12/14/97, A3B

And They Were Sore Afraid”
Luke 2: 8-14

ary Owens had lost her beloved four year old son Jeremiah to Leukemia in June, and as the Christmas season approached the pain of the death became even greater on her heart. As she stood in her kitchen staring out the window she saw little Chris Moore, Jeremiah’s best friend. Poor Chris was always alone now.

Mary had not been any comfort to Chris. Once when Chris asked where Jeremiah was, she sharply told him to ask his mother. A few days before Christmas Chris’ mother invited her over for coffee and she reluctantly accepted. She didn’t know why. She hoped Chris would be outside playing.

After the two women had visited somewhat uncomfortably for a short while, Chris came into the room and took her hand. "Come on. I want to show you something I made," he said as he tugged at her, pulling her into the family room.

Next to the beautifully decorated Christmas tree was a shoe box with popcicle sticks glued all around. As Mary looked inside she saw two little dolls wrapped in towels laying in straw. "That’s the manger and the dolls are Jesus and our Jeremiah. When he could not come out to play anymore my mother told me he went to live with Jesus. See, they are together now."

What a moment of healing. Mary was flooded with a deep sense of inner peace. She now knew that Jeremiah was all right. He was at peace with Jesus. The main mission of the Prince of Peace was to bring peace to our troubled souls. To give assurance to the brokenhearted, the least, the last, and the lost. He takes our broken pieces and gives unbroken peace.

This is the Good News of great joy that the angels sang to the shepherds. God has stepped down the stairway of heaven with a baby in His arms.

We were camping just south of San Francisco, at Half Moon Bay where Ansel Adams had perched on a high cliff and photographed his famous sequential pictures of waves crashing into the rocks far below. I was feebly attempting to emulate his work, when a storm started rising from the sea: Wind began howling, waves roared, I got out rain gear; but then I noticed a little bird nestled in the crevice of a high rock, sound asleep, his head tucked under his wing serenely. That’s the peace that the Babe of Bethlehem came to give to us through the Christmas story.

The message of Shalom was not totally unfamiliar to these Sabbath School educated shepherds: They had heard about joy and peace.. Indeed, all of Israel was expecting the coming of an age of peace through the promised Messiah, Savior, and Man of Peace.

That this new dispensation of peace was for "Everyone/ All People" is perhaps best illustrated in the fact that these third shift shepherds were not Prophets or Kings, but ordinary folks representing the millions who would make their own visits to the manger and find peace, just as Mary Owens did.

In our New Testaments the Greek word ‘eirene’ corresponds to the Hebrew shalom expressing the notion of assurance, confidence, restoration, peace and salvation in the fullest sense. Our God is "The God of Peace" (Romans 15:33).The Gospel is "the good news of peace" (Ephesians 6:15). Indeed this peace that passeth understanding is for all people everywhere.

Christian peace is a byproduct of learning to trust in God’s power and love for us. When we are nervous and upset, we are able to allow God’s ever-present Spirit to make himself known in our hearts. He is our peace.

A fellow identifying himself only as Phil e-mailed me this week. He is probably watching this service on T.V. for he said he never misses. He reported that he had found victory over worry that had tortured him for decades. His situation had not changed, but the Holy Spirit had changed him. He heard the angels singing. Phil said he wanted to share his peace with our congregation and with whoever he could.

What better time than the present to present the present of Christmas peace? We are sending Christmas cards to friends and family during the next few days; why not add a little note of love. Sometimes a small overture can open a big door. In doing our Heavenly Father’s will we can ourselves find a deeper inner peace. Peace is the intentional adjustment of our feelings, and behavior to His plan for our lives.

We never know when and under what circumstance in life that the Lord might break in. Our shepherds were, "...abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid."(Lk. 2:8&9, KJV). That same kind of experience might have happened to you. I have heard many stories of God’s breaking into people’s hearts unexpectedly. Many times it happens in worship, sometimes just before Christmas when our hearts are most vulnerable to new faith. It might be happening to you right now. Your spirit might be soaring, your heart enraptured by His presence.

Don’t be afraid! Allow him room in your life. Go with the feelings you are having about what it is He wants you to do differently. Our shepherds got up and went to the manger and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe. You can also find Him.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

12/14/97, A3B