This week we are continuing our preaching series entitled, “All I Want for Christmas Is...” Last week we talked about the idea of hope and how God's actions deliver just that very thing to us this time of year. Today we are going to spend just a moment talking about the idea of peace, what God means by peace, and how we can live to achieve it.
A Heavenly Choir
There is an old Christmas legend that tells of how God called the angels of Heaven together one day for a special choir rehearsal. He told them that He had a special song that He wanted them to learn. This was a song that they would sing at a very significant occasion. The angels went to work on it. They rehearsed long and hard with great focus and intensity. In fact, some of the angels grumbled a bit but God insisted on a very high standard for His choir.
As time passed, the choir improved in tone, in rhythm, and in quality. Finally God announced that they were ready but then, He shocked them a bit. He told them that they would sing the song only once and only on one night. There would be just one performance of this great song they had worked on so diligently. Again, some of the angels grumbled. The song was so extraordinarily beautiful and they had it down pat and felt surely, they could sing it many, many times. God only smiled and told them that when the time came, they would understand.
Then one night, God called them together. He gathered them above a field just outside of Bethlehem. "It's time," God said to them and the angels sang their song. O my, did they sing it! "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace and good will toward all". And as the angels sang, they knew there would never be another night like this one, and that there would never be another birth like this birth in Bethlehem.
What is Peace?
Those angels were singing about peace. Our Scripture lesson this morning tells us that after the initial announcement of Christ's birth, a whole host of angels appeared saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people on whom His favor rests." So what is this peace they were talking about? We have all heard about what people think peace is. Some say no wars, others say no famine. But God's peace is like nothing we have ever known. It is about harmony, justice, equality, joy! It is a paradise, it is what exists in Heaven right now. No pain, no longing, just peace. Your heart is at peace, your mind is at peace, everything about you is right.
How do we get it?
So how do we get this peace that God longs for us to have? How do we live to achieve peace? Renowned writer and Catholic Priest, Henri J Nouwen came up with a “spirituality of peacemaking” that had four parts.
First, Nouwen believed that peacemaking requires a life of prayer. We have spoken several times about how important prayer is in our lives. Prayer is that life-line, the channel by which we communicate with God. Without prayer there is no link. Prayer is vital, prayer is essential, prayer is utterly necessary. Prayer should not be an event for us but a way of life. Paul tells us to pray without ceasing. God tells us to take everything to Him in prayer. Christ took time to teach us how to do it while he was here on Earth. Prayer is critical to us achieving the peace that God desires for us.
Next, “Peacemaking demands ongoing resistance to the forces of violence”. We must be a people that not only desires peace but a people that take the steps to see that it comes about. We must not be involved in those organizations whose purpose is to bring about war, destruction, and fear. Jesus came to us as a sign of that. Christ came in a non-violent manner, as a vulnerable baby. Christ's life demonstrated that very ideal of non-violence. He did not come and demand His way. He came and loved people into understanding what it was He was trying to teach. Bringing about peace is about resisting the forces of violence.
Nowen also believed that “Peacemaking necessitates community”. We need to be in community with like minded believers for this to happen. We can try and do it alone, but we can be much more effective when we do things within a community. If we are a people seeking peace, trying to establish peace, we almost cannot help but develop community. Besides, life is so much more fun when lived with others!
Finally, “Peacemaking requires living and working among the poor and the broken”. We have to get outside of our ivory towers and help those less fortunate than us. This week I had the privilege of getting together with some of you to pick fruit to take to charity. We were a community, having fun, doing work to help those less fortunate than us. It was not a chore, for me anyway. It was fantastic! And it was Kingdom work! God has a very large place in His heart for those that are poor. We are called to care for them, we are called to learn from them. To gain peace we should live and work among the poor and broken and be looking for ways to get outside of our walls.
This time of year, we prepare for the coming of the Christ Child. We read the Scriptures that remind us of that night so long ago when love came to Earth, when God Himself came to live among us, when peace was wished upon us, when a gift of peace was given to us.
You remember that legend I told you about earlier? Well, when the angels returned to heaven, God reminded them that they would not formally sing that song again as an angelic choir, but if they wanted to, they could hum the song occasionally as individuals. One angel was bold enough to step forward and ask God why. Why could they not sing that majestic anthem again? They did it so well. It felt so right. Why couldn't they sing that great song anymore? "Because," God explained, "my Son has been born and now earth must do the singing!"
It is now up to us to take the peace that God wants for us and deliver it, give it, grant it to all that we meet. Peace is what God wants for you this Christmas and Jesus was born to make sure we had a chance at receiving it.