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Let Us Go Over To Bethlehem And Find The Peace of Christmas, 12/17/23

Luke 2: 8-14. Our Church sings to GOD’S glory so very well!  Last Sunday afternoon many of you came back to our beautiful sanctuary at 3:00 pm for a wonderful concert by the Community Christmas Choir at Innsbrook.  The Church was Packed!!

          Let me begin this morning with a beautiful old Christmas legend of another Choir; an ancient legend 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... 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 now... 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.

          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 on earth... and now earth must do the singing!"  

          My Friends, Let’s sing together to GOD’S glory!

          Once each year, Christmas comes around again to remind us of that... God's Son has come to earth... and now we must do the singing!  And look at how we have tried.  Without question, one of the best and most beloved parts of the celebration of Christmas is the music!  

          The good news of Christmas is so awesome, so full of wonder, that it's not enough to just talk about it.  We have to burst forth in song.  We have to sing it.  We all have our favorite Christmas Carols and Hymns.  Think of it.  There are... the powerful anthems of Handel and Beethoven and Mozart and Bach... and so many others.

          I love Barbara Streisand’s recording of "My Grown-up Christmas List."  Have you heard this song?  It’s been recorded by a lot of artists, I found out when I googled it to get the lyrics.  In the song, written by Linda Thompson and David Foster, the singer reminisces about how when she was young, she sat on Santa's knee and told him about her childhood fantasies.  

          And then she sings about how she's all grown up now, but she still has dreams... things she would like for Christmas, not just for herself but for our needy world.  Then she sings her "Grown-up Christmas List."  

          Here are the things she wants for Christmas now:  "Lives that won't be torn apart; And wars will never start, And time will heal the heart.  Everyone will have a friend, And right will always win, And love will never end.  This (she sings) is my lifelong dream, My Grown-up Christmas List."

          Do you know what she is longing for in that song?  She is longing for the peace of Christmas...

          and the place to find that is in the miracle of Bethlehem.  When we go back to Bethlehem, we discover that real peace means being set right in all our relationships.  It means being... right with God, right with ourselves, and right with other people.  

          Let me show you what I mean. 

                    You heard the Angels’ message to the shepherds in Luke 2:10, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths 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,

              and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

                    After the shepherds went over to Bethlehem and found the Prince of Peace!! 

          Please turn in your Pew Bibles to page 982 and read silently while you hear these wonderful words from GOD, through the Apostle Paul in Philippians chapter 4 verse 4, and following, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.  The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

                    Jesus Christ offers us peace.

          FIRST OF ALL, WE NEED TO BE RIGHT WITH GOD...

          if we want to find the Peace of Christmas.

          That's the starting place because that is indeed what Christmas is all about.  Jesus Christ came into this world to set us right with God.  Jesus Christ came into the world to save us and to bring us back to God.

          There is an old story about the elderly couple driving down the street one evening.  They were listening to Christmas carols on the radio as the man drove the car through the neighborhood streets to see the Christmas lights.

          As they listened to the beautiful music of Christmas, the wife became nostalgic and she said, "Harold, do you remember how when we were younger we used to sit so close together as we drove along?  

          It was so wonderful back then.  What happened?"  

          "I don't know about that," said Harold, "All I know is that

          I haven't moved."

          Well, Christmas comes each year to remind us that God is not the one who has moved away from us.  No!  We are the ones who move.  We are the ones who drift away from Him.

          Think about the reconnection that people have had after being held in captivity for months at a time.  The reunion is a celebrative one with lots of hugs and words of love.  They had been apart, but they had found each other again!  They had been brought back together.  They were RECONCILLED!!

          Now, think about this.  The person who spoke negotiated the captives release and those who received the captives, in a sense, served as a reconciler between the loved ones.  They had gotten lost from each other because their country had been attacked, and then their release was negotiated and folks got their loved ones back; they were together again.

