Advent 2020 “A Season of Choices”: 3rd Sunday of Advent: Peace-12/13/2020

Advent: A Season of Choices

Message: ‘Choose: PEACE                                             Text: Various

Introduction: Let’s see how well you remember signs of peace.

  • PP: Olive Branch
  • PP: Dove
  • PP: Peace sign with your hand
  • PP: Peace symbol

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What about songs of peace?

  • PP: Peace Train: PP: Cat Stevens
  • PP:Give Peace a Chance PP:Plastic Ono Band
  • PP: Peaceful, Easy Feeling: PP: Eagles
  • PP: Peace of Mind PP: Boston

Famous quotes on peace

There were o many I gave you my favorite.

To which Gracie Hart responds: That would be harsher punishment for parole violators, Stan.

… And world peace! (Miss Congeniality)

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We have symbols for peace, songs about peace and even quotes about peace. So here’s what I want to ask:

  • Are you at peace?
  • Are you experiencing peace… right now?

When I think of peace this is what I see: PP

  • Here’s my favorite: PP

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The dictionary defines peace as: Freedom from war, mental calm, law and order, state of harmony. There can be:

  • Peace between countries, peace in the home, peace of mind, and even, for those who place their faith in Jesus, peace with God.

Wouldn’t it be great to be at peace… really at peace?

  • To not feel pressured, hurried, stretched, worried, anxious, fearful, broken, alone.

Wouldn’t you rather feel:

  • Calm, assured, centered, under control, whole, secure… wanted?

Well, the God of the Bible wants you to know that you can experience… peace, true peace. And He tells us how. It starts with a promise from the prophet Isaiah:

PP: 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. (Isaiah 9:6)

The words used most for peace in the Bible are shalom in the OT and eirene in the NT. Both have the ideas of rest, quietness (both outside and inside our lives) of health and wholeness… order and harmony… of… completeness.

Isn’t that what you want? It’s certainly what I want and it’s what I’ve experienced often as a follower of Jesus Christ… but… I have to admit, it’s still a struggle.

  • Especially during these past 10 months of the COVID pandemic.

 PP: Psychologists have recognized something called Covid-fatigue.

This is from the UC Davis Health hospital in California: PP

  • “COVID fatigue.” It’s real and it’s strong. Both the intensity and the length of time of COVID-19 stress takes a toll on everyone. We’re tired of being cooped up, tired of being careful, tired of being scared.
  • “We know there are two kinds of stress that have long-term effects on our mental well-being and physical health intense stress and prolonged stress,” “We  have both.”
  • Add to that the uncertainly about, well, almost everything.
  • “We have unknowns in every part of our lives,” “At the same time, a lot of the things we generally do to cope, the things we enjoy and that give life meaning… have changed or been put off limits.”
  • We ask, ‘What are they doing to fix this? How long will this last?’” That’s about where we stand now as a society. “Many people are exhausted by it all,” (end quote)

They have come up with a few good coping mechanisms to help lessen the symptoms of the fatigue.

  • Physical exercise, talking to others about how you feel, constructive thinking, gratitude, limiting social media if that’s a trigger.

And we’ll find in the Bible this morning, another way, to not only cope but find lasting peace.

  1. Jesus is Peace Micah 5:2-5a

PP: ILL: Pastor Jonathan McLeod tells the following true story: Don & Carol Richardson worked as missionaries among the Sawi people of Indonesia.

When they went to these isolated head-hunting cannibals in the early 1960s, they struggled to learn enough of their language to share the gospel.

Finally, Don climbed the ladder into a Sawi building and, surrounded by the skulls of cannibalized victims, began trying to teach. The Sawi were bored and unresponsive. Although fascinated by the foreigners, the Sawi continued to fight each other. Tribal factions battled near the Richardsons’ jungle home. Eventually, fear and frustration led the missionaries to make the decision to leave. But when tribal leaders learned of their plan they promised to make peace in the morning.

Don & Carol witnessed an incredible ceremony the next day. Two hostile groups were positioned opposite the Richardons’ house on either side of a clearing. Suspense filled the air. Finally, one man picked up his newborn child and dashed across the meadow. His wife ran after him screaming and begging for the baby to be given back to her. Unable to catch him, she fell to her knees and sobbed for her baby.

PP: The child’s father presented his baby to the enemy tribe. The child was called the “peace child.” As long as the peace child remained alive the two warring tribes were bound to each other in peace.

From that day forward, Richardson taught the Sawi about the ultimate Peace Child given to mankind by the one true God. Chiefs who had once been unresponsive to the gospel now sat spellbound. First a few and finally hundreds of the once-cannibalistic Sawis received Christ as Savior.

