Summary: To extend the gift of peace to people during a busy time of year.
[S] In just a few more days we will celebrate the most spectacular event in all of human history. The general population calls it Christmas or Winter Break or Happy Holidays, but we know it as the birth of the Messiah. We tend to celebrate the event with the giving and receiving of gifts as expressions of our love for each other. But even that doesn’t quite capture the point of Christmas. For when you untie the bow and remove the wrapping paper and dig through all those blasted Styrofoam static charged, clingy peanuts and get to the bottom of the box it’s not so much about the gifts we give each other as it is about the gifts that God gives us.
As we move through this series I have come to a greater appreciation of Christmas and the gifts that God has given me and you. And I hope you have too. The first gift from God that we unwrapped was the gift of hope associated with eternal life. The second gift was the gift of God’s unconditional love for you and everyone else. Third was the gift of joy associated with the good news of Jesus’ birth. There are still two more gifts under the tree from God. We’ll open one more today and save the other for Christmas Eve. Let’s unwrap the next gift by reading Luke 2.8-14 together.
[S] “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2.8-14, NIV) [S]
The fourth gift that God gives us is the gift of peace.
And who couldn’t use a little peace these days eh? It’s ironic don’t you think, that a season that proclaims peace is so full of anxiety, stress, tension, short fuses, impatience and bad attitudes? Christmas has a way of revealing the contrast that exists between peace and the status of the real human condition. If there is one thing Christmas brings to light it’s that the world needs and longs for peace.
[S] Does anyone recognize what I’m holding? It’s Mistletoe. And you’ll see it hanging in doorways, from light fixtures or dangling from someone’s hand over the head of another. Tradition has it that when people stand under the mistletoe they’re supposed to kiss. Well, that’s not quite the way it originated. The tradition of the mistletoe began with the Druids of northern Europe. The Druids believed that Mistletoe had special healing powers. Not only could it heal people from a myriad of physical ailments but it could help to restore the relationship of people who were estranged or separated for whatever reasons as well. For example, if two enemies met under a tree and there happened to be mistletoe in its branches they took that as a sign to reconcile and would drop their weapons and embrace each other. Mistletoe is equated with establishing peace within the body or with somebody. (Christmas Gifts that Won’t Break, James Moore, pg 35).
[S] Jesus is God’s mistletoe.
The Bible says, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5.1-2, NIV)
[S] The word translated to “gain access” refers to a ships access to a harbor, a safe haven for ships to moor and dock. Understood this way, it means as we try to conquer life on our own we will be like a ship tossed in the rough seas caused by the sin in our lives and the consequences of that sin. But through faith in Jesus we are granted entrance to God’s harbor of grace and peace. (The Letter to the Romans, William Barclay, pg. 73)
[S] God came into this world as Jesus in order to reconcile us with God’s self. The bible makes it clear that sin separates us from God because sin and God do not mix. Never have and never will. And according to the Bible sin must be punished or dealt with.