The Promise of Peace – Worship @ Home Sunday, 06 December 2020

Arrangement and photo: Steven Turner

The Salvation Army, Prestonpans Corps
Major Steven Turner

Advent 2 – Peace

Last Sunday we lit the candle of Hope, remembering the hope which comes in Christ. Today we light the second candle of Advent, the candle of Peace.

God has a peaceful dream for the world, and we dream it too. We dream of a peaceful world where wolves, leopards and lions each eat, sleep and dance in companion with lambs, kids, and calves. We dream of a peaceful world where the people of the nation’s come together, war only a memory, and we eat as friends at one table.

We light this candle in Peace.

On this day, we remember the Lord of All who brings peace surpassing all understanding.

Dear Jesus, you entered our world on Christmas as the Prince of Peace. This Advent, as we strive to become the-best-version-of-ourselves, fill us with a deep and abiding peace. Help us share that peace with everyone we encounter, especially those who need it most. Amen.

Song Come thou long expected Jesus

Come, thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in thee.

Sweet chiming bells,
O how they ring,
To welcome Christ, the new-born King.
Sweet chiming bells,
O how they ring,
To welcome Christ, the King.

All thy people’s consolation,
Hope of all the earth thou art;
Dear desire of ev’ry nation,
Joy of ev’ry longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us for ever,
Now thy gracious Kingdom bring.

By thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By thine all-sufficient merit
Raise us to thy glorious throne.

Verses: Charles Wesley
Chorus: Anon.

Pray the Lord’s Prayer

Bible Reading      Isaiah 9:1-7

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honour Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan –

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.

You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
when dividing the plunder.

For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.

Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.

For to 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 Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and for ever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.

Song It came upon the midnight clear

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth
To touch their harps of gold;
Peace on the earth, goodwill to men,
From Heav’n’s all-gracious King!
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.

But with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong.
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.

For lo! the days are hast’ning on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold,
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendours fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

Edmund Hamilton Sears

The Promise of Peace

Introduction

It’s often been said that since the First (or Second) World War, there have never been a day of true world peace. This “fact” depends a little on how you define War, but it’s almost certainly true that some sort of conflict or argument happens every day, somewhere (and probably in many places) around the world.

Whether siblings bickering, politicians arguing, hotly contested sports matches or physical fighting, confrontation seems to be part of the human make up. Although much is made of the struggle for peace on so many levels, we seem incapable of achieving it or sustaining it for any length of time.

Yet at Christmas time, we hear again the song of the angels:

‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.’

Luke 2:14

and pray that it might be true for us in the coming year. But it’s important to understand the biblical foundation of peace.

The Prince of Peace

Isaiah spoke his famous words at a time when the kingdom of Israel (the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali in verse 1) had been overrun by the Assyrians, and the inhabitants of the southern kingdom of Judah were in the firing line.

For to 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 Counsellor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.

(Isaiah 9:6-7a)

Although some scholars think this poem or hymn may have been written for the birth of a royal prince, it seems to have its greatest resonance towards the future restoration of Israel, based on a promise God made to David many years earlier.

When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. (2 Samuel 7:12-13)

(As an aside, have you ever wondered how Jesus, God’s Son, could be called “Eternal Father”? A better translation would be “Father of Eternity”, in the sense of the originator or creator. This ties in with John’s statement that “through him [Jesus, the Word] all things were made”, John 1:3)

Although not without faults, David had been a King after God’s own heart. Perhaps this quality is what God had in mind when he promised that one of David’s descendants would sit on an eternal throne.

Isaiah first reminds his hearers of the defeat of the Midianites accomplished by Gideon, of the lowest family in the smallest tribe, with no military experience – but by the power of God. And he ends his opening prediction with the phrase:

The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.

(v7 end)

In other words, the people cannot at this time rescue themselves.

A tiny baby

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA

Israel had to wait over 400 years for the actual birth announcement of this baby, when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary.

You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants for ever; his kingdom will never end.’

(Luke 1:31-33)

Although Peace is not mentioned directly, this message was clearly meant to echo the words of Isaiah. It probably seemed as far-fetched to Mary as the earlier prophesy did to the besieged population of Jerusalem. Whoever heard of a young girl getting pregnant before she had lain with a man?

The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

(v35)

Again, peace will not come through human action, but through God’s Mighty Arm (see v 55 in Mary’s song).

