NOTE: While Pastor Charlie is on a trip out of the country through June 5, he has chosen some of his favorite blog posts from his weblog from 2020 to 2021 to share.
From: December 11, 2020
Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.
One of the final words Jesus offers to the disciples before he is crucified is the same word that he offers them when he appears to them, risen from the dead on Easter Sunday – peace.
Peace – not just an absence from conflict, but a completeness, wholeness and presence that only God can give. That is what God offers to us in the babe born in Bethlehem – the Prince of Peace.
Another one of my favorite Christmas songs is “I heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” The words were written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. In 1861, a couple years before he wrote this, his wife was killed in a tragic fire. The Civil War had broken out that same year, and it seemed to him that this was an additional punishment. During the war his son was severely wounded, and in 1863, the year he wrote this poem, some 40,000 soldiers were killed at the Battle of Gettysburg. He wrote the poem “Christmas Bells” while America was still in the midst of this bloody war - Christmas Eve, 1863. (Robert Joseph, The Christmas Book, William L. Simon, ed., Reader’s Digest Merry Christmas Songbook (1981))
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!"
Longfellow’s problems and the problems of the world around him are summed up in these words. Where is God? How could God turn His back on us? God is absent, and peace is nothing more than a distant dream. That is the problem.
But the poem does not end there. Longfellow, in the midst of personal brokenness and national discord finds hope in the promise of Christmas.
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!"
God never gives up – never has, and never will. God sends His only Son to show us the way to live as children of God. God sends His only Son to give us the gift of life. So receive the gift. Like a present under the tree – there is one there with your name on it – given to you by God. It is love. It is forgiveness. It is life. And it wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. You have the choice. Leave it there, still wrapped, untouched. Or open it up, and receive God’s solution!
God gives the gift – not because we deserve it – not because we are on the NICE list. Not because we have come up with the solution. No - the Solution is Jesus the Christ.
This is the gift – this is the solution – God’s only Son. Emmanuel - God With Us!
A couple renditions for you today –
The traditional take by Burl Ives - https://youtu.be/2nk77EOgapg
And a more modern version by Casting Crowns - https://youtu.be/F756Mjxxrvc
Let us Pray. In the midst of turmoil, uncertainty and fear, may we turn to you and cling to the promises you give us through your Son, the Prince of Peace. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.