4th Sunday of Advent
The Star: A Journey of Peace
(Mark 4:35-41; Isaiah 9:6; John 14:27)
VIDEO – Peace Bumper video
This is the final Sunday of Advent. What an amazing season it has been as we’ve journeyed together toward Christmas. We’ve learned together that the word Advent is a version of a Latin term meaning “coming.” The Israelites were waiting for the coming of the Messiah. It was a highly anticipated event. There was great expectation. Each Israelite family had hoped that their baby boy would be the Messiah. Their expectation was that the Messiah would bring peace, but it wasn’t the kind of peace they were hoping for.
We hear celebrities, politicians, some adults, and especially children talk about wanting world peace. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are waiting for the second coming of Jesus when true peace will be established. We wait with hope for the new heaven and the new earth, where the wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a child will lead them (Isaiah 11:6). As we wait for Jesus’ second coming and the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, we continue on our faith journey that will include hope, love, joy, and peace.
Perhaps one of the greatest stories of peace is the story behind the song “It Is Well with My Soul.”
[Show VIDEO – It Is Well With My Soul: The Story Behind the Hymn – Horatio Spafford (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bvq3pYsHidA)]
Peace is a lot like joy, it can be experienced even when there is turmoil and chaos, hardship, trouble, violence, and fear. As the hymn so beautifully captures, this journey of peace is not immune from those things. In fact, they are central to the story. On this journey, we learn that peace is not the absence of trouble but rather the presence of God.
Minimally high blood sugar and blood pressure
It wasn’t long after moving from Ohio to Missouri that I went to the doctor for a regular physical
The bloodwork caused the doctor to order a glucose tolerance test
Those are always fun, aren’t they, especially for someone who hates needles
The test revealed that I had minimally high blood sugar
I was also struggling with minimally high blood pressure numbers
The doctor asked me all the questions they normally ask to determine if there was anything I should stop doing
Do you smoke? (No)
Do you drink alcohol? (No)
Do you take drugs? (No)
The doctor then asked me a couple of other questions
Do you exercise regularly? (No)
Are you under any stress? (YES!)
We had just moved to Missouri not long before the appointment
We had bought our first home
I started a new job at the Headquarters of Child Evangelism Fellowship
Judy had had a miscarriage before we moved to Missouri and now she was expecting Levi
The doctor’s response was, “Well, there’s nothing I can tell you to stop doing, but I would encourage you to start exercising every day.”
I started riding a stationary bike in our basement
I started out slow and eventually was riding between 20-30 minutes a day
I lost a little bit of weight, I didn’t need to lose much back then
The cardio-vascular work out was good for my heart
We started eating a low sugar diet also
Peace in the middle of trouble
Exercise was a part of what I started doing, but I also started praying
Prayer is what motivated me to continue to exercise and it helped to bring me peace
I knew that everything was going to be alright, because God was with me
What pain are you facing this season?
What struggles are weighing you down?
What anxiety and stress are stirring up chaos in your spirit?
Those pressures and problems can be both external and internal
We often take the external pressures and problems and internalize them
When we internalize those pressures and problems we begin to experience health problems
It’s our body’s way of telling us that something isn’t right
Stomach ulcers are a sign that our body is producing too much acid
High blood pressure can be an indication that stress is present
Headaches and muscle aches can be an indicator that our bodies are tense
Insomnia can be a result of our brains trying to process the problems and pressures we are experiencing
Are you willing to open your heart to God’s peace even in the midst of your struggles?
Through this journey of peace, today, we can be assured that . . .
BIG IDEA – God’s presence provides peace.
This journey of peace is certainly an appropriate journey for our world today. Just as the ancient Roman world must have felt during that first Christmas, our world seems full of violence and warfare and uncertainty. And the pressures of our daily lives barrage us at an unparalleled pace. Ours is a world in desperate need of peace! But it is a world where the Prince of Peace has walked and understood. He has come, and He is present. His peace is available to us today.
Peace in the Midst (Mark 4:35-41)
The first Christmas
We sing about that first Christmas night being a silent night where everything was calm and bright
I’m not sure that’s exactly what the characters in the Christmas story were experiencing
The city of Bethlehem was hustling and bustling with an influx of those who were from the line of David
The city was filled to beyond capacity with people from all over the region
These travelers were tired, dirty, and probably testy
Everyone was trying to find a place to stay and perhaps food to eat
Mary and Joseph were perhaps anxious, nervous, and stressed as Mary went through her first delivery
It was shortly after giving birth that the shepherds began to arrive
Sometime during Jesus’ first two years of life, the Magi arrived in Jerusalem
They questioned King Herod about the whereabouts of the baby who had been born king of the Jews
Matthew tells us that King Herod was disturbed and all Jerusalem with him (Matthew 2:3)
The news of Jesus’ birth did not bring peace to King Herod and since the King was disturbed, so were his subjects
King Herod ordered that all the boys, two years of age and younger, living in Bethlehem and the surrounding vicinity, were to be killed (Matthew 2:16)
Imagine the chaos King Herod’s order created in Bethlehem and the surrounding villages
The parents of two year old boys and younger were not experiencing peace
Can you relate to the chaos that those who were part of the first Christmas were experiencing?
