Summary: If I want to know peace, I need to know Jesus.
When you see these symbols, what do you think of? [Show circle peace symbol, two fingers V peace sign, and an image of a dove with an olive branch.]
These three images are very different, but they all are very recognizable as signs of peace. But what all three bear in common is that they were actually developed in the midst of a lack of peace.
Although many people are mistakenly under the impression that the peace sign on the left has occultic or Satanic roots, it was actually first developed by a British activist named Gerald Holtom in 1958. The emblem was based on flag semaphore movements for two letters: N (two flags pointed down at angles) and D (one flag straight up, the other straight down). The letters stood for Nuclear Disarmament. The symbol was used in Britain to protest the making of nuclear weapons. It later made its way to America, where it was used for broader purposes in the civil rights movement and later as an antiwar symbol by those who opposed the Vietnam War.
And what about the two fingers raised in a V shape in the middle? This symbol actually started as a sign of victory, not peace. Resistance fighters in German-occupied territories used it as a symbol of strength during World War II. The British prime minister Winston Churchill adopted it to stand for the English victory, and it eventually came to stand for the end of the conflict. Later, in the 1960s, it was adopted as an antiwar symbol by Americans who opposed war.
As for the dove and the olive branch on the right? This image was used in many traditions throughout history, but it originated from the Old Testament account of Noah, who sent a dove in search of land after the great flood. The dove returned holding an olive branch, indicating that the waters were receding and land was near. It became a sign of the promise of peace after the storm of God’s judgment.
While today we immediately recognize each of these three images as symbols of peace, all three originated in times of great chaos, conflict and unrest.
This morning, we will discover that the gift of peace that came to us that very first Christmas over 2,000 years ago, also came during a time of both external and internal conflict and struggle.
It’s hard to believe but this morning marks our fourth week of our observance of Advent. If you’ve been with us all four weeks, you will hopefully remember that the word Advent means “coming” or “arrival” and it’s my prayer that that for you and your family this has been a time to reflect on the gifts that came with Jesus during His first arrival here on earth and to look forward to His second coming in the future.
We began with the gift of hope. [Light hope candle]. We learned that Biblical hope is not merely wishful thinking, but rather the confident expectation that the birth of Jesus makes it possible to deal with my past sins, live a godly life in the present and overcome my fears about the future.
The second gift we looked at was the gift of love. [Light love candle]. We saw how God demonstrated His love for us in the incarnation. We learned that genuine love is more than just a feeling – it is an act that benefits others, even when they don’t deserve it and even though they might reject it.
Last week we focused on the gift of joy. [Light joy candle]. We found that joy is not just an emotional feeling that comes from comfortable circumstances. It is not something that we can generate on our own, but rather it flows out of having the joy of Jesus within us as we stay closely connected to Him.
This morning, we’ll open the gift of peace a gift that was promised by the angel army who spoke to the shepherds in the field the night Jesus was born:
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
(Luke 2:13-14 ESV)
Like the conflict and tumult that produced the peace symbols we looked at earlier, the gift of peace that came in the person of Jesus arrived here on earth during a time when the world definitely wasn’t at peace – especially for the Jews. They were under oppression from the Romans and from the evil King Herod who reigned in Judea. But their lack of peace didn’t just come from that external conflict. There was also a divide between God and His people, who hadn’t heard directly from God since the ministry of the prophet Malachi 400 years earlier. So the people were definitely needing the gift of peace that the angels proclaimed.