Summary: Peace on Earth can never start until we each surrender one-by-one and let the Prince reign in our hearts! Here’s what you can be merry about!
Prince of Peace
6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
In a world of tragedy, sadness, war, and loneliness, some people wonder whether the greeting "Merry Christmas!" is appropriate.
What is there to be Merry about anyway?
• At a time when terror reigns from the Middle East and from the middle of the neighborhoods where we live, what is there to be merry about?
• When death rushes in, whether unannounced or anticipated and we are left sifting through what is left over from our loved ones, what is there to be merry about?
• When, as one lady told me the other day, “even rich folk struggle to make dollars stretch” and poverty is on the rise, what is there to be merry about?
• What is there to be merry about when you have a war raging within your heart, your mind, your home?
Today, I want us to look at the one word which occurs in every book of the New Testament but one. It is the one word which sums up why Jesus came. It is probably the most ill-defined word in the English language. The word: “Peace”.
Journey back with me to Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth. There isn’t much that looks peaceful here. Streets are crowded, businesses crowded, everyone’s in a hurry. Sound familiar? I can’t say that one can experience “road rage” driving a donkey or camel, but I would think it could be worst that from within a vehicle! The people you shout at might actually hear you! Bethlehem is full of strangers due to a census imposed by someone everyone hates. The out-of-towners hate being in Bethlehem and the local folk hate all the traffic brought by the out-of towners. And they both hate the Romans.
Bethlehem is not a peaceful place.
These words from Scripture could be said about Bethlehem in the time of Jesus and about our world today:
8 The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths. (NIV)
Yet just outside of town, some hated men are working the graveyard shift. We are told that the shepherds were hated by the good Jewish folk of that day because they couldn’t keep up with all the proper rules and etiquette imposed on the people. The shepherds always had dirty hands, they were always missing church services, and they always smelled like sheep! The good clean church folk simply hated the shepherds!
Yet these very shepherds provided sheep for sacrifice. Since little lambs were to be offered for sacrifice twice everyday in the Temple just a few miles away, these stinking, hated shepherds tended to the very sheep which would be brought for purchase by the very ones who hated them.
Can there ever be peace where hatred abounds?
As you look across the fields white with wool, although not snow, you’ll notice that there is something different stirring in the air. The sheep sense it, the shepherds start looking for an attacker when an angel appears:
9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.