Peace on Earth – A Christmas Sermon


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Peace on Earth

Luke 1:1-2:21

AUDIO FOR THIS SERMON CAN BE FOUND HERE

Luke 2:13–14 “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

It is these 2 verses I wish to call our attention to most this morning.

They record something most extraordinary.

And whenever God’s Word records the extraordinary, it bears our special scrutiny as one of the ways Our Lord brings emphasis to matters of highest importance.

Miracles for instance are designed for this purpose. If we pay attention only to the miracle itself, and ignore the fact that the miracle is but a vehicle of revealing something of great importance about God Himself – and especially in His revelation of Jesus Christ -we miss the point.

It’s a bit like being so enamored with the calligraphy and penmanship of the Declaration of Independence, that the concepts being communicated are lost altogether.

Such is the case with this text.

This scene is unlike any other in Scripture. But it isn’t the spectacular nature of the scene that holds the highest importance, even though – as we shall see – the spectacle itself is not to be ignored either.

So let’s take a moment to note the scene, and then use it to frame what it is God is saying to us through it.

  1. A SHOCKING APPEARANCE.

The overwhelming spectacle of scene this to a few lowly shepherds on a Judean hillside really defies description.

And what an impact it was intended to make.

Here are a few of the least in society. Shepherds were so low on the social scale, they were not even allowed to give testimony in a court of law.

Truly humble and of no account, they are suddenly confronted with an army – and not JUST an army, but an army of thousands of angels in the sky.

And I mean an “army” here. The Greek implies a massive number of angels. Lenski notes: “a multitude of the heavenly host” could more accurately be translated: “A Heavenly army host” – a great number  – in the thousands.

And not only that, this was not a silent army.

Just imagine thousands of supernatural beings suddenly appearing to you in the night sky when you are out in the country and virtually alone – and then this army praising God!

For these few moments in time, these shepherds are allowed to see a glimpse of Heaven’s own response to what has just happened – the birth of Jesus Christ.

Note how wonderfully “wasteful” God is in blessing people. He did not give this revelation to artists and poets and those of high culture who could “properly” appreciate it. No. He “wasted” it on lowly shepherds. The way He “wastes” salvation on the chief of sinners.

At this moment, it is as though Heaven itself is so jubilant, so overcome with joy and anticipation at the wonder of the God/man being born into the world through this virgin – fulfilling the purpose and plan of God in the salvation of lost men – that the angels cannot contain themselves, and it spills over into the earthly realm.

Oh if we only grasped what they did at that moment.

Saying “Merry Christmas” wouldn’t be a social nicety, but an enraptured plea for the world to join in that which so delights those who are daily in the unveiled presence of God – that they cannot contain themselves.

Christ has come! And God is being given glory in the Heavens, as never before in all of history.

Heaven is overflowing, gushing, dancing with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

For the Son of God has come to earth, to give Himself a ransom for the lost sons and daughters of Adam.

Mercy and grace and love have reached their highest apex.

And it is all wrapped up in this Babe in Bethlehem.

All this, while we run about in our lives, and worry about getting the right gift, using the right wrapping paper, and giving and perhaps receiving things we imagine give joy. When Joy Himself has come.

What a magnificent scene this must have been.

Add to this the peculiarity of it even if considered in the natural.

When an army suddenly appears, it doesn’t sing. It doesn’t bring good news. It doesn’t comfort. It shows up to fight and to conquer and to bring destruction.

How absolutely contrary then this is to all normal reason.

A PEACE army.

An army that seeks to conquer through its message and not its might.

An army whose power rests not in swords or tanks or guns or missiles or bombs, but in a declaration of the love and goodness and goodwill of God toward His cosmic enemies.

This was a shocking appearance indeed.

2. A TRANSCENDENT ANNOUNCEMENT.

The announcement is 2-fold.

1st.  They were announcing that glory is being given to God right now – in the highest places – in Heaven itself. It is as if they said: “We want you to know what is happening in Heaven right now. The Heavens are erupting.”

Angles are bursting with joy.

God is revealing Himself in heretofore unseen or unimagined wonder.

These angels who stand daily in the manifest presence of the Living God – whatever that must be like, are at this moment – so moved outside of themselves, and are sent to show us how Heaven views this event.

This, whether or not anyone on earth understands it even in the slightest.

One commentator noted: “This phrase, Glory to God in the highest”: means “The Heavens are glorifying God right now because of the sending of the Christ-child. Because of this pouring out of peace in the giving of the Prince of Peace.”

2nd, Is the announcement that peace has come among men, because God is pleased to extend it to them.

It is not extorted from Him, but freely given.

The One who can bless with the free blessings of God has come – and all who will, may receive.

Bishop Lightfoot says: “It is the revelation of the glory of God, and that, in the highest – that He has good will toward men, which will result in peace on earth in the person and work of Jesus. God’s glory is seen by us in its highest manifestation in His mercy toward guilty sinners, and grace in bestowing free salvation upon us in Christ. And this thought – causes the very angelic host to burst out in unrestrained praise!”

14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Now if this is their message, then what a responsibility we have to soak it in and try to grasp it.

And we must ask ourselves, what then is this PEACE He brings?

Why is peace the announcement, and what of it?

The mind immediately recalls passages like Isaiah 9:6–7 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”

The child, this baby who was born – is none other than this Prince of Peace prophesied so many centuries before.

But in what way? How does that work? What does that look like?

1st. It is the announcement of a Temporary peace with all mankind during the Gospel age.

