Summary: Immanuel. God with us. Believe it and find peace in your life.
PEACE IS BELIEVING THAT GOD IS WITH YOU
Philippians 4:4-7, 9 4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus... And the God of peace will be with you.
Did Christmas live up to your expectations this year? This is the time of the year when people ask you, "Did you have a good Christmas?" So did you? I hope you did, but you never know. It depends on what your definition of a "good Christmas" is. What does a "good" Christmas look like? Everyone is healthy? For me, that's a good Christmas. Everyone is getting along - no fighting - that's a good Christmas. Everyone is content with the gift situation - maybe that's a good Christmas.
What if you were to ask God - God - what's your definition of a good Christmas? What would be God's answer? I think he would look at you and say to you, "Shalom." What is "shalom"? It's the Hebrew word for "peace." If you had peace this past week, then you have had a good Christmas. "Peace on earth, good will toward men," the angels sang to the shepherds. "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah," the famous prophecy starts that the children recited at the Christmas services this past week. Do you know how that prophecy ends? "And he will be your peace." A good Christmas is a Christmas that is filled with peace. Peace outside of you. Peace in your family. And peace inside of you, peace in your mind and your heart. Peace between you and God. The angels sang about it. The prophets wrote about it. Peace is God's definition of a good Christmas.
Did you have a peaceful Christmas? Our Scripture reading for this morning teaches us the secret to having peace in our lives. Philippians 4:9 says: "And the God of peace will be with you." Did you hear that? Peace is believing that God is with you. Do you believe that? In just a few verses earlier, the Bible reads, "The Lord is near." Do you believe that God is near you? That is he with you? If you do, you have peace.
There are two reasons why we don't believe that God is near us or with us. First of all, we think we are too small, too insignificant for a holy and powerful God to want to be with us. We are just little specs on the face of the earth. Really, it's the theory of evolution which has permeated our culture - you're just an advanced animal - there's nothing special about you. That's what our culture believes, and it sneaks into our way of thinking - We are too small for God to care about us! We are worthless, we are nothing. You're just another person standing in line at the store - nobody cares about you, unless you buy something. Do you believe that?
The second reason why we don't believe that God is near us or with us is because we think we are too sinful. Look at my life - why would God want to be with a sinner like me? He is pure and holy, and I am selfish and materialistic. I'm too selfish, too ugly for a holy and pure and beautiful God to want to be with me. Do you believe this, that God doesn't want to be with you because you are too sinful? We live in a world where so many people believe that they are too small and too sinful for God to be with them. Why is there so much violence in our world today? So much depression and hopelessness? Why doesn't anyone have peace? Because no one believes that God is with them. Do you?
The story of Christmas teaches you that God does want to be with you. You are not too small for God to care about you. What did the prophet say? "The virgin will be with child and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means - God with us." God wants to be with you so much, that he actually becomes one of you - God became a human being, a flesh and blood infant - he became small, to show you that you are not too small for God to care about you. The God of peace is with you there is in the manger - the baby Jesus Christ.
There was once a young man who was involved in a terrible accident, and he immediately lost sight in both of his eyes - he was blind. And when you read about this person's story - he writes about how angry he was at the world - angry at his family - even though it wasn't their fault - angry at God. So angry that all he would do is sit in his bedroom, all day and all night. "I only came out of my room to go to the bathroom and get a drink of water and that's it," he writes. He had no peace. Every day his parents would bring food to his room and try to talk with him, but he wouldn't talk. And they would walk away, and he would slam the door would behind them. So much anger - no peace.