Let us pray: Dear Savior, how we all long for real, genuine peace! How wonderful it would be to live without any fear, worry, concern, or even pain over whatever life throws at us. It seems so impossible. It seems a cruel illusion to even speak of it. Yet, You tell us: “With God all things are possible!” Even more importantly, You were born into this world to make such peace our living reality through faith in You. For You are God’s gift of Peace to us. Today make our hearts ready to receive Your gift of peace. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE COMING CHRISTMAS KING!
TEXT: Micah 5: 2-5a
Dearly Beloved By the Baby Jesus:
Pain is the great equalizer in life. Pain distills the mind, the body, the soul into their most basic component parts. Pain forces you to focus on what is truly important and what is fluff. Pain causes the mighty to become humble, the strong to become weak, the thoughtless to become thoughtful.
There are all sorts of earthly pains that bring this “leveling out” process to pass. The obvious is physical pain. You might have skated through life with only a few, minor aches and illnesses and thought of your body as the temple that would never let your down. But once a heart attack hits, pain causes you to doubt yourself. Whole hosts of people who thought their house would finance a comfy retirement have had that myth dashed in the past few years. Economic pain destroys the illusion of wealth and the cockiness that often comes with it. And how about the emotional pain of children who go astray, friends who betray you, and the company which cut you loose after years of faithful service? Of course, such pains all pale in comparison to the hurts of death—your spouses, your children’s, and the reality of your own. As I said earlier, pain distills the mind, body and soul into what is vital in life and what is fluff.
As Christians we know that pain is a foreign entity. It doesn’t feel right. It just seems innately wrong. We know that God didn’t create us for pain, but for joy and happiness. Likewise, we know that pain is all a result of human sin. It is the fruit of Adam and Eve’s waywardness when it came to allying themselves with God, or perhaps I should say: against God. So what’s the one answer, the one way out of this conundrum of pain? It is peace. It is inner calmness and certainty of Godly help every moment of every day. And it comes to us only through the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. Yes,
THE BABY JESUS IS OUR PEACE!
Well over 600 years before His birth, God’s people in Israel and the surrounding environs were feeling the crushing effects of earthly pain. Their country was a vassal state of the Assyrian empire. Their wealth was being confiscated. Their people would soon be enslaved. Their world was in turmoil. Yes, not much has changed since then, has it? O, many adopted the way of the ostrich and lived make-believe lives.—Kind of like reality TV today. Others tried to get wealthy and make a few shekels off the situation. Still others became discouraged and wanted to give up on life. But pain, physical, emotional, and spiritual pain remained for everyone. Yes, you can run from pain, but you cannot hide.
Into this mix steps the prophet Micah with words of hope and genuine consolation. Through him God announced that He would send relief from pain. He would not leave us forever to wallow in self-pity, but to soar above the inner hurt that afflicts all. In very precise words He foretells the birth of His Son. He foretells the Who, what, where and why of it all. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” In other words, sometime in the future God’s Son, whose origins are timeless, would be born into human flesh in the backwater town of Bethlehem. And this Son would rule over all of God’s faithful people. Moreover, since He is eternal, His kingdom will never end. Once He comes all subsequent generations will find the answer to human pain and suffering in Him, alone.
God never sugar-coats the truth. Here He also foretells more future pain for the people of Israel at that time which is the result of their taking God for granted, or of their arrogant attempts at living their lives with God as merely an afterthought at best. “Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.” Yes, for the next 600 years this prophecy was fulfilled. Assyrian domination was followed by Babylonian domination which was followed by Persian domination followed by Greek domination and finally Rome arose to oppress and bring more pain. But amid this downer of a prophecy over the earthly future of their lives comes a wonderful kernel of amazing truth: “until the time when she who is in labor gives birth.” The “she” is the virgin Mary. Giving birth was the first Christmas. And the return of his brothers was Pentecosts re-gathering God’s elect from across the globe. Mind you, that re-gathering still continues on to this very day!
“He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be their peace.”
Mary’s Son, God’s Son will tend His flock and rule over them—not by sitting down and being passive but by standing up and being active! Christ is God’s Son. Christ is God’s strength. All He does for us—daily providing earthly blessings, job, income, family, friends, health, food, a purpose for getting up each day (to give God glory in all we do); yes, and giving us spiritual blessings of peace of soul, peace of conscience, peace with God Almighty because He won it on the cross for us—That Jesus will alleviate our pain. He will give us hope amid a hopeless world, help for the helpless, and most of all forgiveness for the guilt-ridden. In Him, through faith in Him, His people will live in security. That is, our souls will be eternally protected from Satan’s arrows of unending pain. And to cap it off, Micah says: “He will be their peace.” Literally in the Hebrew he says: “He=Peace!”
I’m not saying that Christians will never experience pain after they embrace Christ and He embraces them. I’m not saying you and I will never grow old, never have surgery, never have an unexpected bill arrive in the mail, never lose a loved one to death, never have a sleepless night and never confront death on our own deathbed. Micah isn’t saying that, either. Human pain is part of our reality as long as we live in time and space. The question for you is: what are you doing with that pain? What are you learning from it? And are you using it to turn your heart toward the manger or away from it? Turn away and you’re on your own. Turn toward the Christ-Child and the power of His peace and unconditional love provide hope, help, comfort, and Godly strength. One last item: never forget that God’s Peace, birthed in a manger, has obliterated eternal pain. And since time is contained in eternity, that means He is also the only solution to all earthly (time-defined) pain because Christ is eternal. Amen