Christmas Peace Luke 2:1-14

For weeks if not months now we have been surrounded by Christmas music. It’s our acoustic wallpaper. Have you noticed how most Christmas pop songs are just about Father Christmas or Santa Claus or a romanticised ideal of having a happy time at Christmas? But you may be able to think of just a few which get closer to the true meaning of Christmas. Some very well-known songs are about a longing for peace.

e,g, John Lennon and Yoko Ono – Happy Christmas – war is over (1971)
“A very merry Christmas And a Happy New Year,
Let’s hope it’s a good one Without any fear
War is over If you want it War is over now”

Jona Lewie’s 1980 song, Stop the Cavalry
“Hey, Mr. Churchill comes over here To say we’re doing splendidly
But it’s very cold out here in the snow Marching to and from the enemy
Oh I say it’s tough, I have had enough Can you stop the cavalry?”

The other evening I caught a bit of programme of the greatest ever Christmas songs and I watched Bing Crosby and David Bowie singing their version of Little Drummer Boy back in Crosby’s 1977 television special, Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas. You may remember the version Terry Wogan and Aled Jones recorded for Children in Need a few years back.

Bing Crosby sings the traditional song.
“Come they told me pa-rum-pum-pum-pum
A new-born king to see pa-rum-pum-pum-pum

Then David Bowie joins in, singing new words.
“Peace on Earth, can it be
Years from now, perhaps we’ll see
See the day of glory
See the day, when men of good will
Live in peace, live in peace again.
Peace on earth – can it be?”

Christmas peace. Of course there wasn’t much peace around at the first Christmas. Not for a heavily pregnant mother making a long and tiring journey when she was about to give birth. Not when there wasn’t space in the guest room and she had to spend the night in the part of the house where the livestock were sheltering. Not for a baby conceived outside of marriage. No peace when the family with the new-born baby had to escape to Egypt and the infant grow up in exile. There was very little peace in the Christmas story.

And if you look at the way most people celebrate Christmas, it’s hardly a season of peace! Every year there is the busyness. All the shopping and the queueing, chasing around for all the presents. The challenge so many people set themselves of having the “perfect” Christmas day, getting all the food just right and with the pressure to make sure that everybody especially the children have a happy time.

I wonder if you have seen the 1996 film Jingle All the Way. It stars the Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger as a father determined to get this year’s must have toy, “Turbo-Man” as a Christmas present for his young son. Unfortunately the toys are in short supply and the film is the story of one father’s rollercoaster quest to buy his son’s dream toy, in fierce competition with another equally committed father. The happy ending is spoiled when it emerges that in all the panic to get his son’s gift, Arnie has forgotten to buy a present for his wife! The film is very funny but also very sad, because it is too perfect a picture of real life for so many families at this time of year!

For very many people, this Christmas is even less peaceful than usual. Some are suffering from Covid, or from the after-effects of Covid. Some will unexpectedly be spending Christmas in hospital. Some will be grieving and mourning for loved ones who have died since we last had a “normal” Christmas. Some have had to scale down their celebrations because they have lost their jobs. Covid omicron has forced many families to change their plans. And many people are anxious and afraid, of becoming ill or of what restrictions might be coming our way from the Government in the New Year. We all need to receive God’s peace for ourselves especially this Christmastime.

Peace on earth – can it be? The first Christmas may not have seemed very peaceful. And Christmas today does not often seem a very peaceful time. But peace is indeed at the heart of the Christmas message. Peace was the message of the Angels to the shepherds.

10 But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.’
Peace on earth because God’s favour rests on us. The birth of the Son of God will bring everlasting peace to the world. The Peace foretold in Isaiah 11 where
6 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.
9 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.

The Peace which Jesus brings is not just an absence of conflict, although that would be nice! God’s peace is wholeness, tranquillity and contentment. God’s peace is not only reconciliation between men of war. More important than that, Jesus brings us peace with God, reconciliation between God and human beings. God will remove the barriers which keep sinful human beings apart from the Righteous and Holy God. Peace on earth will come because everybody knows God.

Hark! The herald angels sing: ‘Glory to the new-born King!
Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!’

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 Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.

Jesus the Prince of Peace will bring us everlasting peace. This gift of peace is the heart of the Christmas message. The peace of Christmas is the peace which comes from our relationship with God. We need to make space to experience this peace for ourselves. We could read one of the accounts of the nativity in Matthew’s Gospel or Luke’s Gospel. You might even like to sing a carol or two by yourself and spend a bit of time in prayer some time today.

And as we enjoy all the blessings of God’s peace we should also share the real meaning of Christmas with other people so they can receive God’s peace for themselves too. Through the Christmas cards we send and the presents we give. Through our decorations and lights. Through singing carols and helping our friends to understand the carols they already know. Through acts of loving kindness and taking care of our neighbours. And just by wishing friends and strangers a happy and joyful and peaceful Christmas. We should share God’s peace with others.

Let me give you a parable. Quite a few years ago now it was 4 o’clock on a Friday afternoon a few weeks before Christmas at Lakeside Shopping centre. I was surrounded by people who mostly were not enjoying their Christmas shopping experience. People rushing from place to place. Grumpy children. Stroppy children. Stressed mothers. Some families really enjoying their Christmas shopping outing but more really not enjoying themselves at all!!

I was sitting in the window seat in Starbucks (back when it used to be upstairs) writing a sermon. And somebody tapped on the window. I turned to see that I was being greeted by a 5′ furry teddy bear. Because it was the other side of plate glass I couldn’t hear what the bear was saying and the bear couldn’t hear me. And as you can imagine, it is quite hard to lipread a 5’ furry teddy bear. So the bear just waved at me, I waved back. The other customers in the café and the people walking along outside thought both I and the bear were completely crazy. But just for a few moments I smiled at the bear and the bear smiled back at me and it really did feel a bit more like Christmas. Because the bear wasn’t in any hurry to go anywhere. Nothing was going to deter that bear from its mission to spread joy and happiness at Christmas. Then the mother at the next table started screaming at her badly behaved child and I went back to wondering if anybody really experiences the peace of Christmas at Christmas?

For years that 5’ furry bear used to spend December at Lakeside cheering people up. How much more should Christians take every opportunity, not only to experience God’s peace at Christmas for ourselves but also to share the peace of Christmas with everybody we meet!
14 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.’

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