Wednesday, December 20, 2023

The Peace of God

 I wrote this message for the third Sunday of Advent - Peace Sunday

Grace, mercy, and PEACE from God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be with you and fill you to overflowing. Amen.

We long for it, but never really experience it completely. Someday we will, and we look forward to that day. We have moments in life that we touch it briefly … But often these are just fading moments that pass like a beautiful sunrise or sunset, ...And then life moves on… much too quickly… and the moment is gone. We take vacations to find it, but for some it never really comes. And for others it seems as if they always have it. What we truly long for … is peace.

When I was younger and under a lot of stress… operating a dairy farm. Some days I wanted my world to just stop pushing me forward. Everything in my life was moving faster and faster, … I had trouble keeping up … I wanted a break. A day to just sleep in, a day of rest, a day with no bills to pay, …no expectations placed on me, no deadlines to meet, just a little peace and quiet.

Occasionally, I would drive the tractor out to the back of the farm and hide from everyone… But I knew that as soon as I returned home everything that I had neglected to do would still be waiting for me. The thing about dairy farming was that the chores always had to be done …everyday… milking every morning and every night… the same routine … Day in …day out… it never ended.

I loved it and I hated it! I longed for peace… sometimes I found it briefly… and then it was gone.

I spent most of my time fixing things… making due… hoping that tomorrow would be better than today… wanting do overs… surviving. … and the peace I sought eluded me. I envied others who could just get up and leave, take vacations, carve out time for their families, get involved in the community, …while I worked harder and harder with nothing to show for all of my effort. PEACE was just a dream that I sought but didn’t really find.

And God’s promise of peace seemed artificial, unrealistic, and unobtainable. …Yet, because it came from God, I knew in my heart that it was available and meant for me. I was looking for emotional or physical peace. 

God’s peace is spiritual peace.

Often we hear people talk about peace… world peace… the end of fighting or wars or conflicts or hunger or homelessness or abusive relationships. These are all the result of sin. In the world, as long as Satan still roams and sin is running its course, we will continue to have all of these things. Godless people will do godless things to hurt or harm others because they are by nature sinful and unclean. They live loveless lives and follow after Satan, who has NO love in him. They live for themselves, show very little mercy, and have no concept of peace.

I often acted out in anger, as a godless person, hurting those around me, because of the sin within me, … and I had a hard time of receiving God’s forgiveness because I had trouble believing that He could forgive me. I sought emotional peace, but because I continued to carry the burden and guilt of my sin, the load within me became heavier and heavier, and that peace I sought became more and more distant from me… more fleeting… and out of reach.

One day I hit bottom… I had been trying so hard to make my life right but to no avail…  I was spent… physically… emotionally… and spiritually spent !  I cried to God because I had nothing left.   He heard my prayer.

He said, “Trust ME! I AM ENOUGH FOR YOU!”

Slowly … my fear, my guilt, my worthlessness, started to be transformed. I found myself become more at peace and less angry. I didn’t get set off or as upset about breakdowns. I found peace in everyday routines. …Comfort in set schedules. And I even found time to spend with my family without experiencing the guilt of being lazy… I found some sense of balance between work and play, family and community, time on hobbies and time with God… peace has started to become more of a reality.

Today is the third Sunday of Advent, it is also known as Peace Sunday. We have the pink candle lit today to remind us that Jesus came to bring us peace. Not the kind of peace that the world is seeking, for because of sin the world hates Jesus. The world wants Jesus to overlook their sin and join them in their prideful celebration of sin.

NO, the peace that Jesus brings to us is the cleansing of our sin. The removal of our sin by His death and resurrection. The daily act of sanctification… confession and absolution… washing and regeneration. The assurance that He is capable of removing our sin and that He is willing and eager to remove our sin. Jesus has defeated Satan, destroyed the power of sin, and conquered death. In Jesus Christ we need not live in fear… our sin has been forgiven. We have been washed in the blood He shed for us on the cross.

This washing is a spiritual washing, an internal washing of our daily sin.

How often do you wash your hands in a given day? Five times or ten or maybe twenty or more? Daily Jesus is washing away your sin … every dirty thought… sinful desire… fear… bitterness… contempt… anger… envy… jealously… we daily sin much, yet out of love … Jesus continues to sanctify us (that is He is washing our sin away making us clean within).

 And that is where we start to experience the peace of God…  When we recognize that our sin is forgiven and we except God’s forgiveness of our sin… our guilt starts to melt away… peace starts to take its place… a peace that we can’t explain or even at times comprehend begins to fill us from the inside… The triggers that used to set us off … don’t.  Conflicts with family or friends or coworkers or even our spouse become more tolerable or manageable because we have this inner peace… spiritual peace… a peace that can only come from God… the kind of peace that Jesus Christ brings to us.

It is a calm in the middle of a storm. It is the assurance that God is in control … that He is watching out for us … that He will provide us with the strength to face whatever it is that we are facing … grief … or illness … or financial hardship … or pressure and stress. We can trust Him.  He is with us.  We are His children.  

He will provide for us.  And He will fill us (you) with His peace.  Hear these words of comfort again from Paul,  “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; Hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 (ESV)

We pray, Lord Jesus as we make plans to celebrate Your first coming, help us to be at peace in the midst of all of our family plans and activities. Grant us joy in the celebration of our families. Yet, continue to guide our thoughts and prepare our minds for Your second coming. Keep our eyes focused on You that we would live throughout this season for the glory of Your Holy Name. Amen.

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