Summary: This is the second message of Advent, but I crafted it in conjunction with a missionary presentation we had at our church using Isaiah 52:7 - this sermon would be helpful in this setting.
When we began the service this morning, we read from Isaiah 52 – on the screen behind me is verse 7 (let’s read it together):
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns!
Today starts our second week of Advent, and our theme is focused on peace. I don’t know if you follow the news these days, but world PEACE (or the lack of it) is a major topic. I read last week that in the last 5,400 years of recorded history, the world has been without war for only a little over 275 of those years! Peace has always been, and continue to be a rare commodity in the world, hasn’t it?
Our personal worlds aren’t necessarily models of peace either. The breakdown of the American family exposes that most families have little or no peace as divorce rates climb to near 60%; children are becoming more and more disconnected from their parents; the rise of self-medication through alcohol and pain killers destroys relationships and makes dealing with issues virtually impossible - peace is hard to find…
Although not impossible to find. I like what one woman said about finding inner peace. She said: “My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far today, I have finished 2 bags of potato chips and a chocolate cake…I feel better already.”
I don’t know if that would make you feel better, but I do know that everyone desires peace – like the wonderful pictures of peace given in the book of Isaiah - where there is no more war, when the rule of Christ never ends, where the lion lies down with the lamb. We desire our external and internal worlds to have peace - peace that allows us to sleep at night, that makes us not worry, and that settles our minds and our hearts down. But we don’t have that yet in our world.
But Isaiah 52:7 suggests that for now, until Jesus Christ rules, peace comes when God’s people spread the good news of peace and salvation. The word picture is used of God calling the “feet of the messenger” beautiful. While you may or may not have beautiful feet (please don’t show us!) – the idea is that God loves when we, as His people, use our feet and get moving by sharing the good news of peace with others. If you are a Christian, then you have a chance to bring peace into the world and have beautiful feet.
Speaking of bringing the message of peace, turn to Luke 2. This is the most popular version of the story of the birth of Christ, and there are a group of people we call “the shepherds” who demonstrate what it means to bring the message of people into the world. The first 7 verses of Luke 2 give us the basic details of how Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem. I’ve located a special celebrity guest speaker to read for us vs. 8-14 (at this point, I played the scene from Charlie Brown’s Christmas where Linus recites Luke 2:8-14 - people enjoyed this).
This passage is a wonderful account of a pivotal moment in our human story. God Himself comes down in the form of a baby, stripping off all of His glory, so that He could be our Savior. You can’t help but get the impression that the angels are excited – practically unable to contain themselves - rejoicing as they announce the birth of the Messiah. In their words are wonder and awe filled with excitement – the angels almost have a “I know something you don’t know” kind of feel to their words, because what was happening was practically beyond humans beings understanding. But the angels understood it all.
And rather than appear to dignitaries or royalty, the angels with their excitement and wonder, go to a bunch of ragtag lowly shepherds sleeping out in the field with their sheep, and declare the message – “A Savior is born – peace on earth!” The shepherds seem to be dumbfounded. The angel of the Lord speaks and then the heavenly host speaks, and there is not a word uttered by the shepherds, perhaps out of respect or fear. They don’t speak until after the angels leave.
But once the message begins to sink in – “the Messiah is born, Savior to all, peace on earth” – what happened. Let’s read vs. 15-20 together. When the angels left, what did the shepherds do? According to verses 15 & 16, they went to check it out for themselves - there was a sense of urgency and they ran to Bethlehem.