Summary: The Prince of Peace was born in Bethlehem but his birth didn’t bring the peace this world longs for. Instead, he brought a sword. The peace that Jesus offers is a peace with God.
A DIVIDING PEACE
Luke 2:13-14, "And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."
One of the best things about Christmas has always been that people were kinder and more generous at Christmas than at any other time of the year, but all that has changed today. The peace on earth and good will toward men is fast disappearing as people become more and more self-centered and throw up walls around them to keep others from getting into their space. It’s as though we are sitting on a powder keg, with a lighted fuse, just waiting for an explosion of tempers from those around us, even at the slightest error.
The long lines of people waiting to check out at the stores where there are over-worked clerks, tired of being on their feet all day helping irate customers; and the increasingly heavy traffic on the streets; along with all of the hustle and bustle of preparing for the holidays begins to take its heavy toll on the patience of each of us.
A lot of people who are normally kind, gentle and quiet, suddenly undergo a change as though they had a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality, and now they are pushing and shoving to get that toy that they just have to get, and they don’t mind telling you off if you beat them to it. Whatever you do don’t take more than two seconds to pull off when the light turns green or you will hear an orchestra of out-of-tune car horns behind you.
All of this sounds so incongruous to the words of those angels to the shepherds on the hillsides of Bethlehem on the night that Jesus was born.
On that night, so long ago, the shepherds had finally settled the sheep and had gathered together to just talk of the day’s events, or maybe to plan where they would move their sheep the next day, to help them find greener pastures. Everything was quiet, dark and still. The din of city life in Jerusalem was a long way off. Out here, on the quiet hills surrounding Bethlehem, the sky was clear and stars were like diamonds brightly shining overhead. The precision marching and sounds of the Roman legions upon the stone paved streets weren’t heard on that hillside. The shepherds may not have been the cream of society in Israel but they enjoyed a quiet, peaceful life, away from everyone else.
These shepherds were content just to live as simple shepherds. They didn’t desire to have the biggest mansions, the best clothes or the best food. They were living a life that was hard but at least they had purpose, and most of all, they had peace.
Suddenly, like a bolt of lightning and the clash of tremendous thunder, the angels of Heaven burst forth in a flash and the peaceful night was shattered as the glory of Heaven shone around them and the voices of a multitude of heavenly angels thundered from the sky! The glowing, shimmering body of these angels was a fearful sight to behold.
It’s no wonder that the angels had to calm the fears of the shepherds. I might still be running if it would have been me on that hillside that night, either that or I might still be frozen in terror.
And so it came to pass, on the night that Jesus was born, Mary brought forth her son, who was also the Son of God. Jesus was described in Isaiah 9:6 as, "… The Prince of Peace."
But this little baby named Jesus, the Prince of Peace, was born into circumstances that were anything but peace. He came into a dark, troubled world that was caught in the death grip of Satan and sin with no way of escape.
Where was that peace that angel’s declared? Where was that good will toward all men that they announced?
Look at what was going on in Israel at Jesus’ birth.
1)There was an occupying military power that held Israel in its iron fist. The Roman Army was in control of the government. In effect, every man, woman and child of Israel were little more than Roman slaves.
2)The Jewish Temple was filled with turmoil and unrest. The High Priest of Israel was a corrupt man. Most of the priests of the Sanhedrin Council were corrupt and rebellious in their behavior. It was so of these same people that Jesus said in Matthew 23:27-28, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity."