(Christmas Message #2)


TEXT:  Luke 2:8-18


The story of the Shepherds is such a wonderful story. Everything seems to have gone pretty good in the details of the story, despised shepherds are given the privilege to be the first to witness the lamb of God. Angels had good news, God's promised Messiah arrives in the fullness of time, and Herod's plans to kill Jesus fail. But there is one point of this story that doesn't seem to have been accurate, the message the angels had from God, "Glory to God in the highest and on Earth peace to men…" What's wrong with this picture? For 2,000 years since the angels pronounced this message there has almost never been peace on Earth! So, did God lie? Only if we incorrectly understand what God meant by "Peace on earth" does it seem like God lied. So what then did God mean? If He declared "Peace on earth, and good will toward man" where is it, what does it look like? PROP. SENT:      God did not lie about bringing "peace on earth," but this peace is not the absence of conflict in the world, it is the absence of sin in the heart, when a man is at peace with God and Himself because His sins have been washed away.

I. PLENTY OF FEAR!     2:8-12

A. Secular Darkness     2:8 1. The world was a mess when Jesus came the first time. a. High taxes. b. Corrupt government. c. High unemployment rates due to high taxes and poverty. d. The breakup of the family unit was a serious problem. e. Religion while popular was devoid of any connection to real life. f. Higher education was stripping people's belief in God and the miraculous. g. Yet, mysticism was spreading everywhere. h. Wars and conflicts were flaring up everywhere, especially in the Middle East keeping the fragile peace between nations teetering on the edge at all times. i. Frequent insurrections or terrorist's attacks kept Rome breathing down the throats of the leaders of the Middle East. 2. Like many times in history, it was dark in society. a. People questioned whether God existed, for if He did why didn't He do something? b. HE DID! He sends forth His only begotten Son, born as a babe in poverty to be the Messiah to the world! c. This wasn't what the world expected however. 3. Christ however would change everything in history … indeed He has!!! ILLUS:Early Christians wisely decided to celebrate the birth of Christ on a day that was already a recognized holiday, December 25. Celebrating on this day would keep them from suspicion and danger. The Romans called December 25 "The Birthday of the Unconquered Sun" because it was so close to December 21, the winter solstice. For Christians it became "The Birthday of the Unconquered Son." -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997). a. God was not indifferent to the situation on earth, in fact even before the foundations of the earth were laid God had planned this moment for the Messiah to come to redeem fallen man. b. Christ's coming was the first ray of hope and light in a dark world. B. Spiritual Darkness     2:9-12 1. Not only was society plunged into darkness, so were the souls of men and women. a. Religion was popular, but it didn't make a huge difference in the way people actually lived. b. The problem of sin was still there, so was the guilt. c. All the sacrificial lambs in the world didn't stop the spread of sin! 2. The Jewish faith had splintered into different groups: a. One group that controlled much of the power was the Sadducees, a branch of Judaism that didn't believe in the supernatural at all! -- no angels, no resurrection, no miracles, etc. b. Another group, the Pharisees had so many rules that no one took their spirituality that seriously, no one could keep all the rules all the time. c. The Herodians were political liberals that thought everything could be fixed through a political process. d. The Essenes had withdrawn into clustered groups all by themselves since the world was so corrupt they basically stayed separate from all society. e. The Zealots thought change should come from activism or violence, even terrorism if necessary to effect change. 3. In all the mix real spirituality was plunged into a fog! ILLUS:Two Indians who had been watching a lighthouse go up came over to see the thing open on the big day. It was all set up with the lights and the bell and the horn; but the day it was due to open, the worst fog of all fogs came in. One Indian said to the other, "Light shine, bell ring, horn blow, but fog come in just the same." We've never had more lights shining, and bells ringing, and horns blowing in the church than we have today. We've never had more fog. -- Vance Havner in On This Rock I Stand. Christianity Today, Vol. 30, no. 10. 4. Not unlike today! a. There is so much stuff around Christmas these days that you have to wonder if people really do hear the right message … the birth of Christ, and if it means anything to them! b. No event in history has so shaped this planet like this one birth!! c. God was sending a light into darkness! II. PROMISE OF FAVOR     2:13-18 A. Savior Decreed!     2:13-14 1. The shepherds who first heard the angel were terrified at first! (in Greek: "fobon megan" - In English: "Phobon Megan" from which we get two English words Phobia and Mega, meaning "MUCH TERROR" 2:9 a. They assumed the worst about God and His messengers. b. They were aware of their own sinfulness no doubt, adding to their fear. 2. What had happened to the hope that the Messiah was coming? a. People had lost hope in God fixing anything … how wrong they were! b. God was about to change everything for man! c. How tragic that they didn't see the light! ILLUS:We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark: the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. -- Plato, Leadership, Vol. 1, no. 2. 3. God's message for the time was "Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests." a. So where is the peace? b. Where is the good will? c. Where is His favor? 4. IT IS HERE, ON earth, just not IN the earth. a. His peace resides IN people ON earth, it is not a political peace, it is not a peace which is the absence of conflicts between nations and people, it is a peace within the soul of a human being because his or her sins have been forgiven and they are right with God! b. The message was correct, the interpretation wrong by society … by the way, our culture still misuses this verse to be about peace in the world politically and socially! The proof of this is that they don't quote the end of the verse, "…on whom His favor rests" a clear reference that this peace is meant for those who are in a right relationship with God, those in God's favor. c. The only way to have God's favor is to have your sins forgiven, exactly why Christ came! 5. What did the angels mean? That this Jesus was the savior decreed to finally bring peace between God and man by making a way for man to be forgiven. a. It was not about national boundaries! b. It was not about wars between nations and peace treaties. c. It was not about serenity in society. d. It was about PEACE WITH GOD WHILE ON EARTH … and God's goodwill to make a way possible for a sinner to be saved, through His son Jesus born as a babe that Christmas night. B. Salvation Delivered!     2:15-18 1. Hadn't God promised a Messiah all through the Old Testament? YES! 2. Had God kept all His other promises? YES! 3. And now He was delivering on that promise, as He always does! 4. If for no other reason than this we could believe in God, His record of keeping His word is solid through history!!! ILLUS:Sometimes a political candidate who wishes to be returned to office will say, "I stand on my record." Our faith stands on the record of what God has done, on the record of promises kept. John 20:31 says "These are written that you may believe." Faith is not inherited, nor does it come by accident. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God and discovering that God keeps his promises. Faith is "standing on the promises." -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997). 5. God delivered His only Son to free us from sin! a. How different from all other religions on earth! (1. Buddhism teaches that "All life is suffering" and that we must learn from each moment of suffering in order to move to a higher plane, there are no gods, just suffering and advancement, death and rebirth over and over again. (2. Mohammed, the father of the Islamic faith FLED FROM PERSECUTION, how different from Jesus who willingly went to the cross for us! ILLUS:The Muslim calendar is dated from the Hegira, when Mohammed fled to Medina to escape persecution. Our calendar is also dated from a journey, but it was not a journey to flee persecution. Christ willingly made the journey from Heaven to earth, and when his time had come, willingly went to the cross to die at the hands of his enemies. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997). (3. Hinduism has many gods, as many as 330 million! So how do you know if you have the right one? -- you don't!!! (4. Secular Humanism teaches that we will all save ourselves, we don't need a god or gods. Just look how good the human race has done so far in saving itself, guess that speaks enough for this belief!! b. Jesus is the only founder of any religion that died willingly for His followers … all the other religious leaders want their followers to die for them! (still true today … look at Osama Bin Laden!) 6. Christians have PEACE with God and also with man, for our sinful nature is no longer ruling us, in Christ we have been given His Spirit so we aren't ruled by the flesh but by His Spirit. a. Yes, the message was correct, God did not lie! b. But to find this true peace you have to have God's favor resting on you, that's what the angels said … and the only way to have God's favor is to have His son in your heart, Jesus the savior of the world! c. It would be "for all the people." 2:10 7. God delivered salvation to mankind, and it came in a manger as a babe … the very Son of God Himself … do you know Him and His peace in your heart! a. If you do then the message rings true to your ears, "Peace on earth." b. If you don't know Christ you will never find peace on earth! c. What will it be this Christmas for you? 8. His birth promised PEACE ON EARTH, His death and resurrection promised a PLACE IN HEAVEN. Do you know Him? CONCLUSION:    "Peace on earth, good will toward men…" REALLY? Where do we see it? Did God lie when He promised this 2000 years ago? GOD DID NOT LIE … He delivered on the promise … His peace on earth resides IN people -- "…upon whom His favor rests." His peace would be ON earth, not just IN the earth. As His people live here there IS peace ON earth, in the human soul that knows Christ's salvation!