December 25, 2016
St Paul’s Anglican Church
“The Prince of Peace”
We have assembled this sacred morning (on Christmas Day) to celebrate a miracle –when God took our form… and revealed Himself to us as a little Child. This is as close to an oxymoron as we might ever find! God, the greatest (and source) of all beings and without beginning or end… ineffable (totally indescribable by words) – becomes the smallest, weakest, most vulnerable member of the human family!
He tabernacled among us in human flesh – full of grace and truth. He Who measures millions of light-years of interstellar space with His span Himself became a span long and slept in a wooden manger – a feeding trough — full of hay!
His arrival was hailed by the Prophet Isaiah –the Fifth Evangelist — as the turning point of human history! He likened His arrival to the shining of bright cheerful, healing light – which silently overcomes impenetrable darkness! His birth would bring those waiting for Him joy like that of the harvest when the efforts of sowing… watering… tending… guarding crops finally – and silently – brings forth its precious yield!
And just as Gideon’s defeat of the Midianite overlords freed God’s people from dreadful servitude – breaking a powerful yoke of bondage that had almost become permanent — so, too, Christ’s coming into this world signaled the final shift in the battle against the forces of darkness!
Whereas other battles find their outcomes through deafening noise and commotion, the blast of trumpets and the glint of swords on shields… the great conflict with sin and evil would be resolved silently by fire! By the cloven tongues of flame Christ sent us in the Person of the Holy Spirit!
The Savior came not as a royal dignitary with fabulous retinue. Nor did He appear as a mighty conqueror under the blare of silver trumpets. His coming was – quite the contrary – as an humble, helpless Child on a moonlit night under the watch of unblinking stars and beasts of burden!
Animals knew more of His austere arrival that serene evening than the “great ones” of this earth! And we can learn from them – not to always take what we want… or think we deserve. A self-imposed degree of austerity is very healthy. The greatest among us often grew up with the least! They felt the cold breath of deprivation and austerity.
Then come some of the most famous words in all of the Bible!
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…
Here Isaiah points out Jesus’ two natures. Child speaks of His descent from Adam through His mother Mary! And Son speaks of His divine descent from His Heavenly Father!
For non-Christian religions generally, and especially so before Christ’s arrival, all “being” was understood as “un-divided being” with our differences as “degree” or “position” on the “chain of being.” At the top were those “deified” individuals – the philosopher-kings – who were understood to be “divine.” This was certainly true of the Egyptian Pharaohs… the Assyrian monarchs… the Babylonian leaders… especially was it so with the Greek pantheon of gods… as well as the Roman Caesars…
In 17 B.C., Caesar Augustus (also known as Octavian) proclaimed himself as the “world’s savior” with a twelve-day advent celebration!
In her humble, beautiful hymn of praise known as the Magnificat, dear Mary could see the outcome clearly – for Jesus and for the philosopher-kings. She prophesied that He would put down the mighty from their thrones and raise those of low degree. Why? Because Jesus – with His two natures (human and divine) is alone the unique link between heaven and earth! He Himself is Lord of all! Of His government there will be no end!
We read of four meaningful titles proclaimed on behalf of this Child! Wonderful Counselor… Mighty God… Everlasting Father… Prince of Peace! Each could be the subject of a sermon! This morning, however, let us briefly direct our attention to His title Prince of Peace.
…and his name shall be called… The Prince of Peace.
We all know that a prince is the son of a king. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, He came among us not only as a son of Adam! He also came among us as the Son of the Highest — Who rules this Universe.
We all know what the word “peace” means – or, at least we think we know! The general connotation in our day is solitude, summed up in the phrase made famous by the Swedish-born actress, Gretta Garbo, almost 75-years ago: I want to be left alone…
Another common meaning for the word “peace” in our day is absence of conflict — summed up eloquently in the dear letter written by a Civil War soldier over 150-years ago to his family on Christmas Day while positioned in a frozen trench at Fredricksburg – thousands of dead soldiers on the fields before him:
“Oh, that peace may soon be restored to our young but dearly beloved country and that we may all meet again in happiness.”
But the Biblical meaning of the word “peace” is much greater than just solitude! It has a much fuller meaning that even absence of conflict! The word employed by the prophet Isaiah and applied to Christ — translated by our English word “peace” — is the famous Hebrew term shalom. It is a mighty word, indeed, possessing majesty all its own!
The true meaning of (SHALOM) peace is health… well being… soundness (of mind, of soul, of body)… happiness… prosperity… safety… security… wholeness…
The Prince of Peace is the only One Who possesses such healing powers… and they are His Alone to dispense as He sees fit.
This is why Charles Wesley, of old, showed such great insight in the lyrics:
Ris’n with healing in his wings,
Light and life to all he brings,
Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Hail, the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
This concept of the healing powers of kings and princes has been well-established in literature for thousands of years — and most recently made popular once again in the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. The concept rests squarely upon the cherished title before us this morning concerning the Christ Child – Prince of Peace…
It is our great privilege to kneel before Him and to worship Him this sacred morning of His Birth!
He came to bring vertical healing – between God and man… He also came to bring horizontal healing between men and women… brothers and sisters… sons and daughters.
Many received healing from the Prince of Peace during His tireless earthly Ministry. Many have received healing by His grace and unmerited favor ever since.
He is the soothing balm of Gilead…
The consolation of Israel…
the healing salve for all that troubles the soul…
…and His healing powers reach far beyond medicines and therapies…
He has come into our sphere to heal you… to heal me…
… to heal all who seek it from Him…
The Prince of Peace has come with healing in His wings…
And today we worship him at His Birth…
…unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given… and his name shall be called… The Prince of Peace.
World without end… Amen.