Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Bethany Bullet-Tuesday, November 4, 2008

“For Unto Us A Child is Born…..” I know that Halloween has just passed and today we celebrate the Saints that have gone before us. However, our six words for the month of November push our minds to Christmas. It seems that Christmas comes earlier and earlier and if you have been out in some of the big retail stores you know that the Christmas decorations are already there for the taking. Some people get all bent out of shape when it seems that the Christmas season gets longer and longer but in reality it is never too early to start talking about Christmas.

“Unto us a Child is Born”. These words provide the climax of a story that is thousands of years in the making; a story that has shaped history and humanity since creation. The days of the Messiah were still in the distant future when the prophet Isaiah penned these words but he already knew the story; the story of salvation, a story of peace.

It All Started in the Garden
For six days God was creating. For one day he took rest. Everything was good. Peace reigned and God walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the morning, in the midst of the garden that he created. There was no war. There was no talk about sin, or exile, or separation. There was peace that passes all of our understanding. But, sin reared its ugly head.

With One Bite, All Humanity Fell
The warning was clear- “Eat it and you will die.” But the serpent, the devil himself took it as a challenge. “Did God really say those things?” The seed was planted, rebellion was at hand, and the days of peace were coming to an abrupt end. The blame game began, fingers began to point and what was once perfect and peaceful was now fallen and fractured and in open rebellion towards God.

Peace Was Now Beyond Our Understanding
“I will greatly increase your pains”, “Cursed, the ground because of you”, “By the sweat of your brow”, “Dust you are, dust you’ll be” - Harsh words from a just God. The story of sin and suffering is found throughout the pages of scripture: a brother’s murder, a banishment, a world destroyed by flood, a rebellious people building a tower to God, slavery in Egypt, warfare and exile. Peace was far out of reach.

In Hebrew peace is Shalom. But it is more than just a word, to a Hebrew. Shalom brings salvation. It is personified in the person of God who brings what he is, at it was now lost.

But God Promised To Send Help
But throughout the story we catch glimpses of the grace and mercy of God: a provision of clothing, a sign of protection, an ark of wood, a rescue from slavery, bread from heaven, and a remnant returns. In the midst of the darkest days, God continued to give the people hope. The people who were walking in darkness, who lived lives in anticipation of the fulfillment of the promise were soon to see the great light of salvation that would come in the form of a baby, who would bring peace.

Unto Us A Child Is Born (Isaiah 9:6)
“Unto 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 Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.”

In the middle of Isaiah’s warnings to the people headed for exile is this wonderful reminder that God will not forget his chosen people and that he will remember them and bring peace. It is the centerpiece of the story, the coming of Shalom in the flesh.

Some 700 years after Isaiah’s reminder of the peace that was coming, the skies were filled with an angelic choir singing, “Glory to God in the highest.” “Peace on earth Goodwill to All.” In Bethlehem, the child was born. The shepherds, who heard the angels sing, found the babe, wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger. In spite of our rebellion, in spite of our disobedience, God’s promise of peace was fulfilled, but the story was not over.

The child grew and as Jesus began his ministry he started preaching a message of peace. Paul reminds us in Ephesians, “For he himself is our peace.” He did what we could not. His life was a perfect example. For the sake of peace he allowed himself to be betrayed, beaten, spit upon, and nailed to the cross. He willingly went to the cross to bring peace. But he didn’t stay dead. Three days later he broke the chains of death and the devil. His resurrection brings peace to you and to me for in his life, we find life and peace with God once more. Before he went to the cross he comforted his disciples and said, “My peace I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.” Jesus gives us peace through his life, death, and resurrection and he comes to us today in the bread and wine.

The peace that we have received is not to be kept a secret. The shepherds spread the news the very night they saw the child. The woman at the well went to the whole village to tell of her encounter with the Messiah. When we pass the peace just before communion it is much more than just a time to say hello, it is a time to bring the peace of Jesus to someone, to a relationship, to a situation, to a person in need. We should pray, “Make us instruments of your peace.” True peace will come again when Jesus returns, so we like those of old live in anticipation of the return of our Savior. That is what the season of Advent is all about, living in the joyful expectation of the return of Jesus. Even though we are a few weeks away from Advent, it is never too early to live in the hope of the coming peace.

It all started in the garden
With one bite, all humanity fell.
Peace on earth was no longer.
But God promised to send help.
Unto us a child is born.
For He, Himself is our peace.
My peace I give to you
Make us instruments of your peace.


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