Summary: A sermon on the Christmas message of "Peace On Earth."
It Came Upon the Midnight Clear Luke 2:14
INTRO.: Christmas is nearing and I thought it might be good to consider the messages of some of our Christmas songs. Today, I want to think about the song, "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear," by Edmond Sears, a New York Unitarian Minister, who penned it in 1849.
It’s an unusual carol. There’s no mention of the birth of Jesus, His mission, the manger, etc. The entire focus is on the message of the angels about peace on earth.
This carol was written as the clouds of civil strife darkened the United States setting the stage for the Civil War. We can understand what moved him to write "peace on the earth, good will to men, from Heaven’s all gracious King."
A verse usually left out of hymnals says,
"Yet, with the woes of sin and strife
the world hath suffered long.
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled,
two thousand years of wrong.
And man, at war with man, hears not,
the love song which they bring.
Oh, hush the noise, ye men of strife,
and hear the angels sing."
The message of this season and of this song is one of peace for the people of God.
I. There is great need for peace in our world today:
A. International strife is everywhere.
1. More than 2000 Americans have died in Iraq alone.
2. France is torn by civil strife, India and Pakistan are on the brink of war, Korea is building a nuclear arsenal, as is Iran.
3. Muslims wage war against Christians, who are persecuted in many of the world’s nations.
B. On the national level:
1. Fear and distrust among people of differing color, national origin, religion, sexual preference fills our newspapers
2. Our schools have become battlefields.
3. Corrupt politicians and business leaders abuse their powers
4. Violent crime seems to be an ever escalating plague.
C. In many families, things are no better:
1. One generation strives against another.
2. We have spouse abuse, child abuse, elder abuse, and even animal abuse.
3. We live with anxiety, guilt, insecurity, fear within.
4. Prisons and mental hospitals are full of folk who can’t live peaceably with one another.
5. The divorce rate is a national disgrace.
II. The world has tried many ways to bring about peace by human effort and has failed.
A. On the international scene:
1. Treaties have been violated.
2. Negotiations have failed.
3. War has even been tried and failed.
B. On the national level:
1. We pass laws against corruption and violence and they still increase.
2. Few are content with the amount of wealth or power they have. Peace eludes us.
3. When we try to help the poor and oppressed, our efforts are perverted as others "play the system."
1. Counselors’ offices are full to overflowing.
2. Millions seek peace in drugs, legal and illegal. Peace eludes us.
III. The good news is peace is available in Jesus Christ.
A. This is a very important part of the Bible message.
1. ILLUS. Matt. 4:35-41. Jesus can speak peace to your troubled soul.
2. Promised by the prophets. Isa. 9:6
3. Promised by the angels. (Text)
4. Promised by the Holy Spirit to those who trust God. Phil. 4:6, 7
B. It is not the peace the world tries to offer. John 14:27
1. Not an outward thing, it has nothing to do with treaties or nations.
2. It surpasses understanding and results from trusting God to meet your needs.
3. It is the absence of fear and inner conflict. It can’t be offered by politicians or soldiers.
C. It’s only for those "on whom His favor rests."
1. Heb. 11:6 - without faith it is impossible to find favor with God.
2. Faith brings peace to our hearts because we have been justified. Rom. 5:1
3. We may never have peace in our world, but an inner peace is available to all through Jesus.
CONC.: A good friend lost his wife to pancreatic cancer. It was a painful path to inevitable death. After she died, I asked him if she had peace at the end. He said, "She always had peace." That kind of peace comes from God alone.
The angels’ message is also a prophecy. There is coming a time of complete peace in the new Heaven and earth. Note the last verse of the song.