Prince of Peace 5

Isaiah 12:2

Last Sunday our church held its children’s Christmas program in the evening. The leaders and children did a wonderful job of sharing the message of Christmas, and all had a great time enjoying the readings and music. After the songs had been performed and small treats given to young and old alike the program was finished. But no one moved to leave.

There were a few moments of awkward conversation and me standing at the back of the church ready to turn off the lights, but no one moved. Someone commented how odd it was, but in a good way, that folks wanted to linger and enjoy the time together. It was as if they expected more.

Today’s reading is the last in the passages for Advent. It is the last for this calendar year. But it is not the end. It speaks of the hope we have for what is to come. It speaks of the joy we can have in knowing that we are saved. It is a message of love and peace.

The story of Christmas and our Advent devotions began in Isaiah. They looked at passages from Matthew, Luke, John, Romans, Hebrews, Exodus, and Psalms. And we have returned to Isaiah. The Christmas story traverses the Bible, moving in an eternal circle. That circle can remind us of the eternal nature of God. It reminds us of the eternal message of Christmas.

The story of Christmas is a story that is complete and whole, yet at the same time is unending. The story begins with the prophecies and then includes the announcements of angels, the birth of a baby, and the resurrection of a Savior.

Now the Christmas story continues. It flows on in the hearts and souls of those who believe, who accept the birth of the baby as the birth of the Messiah. The story continues in our own salvation and in the love that we share with others.

The Christmas story is one that does not end, but shines the light of love and joy into the lives and hearts of those who need to know of the hope and mercy that God offers.

We are all part of the Christmas story, recipients of God’s incredible gift. We are offered hope, joy, love and peace. We can know that we need not fear because the Lord is our salvation. And now we must continue the story by sharing the news of Christ with all who need to hear.

Shalom. Peace to you.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you be part of the story?

This is the last of our daily devotions until January 5, 2009. We pray that God will bless each of you with a holiday full of joy, and a new year of hope and love. – Peggy and Roger

Prince of Peace 4

John 12:30-32

There is often a debate about which Christian holiday is more important, Christmas or Easter. They are both equal in importance. Without Easter there is no reason for Christmas. Without Christmas there can be no Easter.

In the midst of the celebration of the birth of Christ there must be an awareness of the sacrifice of Christ. While at first glance that may seem to take away from the joy of the holiday, in fact it is all part of the wholeness of Christ. It is part of shalom – peace, completeness.

In the latter part of John 12 Jesus is talking about the sacrifice he is to make. He hints of his death on the cross. He explains that he will not ask God to spare him from what he is about to do because he intends to glorify God. Then God speaks to Jesus in a voice others can hear.

What does Jesus say about God’s voice? What will Jesus do?
The purpose of the gift of Jesus at Christmas is to reconcile the sinful world with our heavenly Father. The gift of Christ is the gift of a Savior, the Messiah who will restore our connection to our heavenly Father. He has come to bring us peace, peace in knowing that we are loved by God and invited into the wholeness of His family.

The idea of this gift of the baby can fill us with the warmth of love. And Jesus was indeed a gift of love. But the gift of a Savior involves a sacrifice.

The gift of Christmas was just the beginning of the complete gift of Jesus. The baby born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger would be the same Jesus later laid in a tomb.

And the point of all of it is explained by Jesus himself. He will draw all men to him. Through his sacrifice he will remove what separates us from God. Through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus we are drawn into the loving relationship of God. We are made into heirs of God. We are made complete.

With the birth of Jesus the story of the Savior can be made whole and complete also. And in that completeness we can find peace as we are made true children of God.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How do you fit in with the complete family of God?

Prince of Peace 3

Psalm 34:12-14

Seek peace. Seek shalom. What does that mean?

The word used in this verse (and in Isaiah 9:6 for Prince of Peace) means completeness. I love that definition of peace. Not just quiet or happiness or safety, but completeness.

So how do we live a long life full of good days? (Something I’m sure all of us want…) Speak kindness and truth. It really can be that simple. Make a choice--an active decision--to physically turn away from evil and DO good. Not just think about good or have some good ideas. DO good.

