Friday, December 4, 2015

Mt. Pleasant Church of the Brethren Newsletter, "The Right Hand Of Fellowship" pastor's article for December 2015

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!”
Luke 2:14 (ESV)
            “Peace”.  You’ll see it on Christmas cards, lit up in Christmas lights; it is the theme of this Sunday’s Advent candle lighting.  What is it about that word that is tied to the message of Christmas?  We might think of a quiet peaceful day with snow falling, and the winds are calm.  We might think of a candle burning quietly in the stillness, but is that what this is about?  What connection does peace have with Christmas, and it must be a strong connection, because the angels made mention of it in their proclamation?
            Let’s read the rest of that line, “and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!”  So peace here has something to do with God being pleased with us.  Now think of the relationship of the Jews prior to Christ.  If there was a word to use to describe their relationship with God, it would probably not be peace.  Fear, reverence, awe, appreciation, might all be words that come to mind, but especially with previous generations living through the time of exile to Babylon, and then for the previous 400 years, hearing nothing from God, peace was probably not a word that would come to mind when they thought of Him.
            Peace has to do with a sense of calmness, free from anxiety, a lack of worry.  They had not known much of peace nor the favor of God since the days of Solomon.  Their relationship with God had boiled down to a long list, (made longer by the scribes and Pharisees), of things to do or not do.  It had become all about outward appearances with little compassion for those of more meager standing, whether along religious or financial status. 
            How is it that they were to be able to have this peace while still here on earth?  How was it that they might become pleasing to God?  That is the beauty of this long awaited Messiah.  He came as the answer to our sin problem—purchasing our forgiveness through the sacrifice of His own blood.  Not that we immediately gain the ability to live a sinless life, but that through faith in Him we are declared righteous, or sinless before our Holy Father, and thus need not fear the judgment that was very deservedly ours.
            It is completely right that we should fear and tremble before a God who is completely holy, and by His righteous nature must carry out the proper punishment for all of us who are by nature sinners rebelling against His perfect will.  To think that on our own, outside of Christ, that we might offer some kind of defense for our behavior to this holy God is ridiculous when you think about it.  We could never offer anything to God, no matter how hard we might try, that would save us from the wrath of His anger in regard to our sin, because in God’s economy, blood has to be shed in order for sin to be forgiven.  Someone has to die for sin to be punished.  It may seem severe, but only when you don’t understand the holiness of God.
            1 John 4:10 says, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”  Propitiation is simply defined as our means of forgiveness.  So we could translate the verse to read: “… that He loved us and sent His Son to be the means of forgiveness for our sins.”  That is how God chose to extend peace on the earth among those with whom He is pleased.  This is the importance of the term “peace” for the believer in Christ at Christmas.  For those still without a faith relationship with Christ, peace with God remains elusive and unattainable.  Know Christ, and know peace.  No Christ, no peace.
By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen