Our Prince of Peace – A Christmas Sermon

by Joseph Franks

Isaiah 8:18-9:7

Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the Lord of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion. And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.

They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward. And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness. But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish.

In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Peace is going, going, gone!

Peace had already been forfeited by those in the northern tribes of Israel. They had broken God’s Law, sinned, and not repented. For the most part, the congregation of Israel refused to humble themselves, accept the love, mercy, grace, reconciliation, peace, and wisdom offered by God. Therefore, God determined to leave them be. He turned them over to their own depravity. Israel was allowed to reap that which they had sown. Justly, they were sentenced to suffer the consequences of their actions, and it was horrible. The Assyrians came in and had their way with Israel. God’s northern nations were invaded, plundered, raped, relocated, desecrated, and destroyed. Israel was hurting, and oh how they longed for peace.

The southern tribes of Judah have witnessed all of this, and sadly are beginning to walk in their big sister’s footsteps. Yes, at the present time, they are still enjoying some of their peace. Politically, they still have their independence. Financially, they still have their homes, farms, possessions, and riches. Relationally, they sill have their sons and daughters. And religiously, they still have their Temple, their priests, their furniture, and their rituals. However, despite their religious show, the congregation of the south is spiritually bankrupt.

In love, God has sent Isaiah to them. He is a prophet of Yahweh, the One True God, the Living God. He is the Law Giver from Mt. Sinai. He is the Bloody Substitute from Mt. Calvary. He is the Reigning Sovereign from Mt. Zion, and he has something to say. Isaiah has a prophetic oracle to deliver to Judah before it is too late. In love, Yahweh is calling his southern daughters to repent — to accept his love, mercy, grace, reconciliation, peace, and wisdom.

God and his prophets are consistently being rejected by his people. It seems it is a constant temptation for the congregations of the Lord to value alternative counsel. Judah, instead of inquiring of and heeding the counsel of the Lord, continues to inquire of mediums, witches, fortune-tellers, spiritual shamans, and other agents of the dark side. They are sad and they are crazy. Instead of harkening to the voice of the Almighty One who booms from heaven and speaks intimately to the heart, they prefer inarticulate, chirping, muttering, noisemakers. Instead of listening to the Author of Life who lives forever, they prefer to consult the dead. And instead of rightly valuing Him who is the Light, they make much of teaching with no hope — that with no ray of light — that which enlightens not.

Isaiah begs his people not to be so foolish. Should not the children of God listen to their God? Should not those who are believers consult the Word? Please, he urges them, run to the “teaching” and the “testimony.”

However, they will not do so. God and Isaiah will be dismissed. For Judah, like Israel, has learned to prefer alternative counsel. Therefore, their appointment with God’s hand of discipline is right around the corner. Judah is hurting and about to hurt more. Judah, who still has some measure of peace, is about to lose it. Her peace, like Israel’s, is going, going, gone.

What would happen in the days to come?

  • Judah would not be situated inhabitants in the Promised Land. Instead they would become traveling, wandering, sojourners passing through the Canaan.
  • Judah would not be characterized as people sabbathing and resting. Instead they would become people greatly distressed.
  • Judah would not be a people satisfied in the Land of Milk and Honey. They would not be like sheep before the Shepherd who “have no want.” Instead, they would be a dissatisfied, hungry, and imitated people.
  • Judah would not be a people singing Psalms to God and his king. Instead, they would be engulfed with spiteful anger and it would be expressed with sharp tongues.
  • Judah would not enjoy land, seed, and blessing. Instead their lot would be distress, darkness, and gloom of anguish. Then it would or could get really bad; thick darkness was over the horizon.

Judah, like Israel, was loosing all her peace. Spiritual peace, personal peace, family peace, neighborly peace; it was on the way out. And if things were left in such a condition, only hell was around the bend. The peace of Israel and Judah was going, going, gone.

The Prince of Peace is Coming!

Israel and Judah deserve nothing but justice, judgment, condemnation, sentence, and darkness followed by thick darkness. They have earned and merited hell — on earth and forever. However, God will not let them be.

God, through his prophet, promises a striking turn of events.

