Summary: leading into advent
† In Jesus Name †
May Grace, mercy and peace be yours, true gifts from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The signs of Christmas are upon us! You see it as life begins to slow down, at least the traffic, as you approach a mall, or a target or a walmart. It also slows down as you stand in line in any of those stores, even if you are not buying presents!
You hear it on the radio, if not in the occasional santa clause jingle, then in the advertisements, suggesting how to be the perfect husband, don’t you know, all it costs is somewhere between $399 and $899, which gives your wife “that” diamond pendant. Or the perfect father, who buys his children that new, hard to find Elmo, or the even harder to find Playstation III. Same thing, as Miracle on 34th street and a Charlie Brown Christmas share time with Victoria Secret Models, seductively selling lingerie or perfumes. Truly, the holiday season is among us.
For the first time, you mailbox is full, as the ads from rite-aid are dominated by other JC Penny and Walmart flyers, and pleas from every charitable organization, no matter whether you have ever heard of them or not! Everyone is sending you Christmas cards, whether they are friends from your past, relatives you haven’t talked to since “that” fight, decades ago, or the insurance company.
It is hard for me to set aside my cynicism and sarcasm at this time of year. To focus in on the what is very real - the celebration of the incarnation of God, to realize, that if we were on the road from Galilee to Jerusalem 2010 years ago, we might encounter a young pregnant lady, in who’s womb was God.
To realize that the occasional Christmas Card, with it’s red background, and three words in white and gold, is more meaningful and indeed more truthful than all the cartoons, all the movies, all the ads, all the --- stuff.
Perhaps you have received such a card. The top word is Peace, in the middle, with all sorts of flurries, the word Love, and the bottom word joy.
As we look at the epistle text for this day, that outline shall suffice.
Peace, Love, and Joy
I have to wonder if the world any longer knows how to define the word “peace”. As I look at the online dictionary/encyclopedia Wikipedia, the first entry regards the Nobel Peace Prize. Then starts a list of 10 different versions and theories about peace, numerous quotes, even some of those quotes with the actual recorded audio! The first several definitions and versions do not define peace, as much as say what it is not. No war, no violence, no narcissism, no dissension or arguing, or definitions that are only personal – inner peace for example.
One of the things that amzaed me, was one of the quotes, from a very famous pastor a few decades back. He said, "True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice." ( Martin Luther King, Jr.)
It is hard for me to think, that a pastor would come up with such a statement, even in view of injustice occurring. For if I consider true justice, where penalties for wrongdoing are enforced, that does not bring me peace, but fear, and horror. For no one is truly innocent, all of their lives. And if we demand true justice, we condemn ourselves as well as those who we would like to see condemned.
Yet, in our epistle, the blessing is peace, peace that surpasses all understanding, all comprehension. That is a promise of Jesus as well,
26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 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 14:26-27 (ESV)
But if peace, the peace that we are promised by Jesus, a peace that leaves our hearts without fear or stress, if that peace is not based in justice, then where does it come from?
If it is not justice that is the requirement for peace, it must be what in Hebrew is referred to as “cHesed”, or in Greek “agape”. In olde English, the KJV used “charity” or often loving-kindness or simply love. It is also translated as mercy, and should you consider the commonality between love and mercy, you get a good picture of our hope, that is found in God.
For His care for us, is such that He was desirous to send Jesus to us, to die as a servant – to free us from that which kept us in bondage, to free us to everlasting life with Him. Consider these words of Jesus, which speak so clearly of the love of God towards His people…