  • Unto us a child is born. And He will be called…Prince of Peace.

Our text this morning comes from the prophet Micah PP: But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for Me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore He shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. And He shall stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they shall dwell secure, for now He shall be great to the ends of the earth. And He shall be their peace. (Micah 5:2–5a)

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We’ve become so used to our lives being on overload, that we think it’s normal. So, the best we can… we.. cope, like we do with our COVID-fatigue, because we’ve forgotten what peace looks like.

And that was the situation in Micah’s day. But rather than tell God’s people to cope, the prophet points those who were struggling and suffering in the midst of great adversity to their God.

He reminded them

  • God is eternal.
  • God is omniscient. Nothing takes Him by surprise.
  • God is sovereign. That means God not only allows but at times orchestrates the events around us.
  • God is merciful and compassionate. He knows our struggles our suffering… our
  • God… intervenes, He helps, He cares…

He comes to our aid.

In Micah’s day God’s people were split into the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah.

Israel had turned it’s back on God and Judah wasn’t much better. God used the prophet Micah to call God’s people to repentance. But.. they didn’t listen.

Micah predicts the suffering that will fall upon God’s people. BUT… he also promises hope, referring to the promise of Israel’s Messiah, we know to be Jesus.

Micah describes Him as being from old, from ancient times. Declaring the eternal nature of the Messiah. And foretells the incarnation of Jesus… in Bethlehem.

  • Messiah, Jesus, is eternal our enemy, no matter who or what it may be, is not. Remember God promises through the psalmist Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5) Jesus is that joy!
  • Broken relationships can be restored, broken bodies can be healed, broken minds and hearts can be calmed and comforted.

God, speaking through Micah says from you shall come forth for Me. Do you see it? Micah is describing the birth of a baby in Bethlehem, the incarnation of Jesus, Israel’s Messiah. Who will live for God, honor God, serve God and God’s people.

He goes on to describe the Messiah, Jesus, as One who shepherds His flock in the strength of the Lord in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God.

  • Jesus will come, He will show compassion, He will lead and guide His sheep, God’s people.
  • And He will do it all in the power of God, Himself.

Finally Micah says the Messiah, Jesus, will cause God’s people to dwell secure… that He shall be their peace.

Micah, suffering along with God’s people,

  • Came to the place where his heart was touched by hope.
  • He came to the place where joy can once again be found.
  • He came to the place… of peace…
  • Because God will send Messiah, Jesus, to not only bring God’s people peace, but to BE Peace to them…
  • In other words, they will experience peace, because they will have a relationship with… Messiah, Jesus, who is Peace.

This is the promise God made to His people through the prophet Micah…

  • it was the promise that while they will still experience some difficult times,
  • it will also be a time of Peace, God’s peace, through and in Jesus.

Later in the book of Romans, the apostle Paul will write this wonderful promise of God: PP: Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)

Jesus Himself, promised us this: PP: 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. (John 14:27)

Folks, this Advent season,

  • Believe that God knows your struggle, He knows your fatigue, He knows your hurt and brokenness…
  • Believe that God is sovereign, caring and merciful.
  • Believe that God sent Messiah Jesus, to bring you peace and to be the place were lasting peace abides.

Jesus is our Peace.

 Peace is a choice Psalm 34:14

However, just knowing that Jesus is our peace, even being in a relationship with God through faith in Jesus, isn’t enough for us to experience the kind of peace the Bible talks about.

We can’t wish away the struggles, the suffering, the fatigue of being overwhelmed. But, we can choose to live differently than the world around us.

  • And that may mean giving up what we’ve come to think will bring us peace.

PP: These things while being peaceful, will not bring us lasting peace. I’ve tried eating my fill of Philly cheesesteak subs.. but all I got was indigestion. And that was NOT peaceful.

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You see, as followers of Jesus, it’s a choice we make every day.

  • We choose Jesus, we choose peace, rather than choosing the world and the pressures of the world around us.

God speaking through the Psalmist says: PP: Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. (Psalm 34:14)

Remember I said God is omniscient, He knows everything.

  • God knows our proclivity to choose to follow the world around us rather than follow Jesus.
  • God knows we’ll naturally look to the world around us and to what it says about how peace is found.
  • God knows that we’ll overlook the fact that much of what the world tells us will give us peace, is actually sinful.

Isaiah warns us of the very same thing: PP: And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. (Isaiah 32:17)

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So, God commands us to choose how to live.. differently,

  • By pursuing peace and not pursuing the sinful world.
  • By choosing peace.

