The Advent Candle of Peace

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FIVE CANDLES AT CHRISTMAS (An Advent Wreath Sermon Series)
“The Advent Candle of Peace” (Luke 2:13-14)

INTRODUCTION: This is the second week in our Advent Wreath series. Last week we looked at the Advent Candle of Hope. Today we will look at the Advent Candle of Peace. Peace is one of the nine fruit of the Spirit that we find listed in Galatians 5: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience ….” (Galatians 5:22)

Now I want you to notice something here. The order of the advent candles is the same order as the first four fruit of the Spirit, only in reverse. The first four fruit of the Spirit are love, joy, peace and patience. The advent candles when you reverse the order are love, joy, peace and hope. We saw last week that hope has to do with patience and waiting. For example we read in Romans 8: “If we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Romans 8:25) And so as we go through the order of the advent candles this season, understand that we are also working our way backwards through the fruit of the Spirit to the primary fruit of the Spirit, which is love.

But today is the second Sunday of Advent, and so today we are looking at the candle of peace. And what better place to begin than the angel’s pronouncement of peace to the shepherds on that first Christmas Eve. (Read Luke 2:13-14 and pray.)

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One of the things I love about Christmas is the nativity scenes. And one of the things I love about nativity scenes is that they are so peaceful. It’s hard to imagine a more peaceful looking scene than Joseph and Mary with their newborn child surrounded by sheep and shepherds under the midnight sky. We even sing about it one of the most peaceful Christmas carols ever written: “Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright. Round yon virgin, mother and Child, Holy Infant so tender and mild, sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.”

We all long for peace in our lives, and yet peace is sadly lacking in our world. People are full of worry and anxiety. Relationships are full of conflict and stress. The world is full of conflict and wars.

But that’s where Jesus comes in. Because Jesus is not only our hope at Christmas, he is also our peace. And it is only in Christ that we will ever truly obtain peace on earth. As someone said: “There will never be agreement at the peace tables of the world or rest in the individual heart until the Prince of Peace reigns supreme in the hearts of men.” (Bill Bright, Life without Equal, p. 46; quoting from House of Common debate in the Canadian Parliament, 1946)

So that is what the Advent Candle of Peace is all about today. Part of the Christmas story, part of the Christmas message is that Jesus brings us peace. We will be looking at four aspects of the peace that Jesus brings this morning. 1) Jesus brings peace with God. 2) Jesus brings peace with self. 3) Jesus brings peace with others. And 4) Jesus will bring peace on earth.

I. Jesus brings peace with God
   – Isaiah 53:5; Matthew 1:21; Luke 1:26-30, 76-79; Romans 5:1

So let’s start with the first one – Jesus brings peace with God. We read in Romans 5:1: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1) Notice that we are not naturally at peace with God. The Bible tells us our sins have separated us from God, and it is only through Jesus and faith in him that we are brought into a relationship of peace with our God and Creator.

When God first sent the angel Gabriel to Mary, he sent Gabriel with a message of peace. We read in Luke 1:26-30: “In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’ Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.’” (Luke 1:26-30)

Mary was troubled at the angel’s greeting, but the angel spoke words of peace and assurance to her, telling her not to be afraid because God was with her and she had found favor with God. You might wonder how did Mary find favor with God? The only way any of us find favor with God. She had faith in God and in his promise of the Messiah to come. Like so many Old Testament believers before her, she had faith in Christ before Christ even came. And now God had chosen her to be the vessel through which his Son would enter the world.

God also sent an angel to Joseph, Mary’s husband-to-be. And the angel told Joseph in Matthew 1:21: “She [Mary] will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21) The name “Jesus” actually means “salvation.” Jesus was given this name because he was the promised Savior who came to bring us peace with God by saving us from our sins.

When John the Baptist was born three months before Jesus, John’s father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied about John. And in his prophecy he spoke about how John would go before Jesus preparing the way for this One who would bring us peace with God through the forgiveness of our sins. Hear Zechariah’s words about John the Baptist in Luke 1: “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins … to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:76-79)

How did Jesus do this? Why is it that everyone who puts their faith in Jesus finds peace with God? It is because of what Jesus did at the cross. Jesus was born into this world to die on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven and we could be restored to a right relationship of peace with God. As we read in Isaiah 53:5: “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

That’s the first and most important thing the Advent candle of peace reminds us at Christmas. Jesus brings peace with God.

II. Jesus brings peace with self
   – Luke 2:28-31; John 14:27; Philippians 4:6-7

Secondly, Jesus brings peace with self. Sin not only separates us from God. Sin also brings separation within our own being. We are conflicted beings. We are constantly fighting anxiety and stress and inner turmoil. We desperately need inner peace, and Jesus came not only to bring peace with God but also personal peace within ourselves.