          In the same sense, Christ has come down to this earth to help us get back together with God who made us... and who loves us.  Remember from last week, that's what that word “Emmanuel” means in our text, GOD WITH US!  Through the sacrificed blood of Jesus Christ we are reconciled to GOD.

          God comes in the Christ Child to seek and save the lost.  That's what Christmas is all about.  This is the only way we can have the peace of Christmas.  

          The only way is to let the Christ of Christmas bring us back to the Father who loves us and set us right with the One who made us.  The first step toward the peace of Christmas is to be set right with God.

          SECOND, WE NEED TO BE RIGHT WITH OURSELVES...

          if we want to find the peace of Christmas.

          Psychologists are telling us that we can't feel good about life and other people until we feel good about ourselves.  They call it a healthy self-esteem... which is simply another way of saying that we need to be right with our "selves."

          The only way we can be at peace with ourselves is to welcome the Prince of Peace into our hearts and lives.  

          The only way we can be right with ourselves is to be made right by Him; giving our prayers, requests, cries, up to Him with praise and thanksgiving and the peace of GOD will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

          If we have Christ esteem, and Lift up Jesus, our self esteem will follow but we will have the important added feature of humility.

          One of the best gifts we can give our loved ones at Christmas this year is to be at peace within ourselves.  If we want to find the peace of Christmas... then first we need to be right with God, and second, we need to be right with ourselves.

          Now, I didn’t have time to share this in worship, and you are welcome to skip over this, but it’s really GOOD!! 

          I want you to hear that same scripture from the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:4, but this time from the Message Translation, “Celebrate God all day, every day.  I mean, revel in him!  Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them.  Help them see that the Master is about to arrive.  He could show up any minute!”

          6-7 “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray.  Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.  Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.  It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”

          THIRD AND FINALLY, IF WE ARE GOING TO FIND THE PEACE OF CHRISTMAS WE NEED TO BE RIGHT WITH OTHER PEOPLE.

          When I was a child I remember helping my mother hanging a very special Christmas symbol above our doorway into the kitchen.  It was a sprig of mistletoe; so when ever someone entered the kitchen my mom would give them a kiss.

          Do you know where the custom of kissing under the mistletoe came from?  Actually, it came from the Druids in Northern Europe.  They believed mistletoe had curative power and could cure lots of things including separation between people.  

          So, when two enemies happened to meet under an oak tree with mistletoe hanging above them, they took it as a sign from God that they should drop their weapons and be reconciled.  They would drop their animosities and embrace one another under the mistletoe.

          When the Christian missionaries moved into northern Europe they saw this mistletoe custom as a perfect symbol for what happened to the world at Christmas.  At Christmas a new age dawned, it was a time of peace, a time of healing, a time of reconciliation, a time for embracing one another.

          If you want to have a "peace-full" [SPELL] F-U-L-L, Christmas, a Christmas FULL OF PEACE, go in the spirit of love and fix those broken relationships in your life.  

          If you are alienated or estranged or cut off or at odds with any other person, go in the spirit of Christmas and make peace.  Don't put it off any longer... drop your pride, drop your resentment, drop your grudges, and go set it right.  You can’t control others, BUT YOU can do what you can do with GOD’S HELP!!  Go... and God will go with you.  

          That's what mistletoe is really about... and that's what Christmas is about.

          When we have communion; we come to the table together.  That’s what Christians do; we come to the table to be reconciled; reconciled to God and to each other.  On the first Sunday of Advent we lit the candle of Hope, last Sunday the candle of Peace, and today Joy.  Next Sunday we light the candle of Love, and the Christ Candle.  None of that happens without being us reconciled to GOD.

          God comes to us in the Christ Child so that we might be... set right with God, set right with ourselves, and set right with other people.  Only then can we do the job that God has given us in the church; to help others get right with God, their selves, and with others.  Get right with God and the rest will flow.

          Remember it’s our turn here on earth to sing. 

         

          Please rise as you are able and let us sing, “Emmanuel, Emmanuel,”  #140

         

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