By Verse : Micah 5:2 Topic :

A MESSAGE OF PEACE

It’s hard to believe Christmas is almost upon us. Next Sunday will be unusual for it will be the last Sunday of Advent and at 7 we will celebrate Christmas Eve. You are invited to attend worship twice next week. It will be a special time celebrating the birth of God’s Son with family, friends, and the world. Reliving the story. It doesn’t get any better than that. Rejoicing the fact that the Lord of lords was born and brings so many miracles into our world, even today. Christmas is more festive, upbeat, full of anticipation, full of joy and good tidings. Christmas brings the good out of people as they share with those less fortunate. The preparing and waiting will come to an end as the spotlight will shift from Mary, Joseph, shepherds, wise men, and angels to the little baby lying in a manger. ‘God so loved the world,’ the Scriptures says, ‘that one day he sent his Son so that all who would believe in him could have eternal life.’ Such a simple statement, yet it’s a powerful one. It’s a message that Christians share with the world. We share that love so that others can find new hopes, new dreams, new directions, new life. Christmas means miracles can happen! We share the good news of his birth so that the world can know that those who believe, the future is bright. Though pain and struggles exist, there is still one who guides us through it all. We don’t quit. We don’t surrender. We don’t give up. What we do is look down at the manger and see the little baby and know God’s love came down at Christmas to heal and save the world. We look up and we see the glory of our God through each new sunrise, each star that shines at night knowing the same God who brought them into the universe is the same God who gives us newness every day.
The Christian faith is built on that one verse, John 3:16. We’ve seen it on TV, we’ve seen it on billboards, we’ve seen it on shirts, we’ve heard it mentioned multiple times from the pulpit, and we know that there is no other verse so memorized, so life changing as John 3:16. Isaiah wrote “For unto us a Child is born. Unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father Prince of Peace.” And it came to pass. A baby came into the world that brought light that shines in the darkness of a troubled world.
This morning we turn to a prophet who reminds us of God’s love. Micah 5:2-4 says, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrata, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times…. He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth and he will be their peace.”
Thus, says the Word of God, for the people of God, so let us all say, “AMEN!”
I think that last part of the verse says it all. We are invited to come to worship and adore him, FOR HIS GREATNESS WILL REACH TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH AND HE WILL BE THEIR PEACE. Christ came to sow seeds of peace among those who knew very little internal peace. Bad enough the world was full of hate, but people also struggled internally as well. The Hebrews were being ruled by puppet kings who were ruled by Rome. Hope was hard to come by, so was joy, so was changes in one’s life. Peace? It too was lost.
The song the choir sang this morning was called, “Jesus, What A Wonderous Child.” Our readers reminded that “at the appointed moment, God set everything into place. The hour of his purpose strikes and an unfilled prophesy is laid open. The fulfillment of his word comes to pass…. And now the promise of new life! Hope ignites the ancient longing burning in the hearts of God’s people.”
We may not fully understand the birth of Jesus. Sometimes we just take it kind of matter of factly. In fact, when you look back on that night no one seemed to care about that birth. In England when Prince William’s wife had her kids there was great fanfare. The news was carried in the papers, on the radio, on TV. The countdown, the waiting, and then the announcement that a child, a son was born, and the nation went berserk for a future king had come on the scene. In a few weeks people will gather in Times Square early in the day to welcome a new baby, the baby of 2018. They will stay for hours on end, so they can watch the ball come down welcoming that baby. When midnight comes, and the first second of 2018 ticks, there will be celebrations galore with singing, hugging, lifting a toast or two. None of that happened on that quiet night in Bethlehem. And he was THE KING OF KINGS!
When the moment was right, the Savior of the world slipped from Mary’s womb into the world, to the people he was about to save, to the people who he was to bring hope, to the people that one day would find peace. Mary and Joseph looked at each other and the child they just delivered, and said, “How blessed we are. What a wonderful, amazing child this is.”
That’s the story of Christmas that we should never forget. Each year as a pastor, I try to find a new message to bring the old story to life. But that’s hard to do. Why try and improve on the story? The facts never change. The truth rings out in every church on Christmas Eve and Christmas day as we celebrate the birth of the Christ child. What a gift of God!
That’s the story we celebrate year after year. So, let’s not make it complicated year after year. Enjoy the simple message that peace on earth was delivered to all who would receive him.
We know the birth of Jesus offers new life to those who receive him. The angels proclaimed, “For to you has been born a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Three wise men followed a glowing star and it rested on that child who was Christ the King. And they gave him their gifts of adoration. But the most important gift was given to them, the gift of new life as they returned home not only by a different route, their lives were instantly changed. And with great joy in their hearts they journeyed home to tell the story of a wonderful child who is Christ the Lord.