  • Those receiving justice, they would receive mercy and grace.
  • Those experiencing anguish, they would no longer be in gloom.
  • Those who have become contemptible, they would be gloriously honored.
  • Those who dwell in darkness, they will see a great light.
  • Those who have children subtracted, they will see children multiplying.
  • Those who hunger, they will experience festive, Thanksgiving-like joy.
  • Those in bondage, they will be granted liberty. (I.e. Gideon and Midian)
  • Those weary of war, they will see all remnants and reminders burned.

From where will this grace come? Interestingly, it will stem from the northern tribes of Israel. Even more interestingly, it will come from the pitiful areas of Zebulun and Naphtali in backwoods Galilee.

Upon whom will this grace fall? It is for Israel, Judah, and the Gentiles.

Who will be the champion of this grace? It will be God Himself in human flesh coming to earth as a Galilean child. His personal name is not yet given, but how about some titles? Men and women will call him, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.”

How fantastic will be his influence? The government will be placed upon his strong shoulders, and his kingdom will continually increase. One might even say it would be like a mustard seed growing into a mighty tree. It will begin in the house of David, in the city of David, on the throne of David, over the people of David, and it will expand throughout the world — from pole to pole. And fantastically, it will be characterized by justice and righteousness. And here is the best part, it will go on and on and on. The Peace he brings will never be going, going, gone. The darkness he saves us from will be going, going, gone. His reign of love, mercy, grace, wisdom, justice, righteousness, and  peace will be forever and ever.

Are we sure? Yes we are sure. The “zeal of the Lord of Hosts” will bring this about. He is passionate and powerful; he can’t wait to make this happen.

The Prince of Peace is Desired

All of us long for peace with God.

We may not all agree on the number of gods. We may not all agree on the name of God. All may not appreciate the same attributes of God. But whatever our century, whatever our continent, whatever our culture, whatever our church practice, all hope to be able to stay in good stead with the deity.

  • Some spin prayer wheels
  • Some skip meals and fast.
  • Some engage in whirling dance and mystic trance
  • Some take pilgrimages
  • Some put sacred markings on their face
  • Some sacrifice their money
  • Some sacrifice their children
  • Some go to church at Christmas and Easter
  • Some go to church twice each Sunday
  • Some go to church almost every day (Choir, Visitation, Prayer, Fellowships)
  • Some light candles
  • Some read newspapers
  • Some ride bicycles
  • Some wear special undergarments
  • Some add wives
  • Some avoid wives
  • Some enter confessionals
  • Some have long sideburns
  • Some save the earth
  • Some save the animals
  • Some save the children
  • Some skip it all and sit on a mountaintop

Why do they do what they do? Why do we do what we do? All of us are desperate for some degree of peace with God.

Perhaps we can pacify him and convince him not to harm us. Maybe we can get him to wink at sin and look in the other direction. (I.e. Islam)

Better yet, if we do our religion right, may we can get him to listen and answer our prayers; perhaps we can get some magical help from him. (I.e. Pagan rites)

Some of us have even higher hopes. Perhaps, if we can perform just right, we can get him to the point of enjoying us and we can then enjoy him. (I.e. Legalistic Christianity)

All of us hope, when our days come to an end, we will get to see the “bright light at the end of the tunnel” and not the “burning fire of hell.” All of us hope to be found with Peter and the eleven; we hope not to see Judas at the end of our earthly journey.

All of us long for peace with ourselves.

Yes, we walk about putting forth a happy and confident face. We like to pretend we need not the stroking, acceptance, or accolades of others. We like to pretend we are a “rock” or an “island.” We want others to know how comfortable we are in our own skin. But all of us, or at least many of us, have our inner demons. We all have internal issues.

Many of us are not at peace with our sin-filled, sin-wrecked past. We hate the:

  • Sins we have committed
  • Words we can never take back
  • Trusts we have violated
  • People we have abused
  • Substances we have wrongly used
  • Addictions we have developed
  • Opportunities we have squandered
  • Criminal actions we have committed
  • Reputations we have earned
  • Relationships we have ruined
  • People to whom we can never apologize
  • Sins that cannot be undone

Yes, many of us hate the skeletons in our closet, and because of them we are filled with regret and remorse. Oh how we wish there was a time machine or a rewind button. We think, “if only we could forgive ourselves as quickly as we forgive others.” But for many of us, there is no peace.

