I know that I am not alone in enjoying the Christmas Holiday Season. I do enjoy all the traditions and aspects that make this time of the year so special. I also enjoy that it is a time that emphasizes (for the most part) the story of God’s plan for restoring the relationship between man and himself. Yet, I wonder sometimes if our familiarity with the Biblical account blinds us to the significance of what we are celebrating.
I am a little late, by a week or two in kicking off our Christmas series “Christmas Inside/Out.” This year instead of looking at the Biblical account of Christmas I thought it would be profitable to look at the deeper significance of Christmas. This past week we looked at the blessing of being able to enjoy God’s Peace as a result of Christmas.
I believe that everyone desires peace in some way, shape or form. It seems to be the same cry from many parts of the world. It is also the desire of many spouses, parents and children. What is incredible about Christmas, is that it makes it possible, for you and me to enjoy God’s peace in life regardless of life’s situations. Jesus said to His followers, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27) Let me briefly touch on three observations from Jesus’ statement about peace in our lives.
First, I want you to know that one of the gifts of Jesus’ earthly ministry, sacrificial death and bodily resurrect is peace. Peace in a world today is often defined by an absence of conflict. Peace to the Jews in Jesus’ day was the formal greeting “Shalom.” It might be much like our parting words of “Goodbye” or “God’s Blessing.” Yet Jesus is speaking of more than just an absence of conflict, or saying goodbye to His followers. He is speaking of the transformation that will take place in their lives when they accept what He has done for them. Jesus’ peace speaks to the stability (or rest) and the confidence that comes from being in a right relationship with God. The peace of Jesus can be understood in an objective sense from Paul’s words to the church in Rome, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1) Paul is pointing out the reality that because of what happened on Christmas and Easter we can enjoy a restored relationship with God with all the blessing and benefits. I still cannot get over how incredible it is to be in relationship with the Creator! Jesus’ peace must also be understood in a subjective sense. Paul makes this point to the church in Philippi, ““And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7) When we are able to lean on Jesus through the twists and turmoil of life we find stability and confidence!
Second, Jesus reminds us that there is a difference between the peace that He gives and the peace that the world offers, “Not as the world gives do I give to you.” The peace this world offers is temporary, limited, and ultimately superficial. It does not deal with the real issue of our separation from God because of sin. Our culture offers many shallow alternatives that promise satisfaction, stability and confidence but fail to deliver. The lure of false religions only enslaves a person to a works-based path to God. The promises of pleasure and power only leave a person broken, disillusioned and alone. All the things that we are told will make us happy, if they are not a relationship with Jesus, leave us feeling empty. The Peace that comes from Jesus changes us from the inside out.
Third, Jesus reminds us that we play a part in realizing His peace in our lives when he says, “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” The “Let” is an admonition to take control of what happens between our two ears. It reminds us that true peace is available if we will leave the false promises of culture and apply His teaching in our lives. When we respond to life’s situation from a Biblical perspective one of the benefits is peace. Jesus is not promising that we will be able to understand what is happening but that we will be able to accept it because of our relationship with Him. We will have confidence and stability because we know that we can trust Jesus to look out for us! This is all possible because of Christmas.
The Apostle Paul challenges us with these words, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
-Pastor Joe Parkinson