of rag-tag shepherd dudes are milling around on the outskirts of an off-the-beaten-path place called Bethlehem (Hebrew: “House of Bread”). After a long and exhausting day of mobilizing sheep the shepherds are ready to grab some supper and hunker down for the night. The flock has been gathered and secured. As they are about to get some much needed shut eye, they are rudely interrupted by a close encounter of the 3rd kind. An “angel of the Lord” presumably Gabriel, the “Good News” messenger (Zechariah, Mary), appears to them in all of his effulgent radiance. He bursts through the space-time continuum to notify them that a universe rocking, world shaking, history making, and hell-breakingphenomenon has just occurred: the long-awaited birth of the Savior/Messiah/Lord has just occurred in that wee-little-bitty city just up the road.
Supernatural Interruptions Part Deux
As it would any one of us, this angelic announcement scares the fright right out the shepherds. The angel reassures them, however, that this singular event means “mega joy” for humanity. After their hearts rates slow somewhat, their senses are again bombarded by another supernatural invasion. Like the angel before them, a myriad of heavenly harmonics materializes out of thin air and do so singing the great hymn, “Glory to God in the Highest.” After they finish their praise set, they confer a beatitude onto the terrified shepherds:
Glory to God in the Highest and Peace on earth…
On Earth Peace
The angelic pronouncement of “Peace on earth” has provided inspiration for a zillion carols and Christmas cards over the millennia. However, if we are honest can we really say and truly claim that this world has enjoyed peace since the birth of Jesus? I mean sustained peace, between countries, nations, families, and neighbors? I would beg that history tells a totally different story, one of never-ending violence, war, struggle, fratricide, disunity, and disruption. Jesus himself promised that “In this world we have tribulation” (John 16:33) and once cryptically proclaimed, “I came not to bring peace but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34). That sounds pretty anti-peace or unpeaceful to me.
Even if we just include modern history, beginning with the Renaissance (15-17th centuries) and moving forward to the Enlightenment (18-19th centuries), we have fared no better when it comes to peace. These eras, heralded as the pinnacle of human advancement still gave way to the 20th century, the deadliest and most violent of the 20 centuries since the birth of Christ (110 million people). I think it’s fair to say that peaceful times on this earth are at best, rare and fragile.
On Earth Peace????
Was the heavenly praise team mistaken then? Lying? Kidding? Or just messing with us? Or were they just being overly optimistic, idealistic, and positive? Even as they uttered this glorious peace promise the world was tearing itself apart rebelling against Roman Rule, which ironically, was called the “Pax Romana” or “Peace of Rome.”
Perhaps they weren’t wrong and maybe we just glossed the most important detail of the promise. I’m here to tell you, we have. Of all the carols and cards that have this angelic scene plastered on it, I have yet to find one that included the conditional qualifier. If you know how to read, you can’t miss it (v14)
Peace on Earth to those whom God favors.
“To those who God favors.” It may be too hard for hell-bent sinners to believe that finding favor with God is possible. But it is! The virginous Mary found it. At her annunciation, the angel Gabriel addressed her as, “Highly favored one” (Luke 1:28). Who favored her? God himself and as such, he chose her to bear his “Only begotten Son” (John 3:16). Mary’s multiple great, great, grandfather, David, found favor with God because of his BHAG of building a temple which would be suitable for God’s majesty (Acts 7:46).
God Favors Those Who Listen to His Son
Who finds God’s favor and subsequently his peace? Or as I like to say, “a piece of peace.” God actually gave us the answer 33 years later at another supernatural event called the “Mount of Transfiguration.” Here, he proclaimed from the heavens (Luke 9:35)
This is my Son, whom I favor, listen to him.
It makes sense doesn’t it? The Bethlehem baby was already given the name, “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6) 800 years before he was born. Therefore, those who are eager to “listen” (trust and obey) to the Son find favor with God and receive peace. Prior to exiting this world, the Prince of Peace promised his faithful listeners (John 14:27) [SLIDE 12]
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
Jesus went on to explain that the peace he gives is far different from that of the world’s. Worldly peace is based on tranquil circumstance and/or mind-over-matter discipline. The peace he gives is permanent because it is based in him-the person of peace. He not only gives peace but is peace which is why Paul stated, “For he himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14).
As the Prince of Peace, Jesus found it tragic that so many did not accept the peace he is and the peace he gives. Speaking to his own people, the Jews, he lamented, “If you had only known…what would bring you peace (Luke 19:42). The Jews thought peace would come once the Romans were vanquished and their country flourished, economically and politically. Sound familiar? How wrong they were and anyone else that doesn’t seek the Prince of Peace for a piece of peace this Christmas.
Conclusion: God Favors Those Who Listen to His Son
To get a piece of peace we got to listen to the Prince of Peace. Basic addition tells me that the more people that are filled with his peace the more peace we will enjoy on earth. Are you one of those people? If not, pray with me now.