Perhaps you’re going to be traveling or have already traveled to be here this morning and you understand the exhaustion, frustration, and testiness that the travelers in the 1st Century felt
Maybe you’re experiencing the interruptions of a quiet family time together as others come to see you
Some of you may be experiencing the birth of a child or the loss of a loved one during this Christmas season, so you understand the exhaustion and emotions involved in both of those scenarios
Our journey of peace this season is not one separated from the realities of life but a journey of peace in the midst of life with all its noise and chaos
VIDEO – “The Rain Keeps Falling Andrew Peterson Lyrics” [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fn8cbI9jFGc]
The lyrics contain a long and honest confession of so many struggles
Notice that interjected into and over the lyrics are the words of Jesus, “Peace. Be still.”
We can have peace in the midst of life in a fallen world with God’s presence in our lives
The words that Jesus spoke are found in Mark 4:35-41
Jesus calming the storm
Read Mark 4:35-41
The disciples were in a situation where they felt helpless
They were afraid!
Jesus was sleeping peacefully in the stern of the boat – the storm did not bother Him
After the disciples woke Him up, He immediately rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet, Be still!” (most translations have “Peace, Be still!”
Jesus asked His disciples why they were so afraid
His second question concerned their faith in Him
The disciples should have known by this point that Jesus was all-powerful
His power, from God, extended to all of creation
God’s presence was with Jesus, so Jesus’ presence provides peace
Jesus’ presence in our lives provides peace also
We don’t have to be fear when pain, struggles, anxiety, and stress stir up chaos in our spirit
We can have faith in Jesus who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and sovereign
Perhaps you need to express that faith today
My Next Step Today Is To: Trust by faith in the peace that Jesus’ presence can bring during the pain, struggles, anxiety, and stress I am currently experiencing.
I’ve found that Jesus’ peace can be found in reading God’s Word the Bible
It can also be found in praying – that’s us talking to God
God talking to us requires us to sit quietly and patiently before Him – we can experience peace in those moments as well
Some people have a specific place where they go to find peace from the chaos of their lives
Jesus brings peace right into the center of our hurt and frantic striving
He brings power to cease the noise, calm the storm, and overwhelm our hearts with His restorative sense of perfect peace
He is indeed the Prince of Peace
Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)
Isaiah 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.
Peace is not just a feeling or a state of being
Peace is a person
Jesus is the Prince of Peace
By sending His Son, God sent peace into the world
Paul tells the Ephesian Gentiles that before they came to faith in Christ, they were separate from Christ
Ephesians 2:12, remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.
That is the condition of every person who is born – we are separated from God and Christ and we have no hope
Sin is what separates us from God and Christ
Sin is the rejection of God and His authority in our lives
We become our own boss/authority
God’s Word tells us that when we reject Him and become our own boss, that there is a consequence for that – for the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23)
When we reject God and His plans and way we are really at war with Him
Perhaps you’ve experienced that in the past or are experiencing that right now
You know that God is pursuing you, because He puts people in your life who talk to you about Him
Your reaction towards them is harsh and unkind, not because you don’t like them but because you’re at war with God – you’re not at peace with God
Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty talks about his life in his book Happy, Happy, Happy
He thought he was happy, but he was busy “romping, stomping, and ripping with [his] drinking buddies”
He owned a honky-tonk bar at this point in his life
His sister decided that Phil needed to hear about Jesus, so she brought her pastor, Bill Smith, with her to the bar
This was Phil’s reaction, “‘You some kind of preacher?’ I immediately asked him. When Smith told me he was, I added, ‘You ever been drunk?’ ‘Yes, I used to drink a few beers,’ he told me. ‘Well, what’s the difference between you and me?’ I asked him. ‘You’ been drunk, and I’m getting drunk right now. There ain’t a dime’s worth of difference between you and me, Jack. You ain’t putting any Bible on me. That’s the way I was born.’” [Robertson, Happy, Happy, Happy, 79]
God made a way for us to reconciled to Him – to have peace with Him
It is through the Prince of Peace – Jesus!