That God, the judge of all the earth, instead of coming to judge us all in our sins, has elected first to announce a day, a season, an epoch of GRACE! The Gospel age was inaugurated that night.

So glorious and amazing is this day of Gospel grace, that when mankind commits its most heinous act of cosmic sin in the crucifying of Jesus Christ the Lord of all – still even then, the Gospel is to be preached for the salvation of lost souls.

So it is Jesus will tell His disciples: Matthew 24:14 “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Indeed, even after He is risen He reiterates this point to them: Mark 16:15–16 “And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

The day of grace has extended to this very moment in time – but it will not remain forever.

And as this portion of Mark reports – “whoever does not believe WILL be condemned.”

But today there still remains an opportunity for everyone within the sound of the Gospel, whether here or anywhere else it is preached today.

Jesus Christ has come. God in flesh dwelt among us. And He gave His life in satisfying the wrath of God against human sin – that all who put their trust in Him might be forgiven, born again and reconciled to the Father.

This announcement is the declaration of that peace to all who will lay down their arms against the government and rights of God to rule them in Christ – and come to Him for mercy and forgiveness.

Today is the day of grace – do not squander it! Run to Him today!

2nd. It is the announcement that Jesus alone is the One who can bring peace with God through His atoning work on the cross, for all who believe.

So it is Isaiah writes in another place 53:5–6 “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

How can we find peace with God when we have been at war with Him over who has the right of supremacy over our lives?

Only if One can atone for our treason, and reconcile us to Him.

So Jesus will tell us of His own ministry in Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,”

3rd. It is an announcement of peace in the creation of and bringing together a people of peace who are to live at peace with all men if at all possible, and who are proclaimers of peace to those who are still God’s enemies in their self-government.

No neighbor of a Christian should ever fear that the Christian will harm or take advantage of them. We are called to manifest the peace of God in the world.

No family member ought ever to fear that a Christian will bring unnecessary pain or chaos or hardship in their household – for we are of Christ’s household and we are at peace with Him and He with us.

No nation should ever fear Christians invading them to conquer, subjugate or exploit them. We live to manifest the Prince of Peace and remain content with His provision – not needing to covet anyone else’s land or property.

Christian employees ought to be the most productive, loyal and trustworthy.

The separation and division that sin brought from the first moment of the Fall in the Garden until today is to be counteracted and healed by those whose breach with God has been healed in the forgiveness of sins and free grace.

4th. Because the Prince of Peace rules – the Believer can live in perfect peace over the providences of life.

1 Corinthians 2:12 “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.”

Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

The old Puritan John Flavel writes: O then, why is my heart disquieted, because it cannot sometimes discern the way of the Lord, and see the connection and dependence of his providential dispensations? Why art thou so perplexed, O my soul, at the confusions and disorders that are in the world! I know that goodness and wisdom sits at the stern: and though the vessel of the church be tossed and distressed in times of trouble, yet it shall not perish. Is it not enough for me that God hath condescended so far for my satisfaction, as to shew me plainly the ultimate and general issue of all these mysterious providences? Unless I be able to take the height of every particular, shall I presume to call the God of heaven to account? Must he render a reason of his ways, and give an account of his matters to such a worm as I am? Be silent (O my soul) before the Lord, subscribe to his wisdom, and submit to his will whatsoever he doth. However it be, yet God is good to Israel; the event will manifest it to be all over a design of love. I know not how to reconcile them to each other, or many of them to the promise; yet are they all harmonious betwixt themselves, and the certain means of accomplishing the promises. O what a favour is this, that in the midst of the greatest confusions in the world, God hath given such abundant security to his people, that it shall be well with them.”

5th. Something else for the Believer is the peace Christ affords us in our consciences, since Christ cleanses them from their sin.

We may at times try to ignore our consciences, through activity, drugs, alcohol, whatever – but because of the perfect work of Christ – the man or woman who is in Christ Jesus can be freed from the sting of their conscience because the penalty for their sin has been paid – and the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to their account in faith.

So the Writer to the Hebrews notes: Hebrews 9:14 “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”

John Newton once wrote:

The worst of all diseases, is light – compared with sin

On every part it seizes, but rages most – within

Tis palsy, poison, fever, and madness – all combined

And none but a Believer – the least relief can find

But oh the peace that belongs to those born again by the Spirit of Christ.

6th. Contrary to the whole World – Christ brings peace with death for the Believer, for it is no longer the terror of final judgment, but the entrance into a fuller reality of Christ’s kingdom.

For the promise, indeed the absolute ASSURANCE of the resurrection, because of Christ’s own resurrection, lets the Believer sing with Paul 1 Corinthians 15:54–57 “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

7th. It is the announcement that there will one day be Peace with all of creation in the new heavens and the new earth.

2 Peter 3:13 “But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”

The eventual, absolute end of all sin and strife.

Perfect peace for all eternity in the presence of our God and King.

On top of all the other things John records will NOT be there in the New Heavens and the New Earth, like pain, suffering, tears, mourning, etc. – he adds this by revelation: Revelation 21:1 “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.”

In the ancient world, the sea was always representative of that which dark, dangerous, mysterious, unstable, tumultuous and fearful.

But the first thing John notes will NOT be there – there will be no more sea.

Nothing but perfect, eternal, blissful, unbroken and all consuming peace.

Because we will at last be in the bosom of the Prince of Peace Himself – Jesus the Risen Christ.

Luke 2:13–14 “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

 

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