And lastly… seek peace. Search for completeness in our lives and relationships. Again it’s an action. It’s not just sit and hope that you can get along with everyone or that your friends and family will all be together again at the holidays. We are to SEEK completeness. Search it out.

And then the hardest part of all… work to keep it. It’s not passive. It’s active. It’s work! It might even be sacrifice. Yet we are commanded here to pursue it.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Where do you need to make peace in order to have completeness in your life? Where can you speak truth and kindness in order to make that happen?

Prince of Peace 2

Matthew 2:1-6

The newspaper in our hometown held a “Secret Santa” contest. The idea was that a small Santa figurine was hidden somewhere within the city limits and daily clues in the paper helped you figure out where it might be. The person who found the tiny Santa figure could redeem it for the cash prize.

The contest was slow to start, but soon it seemed that everyone was looking for that little Santa figure. It was what people talked about, and it got people going all over the town to try to find it.

This passage from Matthew is a familiar story of the visit from the wise men. These men who are so often portrayed as kings may have been astronomers or learned scholars, or they may indeed have been wealthy and powerful leaders. Their own background is of less importance than what they did.

These men apparently had a great deal of means at their disposal. Their gifts were valuable. They were given an audience with King Herod. They had the money to travel a great distance. All these are indicators that these Magi had wealth and influence.

But part of the wisdom of these wise men was the wisdom to know that one greater than themselves had been born. Indeed, one who was greater than any king on earth had arrived, and they recognized the importance of this birth. They knew that the child born was the greatest king, and this is the reason they traveled so far simply to offer praise to Jesus.

They were willing to make a lengthy journey. They were willing to bring expensive gifts to honor the new king. They were willing to seek guidance and direction on how to find this king. It was all worth the effort, to lay eyes on the baby Jesus, Son of the Lord Most High.

We must not allow ourselves to get caught up in the celebration and gift-giving of the season. We should not allow the cost and number of gifts, the business of entertaining, or the traditions of Christmas to keep us from having a clear vision of why we are celebrating Christmas. We should be willing to put effort into finding the heart of the Christmas story, the centerpiece of the holidays. We should be willing to lay our own gifts before this Prince of Peace we honor.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you keep Christ in the center of your Christmas?

Prince of Peace 1

Luke 2:8-14

In the ministry there are times when the holidays are less than joyous occasions. The holidays often can mean more work, extra services, extra activities that make a full work schedule overflow with activity. And this kind of stress is not limited to people in the ministry. There are times when the extra expense and worry of holiday activities can feel like too much to deal with. Sometimes it seems easier and better to go through the monotony of the every-day, average work week.

The shepherds in this story quite possibly were the kind of people who wanted to be left alone. It is possible that they wanted to simply do their work – watch the sheep – and be at peace. But instead on that night so long ago an angel broke the silence of the night and interrupted the ordinary with extraordinary news.

These shepherds, average workers just doing their jobs, were presented with an incredible message, good news of great joy. They were among the first to hear that God had presented the world with a gift of tremendous love.

Not far from where they were a baby had been born. And that baby was Jesus Christ, God in human form. And he was the Savior to all people. Then the angels explained in their song what it all meant. There would be peace for those on whom God’s favor rested.

This was worth the interruption. This was worth having the comfortable and ordinary disrupted because the interruption was a great and glorious message. The Prince of Peace had been born. God’s peace, the peace that comes from knowing that we are loved by God, that we are forgiven by God, had come to earth.

In the hurry and worry of the holidays, in the extra work and the busy activities, we need to recognize the importance of what we are celebrating. It is more than extra work for us. Christmas is a celebration of the fantastic news, the good and glorious news, that God offers peace to those who will accept Christ as Savior.

When we feel overwhelmed by the holidays, when we feel worn out by all that needs to be done, let us find the time to know in our hearts that the true peace of God has been given to each of us. And let us find comfort and gladness in knowing that we have that peace, that it has been given as a gift to all.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you be reminded of God’s peace this holiday season?