Isaiah 9:1-7 and John 1:1-18
(Quoted scripture us New International Version)
Christmas is 15 days from today! There are cookies to bake, presents to buy and wrap, concerts to attend, and family gatherings to prepare for. In addition to these activities, for this woman pastor, there are church services to plan, sermons to write, and visits to shut-ins. Each of these things is equally important and must be accomplished.
Yet, as we strive to accomplish all our Christmas preparations, the world around us seems to be in utter chaos. Fire devastation in southern California, school shootings, violent protests, and the murder of UN peace keepers in Africa. I am sure I’ve missed even more bad news happening in our country and around the world, but I can only take so much, before I choose not to listen anymore.
I visited a woman the other day, who told me, “It’s so depressing listening to the news, so I turn it off and watch the Hallmark channel.” Personally, that is my choice too! Our minds and spirits can only take so much bad news before Satan begins to win and we become discouraged and depressed. At least on the Hallmark channel there are Christmas movies that always end happily, and for just a moment we are able to forget the chaos and experience a bit of Christmas spirit.
I’ve decided that All I Want For Christmas Is Peace; I want inner peace, peace with God, and peace in our world. I want Jesus Christ, who came into the world as God’s love light, to bring me peace of heart. I want to be more connected to God, to walk in His peace daily. I want my life to reflect this peace to the world. All I want for Christmas is peace!
An art competition awarded a prize for the best expression of peace. One painting depicted a deer and a fawn grazing at the base of a mountain, in a meadow rimmed with pines and cedars stretching heavenward. Another showed a cat curled up in a basket, completely relaxed and at peace, oblivious to the world around it.
But the first prize went to the painting of a tumultuous waterfall. Torrents rushed downward, crashing on the rocks below, sending spray high above. A tree branch extended just above the mist, with a bird’s nest in a fork. Safely within and seemingly at peace, were the mother bird and two babies.
This is peace of mind. The ability to be at peace in the most chaotic surroundings. Peace does not depend on the circumstances we find ourselves in. Peace depends on the circumstance of our heart.
Peace is trusting God with our lives and inviting God to enter our chaos and give us His peace. As we cultivate the presence of the Holy Spirit, by spending time in prayer, it is the Holy Spirit of God who gives us peace in our heart, mind and soul.
We read in the gospel of John, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” (John 1:1-5)
Visitors to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky know that at a certain point in the cave a guide turns off the artificial lights and allows the heaviness and blackness of deep and utter darkness to descend upon the visitors. It is an eerie experience. Once when this happened a small child in a tour group cried out in fear.
“Don’t be afraid,” said the child’s older brother, “there’s a man who knows how to turn on the lights.”
That is the world’s hope. There is One who knows how to turn on the lights. That is why we make our advent journey every year to a manger in Bethlehem. Somehow lying there amidst the straw, we believe there is help and hope and purpose and above all, peace.
In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he writes about inner peace. In chapter 4:6-7, Paul writes, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Then in verse 9 of the 4th chapter, Paul inverts two of the important words in that benediction. Instead of saying “the peace of God,” he says, “And the God of peace will be with you.” The peace of God comes when we know the God of peace.
700 years before Jesus Christ was born the prophet Isaiah told us who God’s love light, Jesus Christ would be. I think when we understand who this baby Jesus was meant to be, we begin to understand how we are to receive Him and the heavenly peace He offers.
Isaiah writes in chapter 9:6, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
He begins by telling us “For to us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” As a child of man, Jesus was born; but as the Son of God, Jesus was given. What does that remind you of? The greatest verse in the Bible, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (Jn. 3:16) God’s Christmas gift to the world was a person of deity wrapped up in the package of humanity.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but he did not have his beginning in Bethlehem. We read this morning in John 1:1-2, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” In the beginning was Jesus, in truth before the beginning was Jesus, because Jesus is God. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. Jesus was fully divine, even as He became fully human.
It is a marvelous mystery of God’s plan for the salvation of the world. We are not called to understand it; we are commanded to believe it.
Isaiah goes on to describe who this child will be for us. Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (v.6)
This child is our “Wonderful, Counselor”. Many people today are going to psychologists, psychiatrists, and counselors for advice on how to deal with their problems. As a pastoral counselor, I can tell you I am doing the best I can with my human knowledge. Yet I will testify that the best counselor I’ve found is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ will never give you bad advice. He doesn’t give opinions. He gives truth. He will never steer you wrong. Isa. 28:29 says, “The Lord of hosts is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance.” The greatest counselor we can ever have is the Son of God; the greatest counsel we can ever find is in the Word of God. Their advice is always true; their counsel never fails. If we want to find peace of heart, mind and soul, we must turn to God’s Word in the Bible and God’s Word made flesh in Jesus!
This child is the “Mighty God.” As the Wonderful Counselor he can tell you what is right; and as the Mighty God he can empower you to do what is right. He is mighty in his presence, for He is Omnipresent; He is mighty in his power, for He Omnipotent. As Mighty God He is sovereign over all.
When Jesus first appears to John in Revelation, He tells John, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God “who is, and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”(Rev. 1:8) In John 14:11a-12,14 Jesus tells us, “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me-, I tell you the truth anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. You may ask for anything in my name, and I will do it.” Jesus is Mighty God and He is in complete control of this universe. It is through our faith in Jesus we are given power; to live, to love and to accomplish great things.
This Child is the “Everlasting Father.” This literally translated says, “He is the Father of eternity.”
A father denotes source, or origin. Jesus is the father of all things pertaining to eternity. Hebrews 1:10-11a tells us, “In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain;”
In John 14:8, Philip says to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus replies, in verse 9, “–Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Jesus is the Everlasting Father, who brought into this world eternal light, that He might give to this world eternal life. If you want eternal life, you must get it from Jesus. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life.” (Jn. 10:27-28)
This Child is the “Prince of Peace.” Only Jesus can give personal peace. Only when you receive Him will you have peace with God, and the peace of God. Only Jesus can give perpetual peace. Jesus said something very interesting about the peace that he gives. He said, in John 14:27,“Peace, I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid.” This peace of Jesus cannot be shattered by fire’s destruction, school shootings, violent protests, or even innocent lives taken. When we have the Prince of Peace reigning in our heart, we find the strength we need to survive in our world of chaos.
It was the Christmas of 1968. Gerald Coffee was spending his third Christmas in prison. His Vietnamese guards gave some candy to him and to his fellow prisoners-of-war. He heard the guards outside talking and laughing with their families. One of the guards had a son who was about three or four. Coffee thought of his own children back home. He ate the candy and looked at the red and silver foil. He began to form that foil into three shapes — a swan, a rosette, and a star. He thought of the star of Bethlehem. He placed those three shapes above his bed. He laid there looking at them. Then, he began thinking about the birth of Christ. He knew it was only faith that was getting him through this experience. He wrote later that in that place there was nothing to distract him from the awesomeness of Christmas, even though he had lost everything that defined who he was. He wrote, “Yet, I continued to find strength within and peace. I realized that although I was hurting and lonely and scared, this might be the most significant Christmas of my life.”*
Jesus came into the world as God’s love light to the world. It is through our relationship with Him that we find the peace that only He can give. If you are saying, like I am, ‘All I Want for Christmas Is Peace,’ then seek a closer relationship with God through His Son Jesus, and the peace of Christ which passes our human understanding, will be yours.
Pastor Rosemary DeHut
References: *John Killinger, “Entertaining The Mystery,”
Pulpit Digest, November-December, 1992
(San Francisco: Harper, 1992), p. 16.