Ephesians 2:14-18, For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
In this passage, Paul is talking to both Jews and Gentiles
He was explaining that through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, all people could now be reconciled to God – it wasn’t just for the Jews anymore
Jesus’ sacrifice brought peace between the Jews and the Gentiles
It also brought peace between God and humanity
Romans 5:1, Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
There is nothing we can do on our own to deal with our sin problem
There is nothing we can do on our own to deal with our rejection of God
God in His infinite wisdom, justice, and love provided a way for us to be reconciled to Him – to have peace with Him
It is through faith in what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross
Justified can be defined as “just as if I have never sinned”
That is how God sees us when we admit we are sinners, repent of our sins, and trust in Jesus by faith
Perhaps you’re ready to be reconciled to God today – to be at peace with God
You’re ready to end the war with God
You’re ready to accept God’s authority in your life instead of rejecting it
My Next Step Today Is To: Recognize Jesus as the Prince of Peace, admit I am a sinner, repent of my sins, and have peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ.
Peace with God does not guarantee freedom from pain, struggles, anxiety, and stress
We are human and still fallible
We still make mistakes and fail to trust God in every area of our lives
In the midst of all that was happening that first Christmas, we are told that Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19)
On the surface, Mary’s life did not become more peaceful
If anything, things got crazier with the announcement of her miraculous pregnancy and the birth of a new baby
But Mary was learning to trust the One who was in control
When we can surrender control – stop worrying, stop planning, stop striving – to the Prince of Peace, we can find rest in Him
The inner and outer chaos, anxiety, noise, and busyness of life may not change, but we can experience peace because we trust the One in control
Where do you need to surrender and enter the journey of peace this season?
I want to encourage you to pause and embrace the words of the Psalmist, Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10)
The same things I mentioned earlier about how to find Jesus’ peace also apply to being still, and knowing that God is God (reading God’s Word, spending time in prayer, and repeating Scripture)
This can happen in the morning before your day begins, throughout your day as needed, and before going to bed
While we can experience peace through Jesus Christ, we also realize that the world around us may still be experiencing pain, struggles, anxiety, and stress
Peace for the World (John 14:27)
All we have to do is look at the news coverage to realize that our world is not at peace
Countries are at war (Our young people are concerned about what North Korea is capable of doing right now – they’re concerned that they have the ability to launch an attack on the eastern part of the United States)
Refugees are far from home
Our neighbors are hurting
There is violence in our schools
Church leadership teams are discussing strategies to provide a safe and secure environment for their parishioners to worship in
There is anger in our families
While Jesus brought peace to the earth when He came the first time, it is not a perfect or complete peace
We live in the tension between the already and not yet
We know that Jesus has won the battle over sin and death, but the manifestation of that victory is still to be revealed when Jesus comes again
In the interim, we are encouraged to draw close to God and to rely on Him for His peace
God’s presence provides peace
Philippians 4:6-7, 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.
God’s peace doesn’t make sense to us as humans
It’s beyond our understanding sometimes
Have you or someone you’ve known experienced that kind of peace?
Perhaps they’ve gotten news about their health that is concerning, but instead of worrying about it they immediately began to pray and while they should be stressed, they’re at peace
When someone losses their job or is just struggling financially, yet they’re not anxious about the situation, but are trusting God, it doesn’t make sense – that’s the peace of God that transcends our understanding
Our natural inclination is to worry, fret, and complain instead of turning to God in prayer, waiting on Him, and experiencing His peace
So often we come to God asking Him to change our circumstances or those around us
Sometimes God answers our prayer by changing our circumstances or those around us
More often, He uses the difficult circumstances to change us – He wants us to be transformed and to grow in our faith
He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and sovereign
He knows what’s best for us
He will not give us more than we are able to bear, without providing a way of escape
Perhaps you’re feeling anxious, right now, about a particular circumstance in your life
Now is the time to turn to God in prayer and present your petitions to Him with thanksgiving
My Next Step Today Is To: Turn to God in prayer with thanksgiving about the circumstance I’m feeling anxious about.
Jesus gave His disciples a promise that is still relevant for us today
He promised them the gift of peace
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 be afraid.
We can claim that promise for ourselves
We don’t have to be afraid, because we serve a God who is in control of everything
Whatever is causing you pain, struggle, anxiety, and stress now, in the end, Jesus’ peace will overcome it
His peace will sustain us through our difficulties, which may be great but are also momentary (2 Cor. 4:17)
You can trust by faith in the peace that Jesus’ presence can bring during the pain, struggles, anxiety, and stress that you’re currently experiencing
You can recognize that Jesus is the Prince of Peace, admit you are a sinner, repent of your sins, and have peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ
You can turn to God in prayer with thanksgiving about the circumstances you’re feeling anxious about
God’s presence provides peace.
VIDEO – “Advent_2_-_Peace_English_Version”