A different kind of peace

Shortly before his crucifixion, Jesus also gave the promise of peace to his disciples:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

(John 14:27)

And Paul, Peter and John open their letters to the early Christians with the greetings in the form “Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philemon 1:3). There’s even a similar greet to the seven churches at the beginning of the Revelation.

All of these are to stress that true peace comes only from God.

However, the peace that is spoken of here is only temporary, in the sense that it is a gift of God despite the turmoil around us. This is what enables victims a horrendous crimes to forgive the perpetrators, those who endure protracted and debilitating illness to remain joyful, and countless ordinary people to carry on in the face of tragedy, grief and loss.

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA

But Isaiah’s prophecy looks even further forward, to a Prince who sits on an eternal throne; a time when God will once again live with his people, as he did in Jesus, when he inaugurates the New Heaven and the New Earth.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’

(Revelation 21:3-4)

In that day, we won’t simply be asking for peace in the midst of war, family disputes, contentious politics or natural disasters. In that day, the Prince of Peace will rule over all things and all will be peace.

Conclusion

In this year of Coronavirus, when our lives have been turned upside down, we have witnessed great sacrifice and community spirit. However, we have also seen great selfishness and greed, hunger for power and control. Sometimes bitter arguments have raged over PPE, lockdowns, herd immunity and more.

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND

The global pandemic has revealed how interconnected we all are, and how actions in one country can affect another. Large parts of our economic and social structures have been shown to be fragile. We have seen people at their best and their worst, and it is still not over. Some leaders have described this time as a war – a little dramatic, perhaps, but we are certainly not at peace in this moment.

Into this turbulent time, as in similar situations down the centuries, Isaiah’s prophecy, Gabriel’s announcement, Jesus’ promise and Paul’s greeting offer us a promise of peace, whatever our circumstances, when we put our trust in God.

This begs the question: how are you and I facing the battles of daily life, whether personal or global? Are you trying to find your own way through?

Let’s take a moment now to lay our concerns at the feet of Jesus and ask for his peace amidst the storms that surround us.

Prayer

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-NC

Lord, in a season when every heart should be happy and light, many of us are struggling with the heaviness of life—burdens that steal the joy right out of our stockings. Tragedy arrives as innocent victims suffer, and an inner voice whispers, “Be afraid!” We need your peace, Jesus.

We confess that our hearts are too often filled with wonder of a different kind: wondering when the bills will be paid, when the terror will stop, when rest will come. Will it ever? Is the message still true?

In a world where worry, not peace, prevails, stir up that good news again. This Advent, make it real in our hearts. Never have we needed Your joy and peace more than now.

Thank You for the gift of Jesus, our Immanuel, the Word made flesh. We not only need Your peace and joy; Lord, we crave it. You’ve promised rest for the weary, victory for the battle-scarred, peace for the anxious, and acceptance for the broken hearted—not just at Advent, but every day of every year.

Your name is still called “Wonderful,” “Counsellor,” “The Mighty God,” “The Everlasting Father,” and “The Prince of Peace.” We know that peace on earth can only come when hearts find peace with You.

You are still our Joy. You are still our Peace. You are no longer a babe in the manger. You are Lord of lords and King of kings. And we still celebrate You as Lord—this Christmas and always.

~Edited from Rebecca Barlow Jordan’s
A Prayer for Peace & Joy at Christmas” 

Song Hark the herald angels sing

Hark! the herald angels sing:
Glory to the new-born King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled.
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim,
Christ is born in Bethlehem.
Hark! the herald angels sing:
Glory to the new-born King.

https://angel119.wordpress.com/2010/08/05/sing-when-it-hurts/

Christ, by highest Heav’n adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord,
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus, our Immanuel.
Hark! the herald angels sing:
Glory to the new-born King.

Hail the Heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the sun of righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Ris’n with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing:
Glory to the new-born King.

Charles Wesley
Verse 3 by Martin Madan

Benediction

May God’s blessing surround you each day,
As you trust Him and walk in His way.
May His presence within guard and keep you from sin.
Go in peace, go in joy, go in love.

About prophetable

My wife Elizabeth and I were commissioned as Officers (ministers) in The Salvation Army in 1997, and have served in appointments in England and Scotland. Since July 2016 I have been working in The Salvation Army's Scotland Office as combined parliamentary and ecumenical representative.
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