Many of us are not at peace with our sin-filled, sin-wrecked present. Truth be known, we are so embarrassed of who we really are today. We know our façade. We know our fickleness. We are very aware of what the Law of God requires, and there is no denying our lack of love for God and for our neighbor. Inside, we sense our tiny appreciation for righteousness and our consistent longing for sin. And our thought life — our miserable thought life — if anyone knew what went on within our head and heart they would question our salvation. God knows at times we do.

Then, many of us are really weary of our chameleon-like, people-pleasing selves. Some of us have learned to put image and people way too high on our priority list. We have been driven to look sharp and hear a constant stream of “I like you” or “Well done.” We are driven to receive the praises of men — those stated and unstated. But after years of this, we are are weary of shifting, morphing, politicking, and laboring to fit in. We are exhausted of changing our personalities, our identities, and our stated beliefs to conform to the environment at hand and keep hand whomever is prominently before us. Frankly, we have done it for so long, others do not know who we really are. We have done it for so long, we aren’t even sure we know who we are any more. And now we just want to be real, transparent, genuine, and at peace.

All of us long for peace with our families.

Aren’t we tired of the strife in our marriages?  Children, doesn’t it just wear you out to hear and see mom and dad going at it? Parents, don’t we long to see our children being more respectful and peaceable to us and to their siblings. Isn’t it your hope that as your family grows older and larger, they will grow tighter and tighter as well?

All of us long for peace with our neighbors.

None of us want continual strife with the neighbor next door. When we come to church, we want a place where discord is not present. That is why we make that particular vow to “pursue the peace and purity of the church.” No one appreciates the angry driver, much less can we handle that man or woman at the office. Everyone wants to see that bitter, angry, grumpy, discourteous owner, manager, leader, fellow worker, or employee go. We desire national peace. Sure, we are willing to fight for and divide on certain issues, but we wish to do so with the statesmanlike demeanor of yesteryear. Then there is world peace. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could turn our swords into plowshares and all just get along. We, along with the United Nations, dream of such a fairytale existence. I’m sure there are some exceptions. The cartoons have Oscar the Grouch.  On our sitcoms we have had the Honeymooners, Archie Bunker, Roseanne Barr, Newman, Grumpy Old Men, House, and South Park. In our Christmas stories we have Ebenezer Scrooge. And in the real world we see leaders such as Stalin, Hitler, Fidel Castrol, Kim Jong-un, and Michael Moore. But for the most part, all of us are interested in a world where men, women, neighbors, and nations experience peace.

All of us celebrate and practice peace every Christmas.

Each holiday season, family members who dislike one another come together and let bygones be bygones. At office parties, people who despise each another show a bit more tenderness around the coffee, punch, and cookies. Around the holidays, those who found God too intrusive and time consuming choose to attend church on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. There they sit peacefully, learn of peace, sing of peace, and with their candles pass the peace. Then they drive home, and with believers and unbelievers on the radio they joyfully sing:
Each holiday season, as they drive home from their services, banquets, and parties, believers and unbelievers sing:

  • “Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn king. Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.”
  • “I heard the bells on Christmas day, there old familiar carols play, and mild and sweet their songs repeat, of peace on earth goodwill to men, and the bells are ringing – peace on earth ….”
  • “Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright. Round yon virgin, mother and child, holy infant so tender and bright, sleep in heavenly peace ….”

Isn’t it all grand? Isn’t it all peaceful? It is indeed the most wonderful time of the year Peace brother!

Peace … going, going, gone

The lasting peace we wanted and the seasonal peace we enjoyed is replaced by ongoing war and strife, and this happens each and every year. Many of us who go to church and sing songs of peace on earth and goodwill to men, we find ourselves not enjoying peace with God. Simply because we have had an emotional boost through our singing, spirits, and interaction with Santa, we find all is not at peace within. Yes, our families got together, ate a few meals, read the Jesus’ story, and purchase expensive gifts for one another, but we found again you can’t buy love and peace. At the office, things go back to normal. So too will things on Capital Hill; merely because our politicians went home or gathered for prayer at the National Cathedral, this did not make the winter session any more peaceable. And Russia, North Korea, ISIS, and the US all had their  holiday festivities, but this did not result in world peace.

In the Second World War, on one Christmas Day, the French and German armies put down their weapons, left their trenches, foxholes, and bunkers, and played a game in the neutral zone. For a time they enjoyed football and peace. However, two days later they were hurling grenades at one another. Well, this is our experience, year after year after year.