Through that birth the world also found new hope. We may not understand fully the impact this was to the Jewish people who had little hope in society. For many years things were tough for them. In fact, between the last prophet in the Old Testament, Malachi, and Matthew’s gospel things were quiet for those 400 years. But as we heard this morning ‘at the appointed time,’ God did something special. He sent his only begotten Son to restore hope to the world, a hope that says God has not forgotten the world. A hope that says, believe, trust, stay strong, don’t give up, for God is on our side and is watching over us and though we don’t realize it, God is still in control. Yet for some, that hope has not been realized, and they still wait, that’s why the message continues to be shared.
The Psalmist writes “He alone is my rock and my salvation, he is my fortress I will never be shaken… Find rest, O my soul, in God alone, my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, he is my fortress and I will not be shaken…. Trust in him at all times, O people, pour out your hearts to him for God is our refuge.”
It was a quiet night when that baby came into the world. No parades to be had, no TV cameras waiting for the news. No iPhone pictures to be shown around the world. Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus didn’t appear on Facebook, or Twitter. Joseph didn’t take a selfie of the three of them and post it for his friends and family back in Nazareth. It was just Mary, Joseph, Jesus and the animals. But that birth announcement traveled pretty fast. For in a field in Bethlehem, out of the dark came glorious voices, and there was rejoicing as the angels sang the birth of God’s son. Shepherds received the good news with great joy. ‘O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord’ they invite the world. Come and see the joy he brings, the peace he offers and the hope of a better tomorrow.
Finally, this wonderful child offers us new joy and peace, for he is Prince of Peace. Into a world that is struggling the child born of Mary offers us new peace. When we look at the life of Jesus in the gospels we see he lived a life of peace. He sowed seeds of joy, seeds of hope, seeds of new life and also seeds of peace. He touched life after life of those who seemed lost. He gave love where there seemed only hate. He gave comfort when he found someone who was mourning. He offered his hand when someone had a need. He fed thousands who came to hear him. Over and over again his journey on this earth was filled with wonder as he transformed those who followed him, as many found hope for their lives. Even those rough disciples found new hope, life and joy as well as peace those three years they followed him. It wasn’t always perfect. They doubted, had fears, didn’t fully understand it all. But as they journeyed it was as if they were in a different world. People yelling out Jesus’ name for a variety of reasons, some just wanting to touch his clothing knowing something wonderful would happen. His life touching one life at a time, offering so much, to so many. It was and is an amazing journey of faith.
Today, this third Sunday in Advent the choir sang about the wonderful child who offers all these things to us today. Think of that for a moment. Think of what that means for me and you. Sometimes we need to stop and smell the roses, to stop and remember that one-day God looked down upon this world and even shed a tear for all the chaos that was happening, and he knew the time was right to send his only begotten son to offer the world new life, new hope, new joy, new peace through his son. And so, he nominated a teenage girl and a carpenter to be part of his story. And these chosen folks journeyed by faith through life raising this child that one day would come upon the scene with love in his heart to share in many ways the love of his Father.
How can we explain it? We can’t. We just need to accept it. It goes far beyond our understanding. We don’t need to know the reasons why Mary and Joseph were chosen, for hey, didn’t he choose us to follow his son? That’s what’s so interesting about the Christmas story year after year, for we not only relive the past, but through believing again and again what this birth is all about, the story rejuvenates our faith. It reminds us whose we are. It re-kindles the flame of our new birth. It puts a glow in our hearts, a new spring in our steps, a new rejoicing in our thoughts and minds.
I was thinking of the last scene in the movie “A Wonderful Life” when Jimmy Steward sees the love of the folks in his town who helped bail him out of trouble, and holding his little daughter, they could hear a bell ring. She asked her dad what that meant, and he said, “Well, honey, another angel got his wings.”
If I can be so bold to say, there might be great rejoicing when someone feels the joy and finds hope through the Christmas story finding true peace and love. Isn’t that’s the message of Christmas?
What a wonderful child was born that night while the angels sang. Who is this child that Mary holds so lovingly? It’s God’s Holy Son who would grow to be a man who offers our world a better life with new hopes and dreams.
I hope in this final week of Advent as you rush around finishing whatever you need to do to prepare for Christmas, that you will take time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. It’s a simple message. God so loved the world that he shared his only son with us in order to make us his.
So, may it always be, amen, and amen!

 

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Happy Birthday Kath Lemme

Happy Birthday Kath Lemme

Happy Birthday Jim Baughman

Happy Birthday Jim Baughman

Gordon and Marsha McCall introducing the choir song!

Gordon and Marsha McCall introducing the choir song!

Jessica & Davin Coonrod Family with their 2 week old baby.

Jessica & Gavin Coonrod Family with their 2 week old baby.

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