Last week we looked at a man named Simeon. God had promised Simeon that he would see the Messiah before he died, and, wouldn’t you know it, the Holy Spirit moved Simeon to go into the temple courts just as Joseph and Mary were bringing the infant Jesus into the temple. We read in Luke 2 that Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people.” (Luke 2:28-31)

Simeon is a wonderful example of Jesus bringing personal peace. We sometimes talk about our bucket lists, all the things we want to do or accomplish before we finish our lives here on earth. Well, apparently Simeon only had one thing on his bucket list – he wanted to see the Messiah before he died. And when he finally did, when he finally saw Jesus – that was all he needed. He praised God saying, “You now dismiss your servant in peace.” Simeon embraced Christ, and he was at peace within himself.

When you put your faith in Jesus Christ, you not only receive peace with God. You also receive the peace of God to help you through the difficult circumstances of life. When you know Christ, everything can be going crazy around you, and you can still be at peace within yourself.

Philippians 4 instructs us: “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.” (Philippians 4:6-7) Notice that this wonderful peace of God is only available in and through Jesus Christ. The Bible says the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Hear these beautiful words of Jesus from 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.” (John 14:27) Jesus not only brings peace with God. He also brings peace with self.

III. Jesus brings peace with others
   – Matthew 1:20; Ephesians 2:14; Colossians 3:15

And then thirdly, Jesus brings peace with others. We have a wonderful example of this early in the Christmas story. When Joseph first heard that Mary was pregnant, he considered breaking off the engagement. He must have been terribly hurt and confused thinking that Mary had been unfaithful to him. But then we read in Matthew 1: “After he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.’” (Matthew 1:20)

If Mary was pregnant with any other child, Joseph would most likely have broken the engagement. But this wasn’t any other child. This was Jesus, and he was conceived in her from the Holy Spirit. And so Jesus, even before he was born, brought peace between Joseph and Mary and kept their marriage from coming apart.

We go through many challenges in this life, and one of the most difficult is when our relationships are in turmoil. That’s when we need to ask Jesus – the Prince of Peace – to come and bring us peace in our relationships, to intervene, to reconcile and to restore.

We read this about Jesus in Ephesians 2:14: “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” (Ephesians 2:14) Jesus came to break down the barriers, to bridge the gaps, to bring people together and to restore peace to our damaged relationships.

As believers in Christ, we are called to follow in his footsteps. As Colossians 3:15 says: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.” (Colossians 3:15) Jesus brings peace with others.

IV. Jesus will bring peace on earth
   – Isaiah 2:4, 9:6-7, 11:6-9; Luke 2:13-14; Colossians 1:19-20

1) Jesus brings peace with God. 2) Jesus brings peace with self. 3) Jesus brings peace with others. And then finally, 4) Jesus will bring peace on earth. The angels who announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds that first Christmas Eve also proclaimed the peace that Jesus would bring to our planet. We read in Luke 2: “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’” (Luke 2:13-14)

This is a peace that was prophesied back in the Old Testament book of Isaiah. We read this wonderful prophecy about Jesus back in Isaiah 2:4: “He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4)

Some people might ask, “How do we know Isaiah was talking about Jesus bringing peace and not just God in general?” Well, you flip forward a few chapters to Isaiah 9 and we find these words about who will ultimately bring peace on earth: “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. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.” (Isaiah 9:6-7) This is a clear prophecy about Jesus who was born as a child, who will be called Prince of Peace, and who will one day rule in peace over all the earth.

But it gets even better than that, because this peace on earth will not only bring an end to war among the nations. It will even extend to nature and the animal kingdom. We read in Isaiah 11:6-9: “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 little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:6-9) Jesus truly is the Prince of Peace.

But it gets even better than that! Because the Bible tells us that Jesus will not only bring peace on earth but will bring peace to the whole universe and that he will reconcile all things to himself in heaven and on earth. We read in Colossians 1: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:19-20)

CONCLUSION: And so this verse in Colossians brings us right back to where we started. The reason Jesus brings peace with God, peace with self, peace with others and peace on earth all goes back to the cross. Without the Jesus shedding his blood on the cross, there would be no peace. And without Jesus being born as a baby at Christmas, there would be no cross.

Do you have peace with God this morning? Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins so that you could be forgiven and restored to right relationship with God. If your faith is in Christ, then you have peace with God.

Do you have peace with your self this morning? If your faith is in Christ, then Jesus has not abandoned you but has come to live in you by his Holy Spirit. And he offers you his peace. “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.” (John 14:27)

Do you have peace with others this morning? If your faith is in Christ, then he has given you all the resources you need to do your part in living in peaceful relationships with those around you. And after you have done your part, you may ask Jesus in prayer to work in the other person’s heart that you may live in peace.

Do we have peace on earth this morning? Oh, how I wish we did! We do not have peace on earth yet, but we have the promise of peace on earth to come, and God has never yet broken a promise.

The angels proclaimed to the shepherds that first Christmas Eve: “Peace on earth, goodwill towards men!” (Luke 2:14) Those words of promise still ring in the air this Christmas season as we worship and adore the Lord Jesus, our Savior, the Son of God, the Prince of Peace.

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