Life is filled with choices, we make hundreds of choices every day. One of the most important being

  • Will I choose to seek and pursue peace or will I choose to be distracted by the world?

If you choose to worry, to fear, to be angry, to isolate, it’ll leave you overwhelmed, fatigued and w/o peace.

One last verse before I move on. Moses is speaking to the Israelites as they are heading to the promised land. It’ll be difficult to take the land. But God promised to be with them, to give them victory… but they had a choice to make that day: PP: I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying His voice and holding fast to Him, for He is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them. (Deuteronomy 30:19–20, ESV)

Christian, we’re called to make that same choice every day…

  • Life is a gift from God
  • and every day our life is nourished by the choices we make.

When we choose life & blessing, it means we also choose to love God, to obey God, to hold on to God with all our might, every day. When we do, we will have peace.

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  1. Be peace Colossians 3:15a

PP: Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said that one act of obedience is better than one hundred sermons. (Chris Surber)

  • Christian, the greatest evidence that you are a follower of Jesus Christ…is a transformed life.

Since Jesus is our peace, since we follow Jesus, should we not be a people of peace?

God, through the words of the apostle Paul commands this of us: PP: let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts (Colossians 3:15a)

Christian, God commands that we let the peace of Christ… RULE in our hearts.

Rule, have a prominent place, let it take over, to govern all you do., to be your umpire when you have conflicting choices.

  • Let the peace of Jesus, crowd out our stress, our anxiety,
  • Let the peace of Jesus overwhelm our worry, our fear.
  • Let the peace of Christ overrule the lure of the world around us.
  • Let the peace of Christ… quiet our fatigue.

When we allow the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts, we will have not only, sought after and pursued peace, we will have become peace.. to those around us.

So, how are we treating those around us that perhaps challenge our peace?

  • Are we, by our actions, and words, dispensing peace to the lives of others?
  • Or are we adding to their fear, worry, anger, impatience, or anxiety?

Saint Francis of Assisi wrote this:

  • Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
    where there is hatred, let me sow love;
    where there is injury, pardon;
    where there is doubt, faith;
    where there is despair, hope;
    where there is darkness, light;

where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen. (LoyolaPress.com)

He understood what it meant to BE PEACE to those around us.

Jesus, Himself, tells us that those who choose to BE PEACE to others, will be blessed.

  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9)

ILL: The story is told of a young soldier who was a Christian. After the lights were out in the barracks he would slip down on his knees by his bunk to pray. One night the sergeant, who had little use for anything Christian, threw his very muddy boots at the boy, striking him on the side of the head. The next morning the sergeant found his boots beside his bed all clean and polished to perfection. He was so impressed by the actions of the young man that he was eventually reached for Jesus. (Donald Hart)

  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9)

How can we BE PEACE to others? That young soldier showed us one way. Another way is by extending peace in our home, in our personal relationships, in the community of the local church, and in reaching out to the lost.

  • Let peace rule, not differences of opinion.
  • Let peace rule, not differences in the color of our skin.
  • Let peace rule, not differences in our political ideology.
  • Let peace rule, not in the hurt, disappointment or sadness others have brought us.
  • Let peace rule, not our desire to always be right.
  • Let peace rule, even in the midst of a freedom restricting, deadly viral pandemic.

PP: Christian… BE PEACE this Advent season and beyond.

Conclusion:

I want to end where I began with Micah 5. But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for Me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days….He shall stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they shall dwell secure, for now He shall be great to the ends of the earth. And He shall be their peace.

Take note of how that began, PP: O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah…

PP: CBC, those who call Calvary Baptist Church your home. Micah was talking about us. We are too little to be among the clans of … the other bigger churches around us…

  • In their eyes and in the eyes of the world, we don’t matter, we’re… insignificant, no one will miss us if we cease to exist.

But listen, that’s not how God feels about us. God often chooses the small, the weak, the insignificant in life to do great things for Him…

  • He did just that with the little town of Bethlehem… didn’t He?
  • And He can do that with us as well.

We can BE PEACE to the world around us:

  • By seeking Jesus, in all things, and allowing Him to be the source of our peace.
  • By choosing to seek and pursue peace, even at the expense of losing our desperate hold on the world.
  • By allowing the Peace of Christ to rule, to be top dog in the pound that’s called CBC.
  • By seeking to comfort and encourage the saints and gently and compassionately lead the lost to Jesus.

How about we all make that our New Years resolution?                   Let’s pray.

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