“Finding Peace On Earth”
December 24, 2016
By John Partridge*
Scripture: Isaiah 9:2-7 Titus 2:11-14 Luke 2:1-20
Reading 1 – Isaiah 9:2-5
2 The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.
3 You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
4 For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
5 For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
Reading 2 – Isaiah 9:6-7
6 For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Reading 3 – Luke 2:1-7
2:1 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Reading 4 – Luke 2:8-14
8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
Reading 5 – Luke 2:15-20
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Imagine with me the world to which the prophet Isaiah spoke. Isaiah wrote from the land of Judah at a time when the Assyrian Empire was growing stronger by the day. He watched as Judah’s King Ahaz, rather than stand together with Syria and the northern tribes of Israel, allied himself with the Assyrians instead. Despite Isaiah’s warning to the contrary, Ahaz aided the Assyrians in conquering their neighbors and brothers in Israel. Everyone could see the handwriting on the wall. Everyone knew that, eventually, the Assyrians would come for them as well and, although it wouldn’t happen for more than a hundred years, Isaiah wrote about the eventual conquest of Judah, the captivity of both Israel and Judah in Babylon, the rise of power of Cyrus the Persian, and the return of the Jews to Israel and Judah after seventy years of captivity, as well as the Messiah that was to come.
Although these were dark days, Isaiah wrote about the light that was coming that would dispel the darkness. Although the people were oppressed, Isaiah wrote about the freedom that would come. Although they were surrounded by armies and warfare and bloodshed, Isaiah wrote about a child who would be the Prince of Peace. Isaiah proclaimed that a day was coming when a rescuer would come from God who would have the authority to bring about endless peace and he would establish his kingdom not with force and oppression, but with justice and righteousness.
More than seven hundred years later, in a land occupied by foreign armies, and to a people who were also well acquainted with violence, oppression, warfare, and bloodshed, angels appear in the skies over a band of shepherds and declare that the day prophecied by Isaiah had finally come. “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.
Two thousand years later, we still remember that night and we celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, the rescuer and redeemer of all humanity, and yet, much like the people in the time of Isaiah, and in the time of the shepherds, we too are a people who are all too familiar with violence, oppression, warfare and bloodshed. And we still look forward to the day when the boots of our soldiers and all of their bloodstained uniforms will be thrown into the fire. We look forward to the end of darkness, and oppression, and death. We look forward to the day when there will be endless peace and Jesus Christ will rule over all the earth with justice and righteousness.
But while we wait, we must also remember the instructions contained in the words of the prophet Titus who said (Titus 2:11-14):
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all,12 training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly,13 while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 14 He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.
While we wait for the return of Jesus we have work to do. Amid the chaos of the world in which we live, we are to pursue purity, and live lives that are self-controlled, righteous, and godly. Jesus came, and surrendered his life, so that we could be rescued from sin and death, and to be transformed into a people who are passionate about doing good.
And so, while we celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace, and while we look forward to the return of Jesus Christ, until that time, his work falls to us. Until Jesus sits on the throne and brings peace and justice to the world, we are called by God to do whatever we can to bring godliness, justice, righteousness, purity, and yes, peace, into the world in which we live.
I admit it’s a big job. It’s huge. It’s enormous.
But it is possible.
With. God’s. Help.
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