But there is a greater problem. Many who are living without peace in darkness, have a greater or thicker darkness yet ahead. The lack of peace they are experiencing in this life will seem gleeful compared to the lack of peace in the place created for the devil and his angels. Hell is real, and it is the eternal place of war, strife, misery, anguish, and gloom. And this is what we have earned and deserved.

If only there was hope.

If only there was a second chance.

If only there as a world leader who could help us — Mr. International of world peace.

The Prince of Peace is Here

God kept his word regarding judgment. He allowed Judah to be besieged. Hundreds-of-thousands of men lost their lives in war. Thousands of children were taken to Babylon for re-education. Judah to lose her temple and her priests; her sacred temple was ransacked, desecrated, burned, and leveled. God caused Judah to lose her spiritual peace, her individual peace, her familial peace, her neighborhood peace, and her national peace. Yes, God’s Word is true, and he always does that which he promises, predicts, and prophecies.

God kept his word regarding love, mercy, grace, reconciliation, and peace. From Galilee the special male child came. The deity took on human flesh and visited the earth. In his humiliation, he obeyed, suffered and died. The Father poured out his wrath and his war upon the Son. It was brutal! It was dark! There was anguish and gloom. He who was honored was posted upon a cross as contemptable. But that being over, Jesus rose from the grave and is now the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.

How fantastic is his influence? The government has been placed upon his strong shoulders, and his kingdom is continually increasing. One might even say it is like a mustard seed growing into a mighty tree. It began in the house of David, in the city of David, on the throne of David, over the people of David, and it is now expanding throughout the world — from pole to pole. And fantastically, it is and will finally be characterized by justice and righteousness. And here is the best part, it goes on and on and on. The Peace he brings is never be going, going, gone. The darkness he saves us from is that which is going, going, gone. His reign of love, mercy, grace, wisdom, justice, righteousness, and peace is forever and ever. And all of this because of his loving passion and zeal — the Lord of Hosts has accomplished this.

Friends, Jesus is here. He is alive. He is in the room. He is interested in you. This is his church. This is his house, and he calls out offering, inviting, and commanding you to receive his terms and experience his peace. Perfect peace with God is right before you. Bow before him and receive his gifts today!

Divine peace is yours. You no longer have to fret over yesterday’s sins. You no longer have to bury your head because of today’s or tomorrow’s sins. You no longer have to lose peace when you keep not the Law. You are covered; the Prince of Peace has clothed you with his perfect righteousness. He likes you very much, and he and the Father are always saying, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” And when they discipline you, it is always out of love for you and yours.

Self peace is yours. You no longer have to perform and keep people happy to enjoy peace. You no longer have to find merit, worth, and “that a boys” from men and women. The most important King — the Prince of Peace — has made, remade, and is working in you.

Family peace is yours. As you and your family grows in the Gospel and in the outward image of Jesus Christ, love and harmony are more and more enjoyed.

World peace is yours. There will be a day when the lion lays down with the lamb.

Eternal peace is yours. That which Jesus gives goes on and on and on. It is forever and ever. His gifts are irrevocable.

Recall his peace. Read of it everyday. Come to church and gather with friends to hear it again. Learn to speak of it and encourage your brothers and sisters.

Defend his peace. Do not let yourself be lied to by Satan and his legalistic friends. You cannot perform to get his peace. You cannot perform well enough to keep his peace. It was never based upon your works, and it is still not based upon your works. “Grace and Peace” is the name of a church down the road. “Grace and Peace” is the salutation quite often used by God’s Apostles. “Grace and Peace” is the proper order for all who understand the Gospel. Anything else is an accursed anathema.

Spread his peace. You have the best news ever. Tell all your family, friends, and neighbors. They need it. They want it. They have it not unless they are in a relationship with the Prince. Let’s be blessed peacemakers who exemplify the peace and spread it through actions and words.

Finally, enjoy and glorify the Prince of Peace. He is the Wonderful Counselor. He knows that which is best for our worship, our souls, our families, our workplaces, our neighborhoods, and our world. Would we really listen to the drivel coming from alternative counsel? Let us listen well to his Word. Let us meditate upon it day and night. For our Wonderful Counselor gives us wonderful counsel. He shows us how to glorify and enjoy him. He shows us how to enjoy a life of peace.

 

 

 

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