Advent lasts for four Sundays leading up to Christmas. The time before Christmas is Advent, a season of preparation for Christmas. Christians prepare for celebrating the birth of Jesus by remembering the longing of the Jews for a Messiah. In Advent, we’re reminded of how much we ourselves also need a Savior, and we look forward to our Savior’s second coming even as we prepare to celebrate his first coming at Christmas.
This year 2017 Advent began on Sunday December 3rd and ends on Sunday December 24th, Christmas Eve.
This blog series will be posts on the themes most often used for the four weeks of Advent, Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. This is the second in the series. The first was “The Hope Of Advent” this, the second post is;
The Peace of Advent
Peace (freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility)
Isaiah 9:6 (HCSB) For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
He will rule God's kingdom with God's authority. He will be a Wonder of a Counselor. That is, as a person of two distinct natures—God and Man—he will truly be a wonder from Jehovah; and as the One who alone has the words of eternal life, he will be a counselor like none other. As mighty God, he will be the irresistible battle champion (as this word for "mighty" implies) who will obtain the final victory in the arena of history. As everlasting Father (lit., Father of Eternity), he will be not only lord of eternity but the author of eternal life to the redeemed. As Prince of Peace he will bestow what shālôm, "peace," implies in its fullest meaning: health to the sin-sick soul; a sound and healthy relation between sinners and God, as well as between sinners and fellow sinners; and a sound condition of universal righteousness and prosperity prevailing over the earth. - The Wycliffe Bible Commentary.
Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13 (HCSB)1 LORD, You showed favor to Your land; You restored Jacob’s prosperity.2 You took away Your people’s guilt; You covered all their sin.Selah 8 I will listen to what God will say; surely the LORD will declare peace to His people, His godly ones, and not let them go back to foolish ways.9 His salvation is very near those who fear Him, so that glory may dwell in our land.10 Faithful love and truth will join together; righteousness and peace will embrace.11 Truth will spring up from the earth, and righteousness will look down from heaven.12 Also, the LORD will provide what is good, and our land will yield its crops.13 Righteousness will go before Him to prepare the way for His steps.
Here is what The Wycliffe Bible Commentary says about verses 8-13;
In prophetic fashion the psalmist pauses to hear God's message in answer to the prayer of the people. He is certain that it will be a message of peace. By means of vivid personifications, he describes how real is God's salvation. The union of God's mercy or covenant love and our truth or faithfulness, of His righteousness and our peace of heart, of earth and heaven are certain when God and men meet. As a result of this encounter, God will provide for men's needs and lead them in right paths. For us today, the meeting-place can only be at the foot of the cross.
The Wycliffe Bible Commentary.
In my blog post “The Peace That Passes Understanding”, I wrote that this peace is not just a psychological state of mind; this peace is spiritual peace…the peace of the God of all Creation. This is the peace of people whose sins are forgiven
Romans 5:1 (NKJV) Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
This peace is the opposite of anxiety. It is the tranquillity that comes when you commit all your cares to God in prayer and don’t worry about them anymore. You are confident that God can and will do what is best for you.
Philippians 4:6-7 (HCSB) 6 Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
This peace guards you from anxiety, fear, and worry. From the very beginning, or at least after man sinned in the garden of Eden, God promised to do something about all the agitation and distress in our world. He promised to restore the peace, and He did. He sent the Prince of Peace to come and do what we can’t do for ourselves. Jesus brings true, lasting peace, the kind of peace that all of us are desperately seeking.
The Greek word for peace eirēnē, corresponds to the Hebrew word shalom and expresses the idea of peace, well-being, restoration, reconciliation with God. Reconciliation with God happens at salvation and that only happens through the right relationship with the Prince of Peace, Jesus. The peace that comes from being in a right relationship with Jesus is not a peace that depends on everything going well. If that’s the case, when things go bad, that peace quickly goes away. Jesus made this distinction;
John 14:27 (NKJV) Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
Without a relationship with Jesus we are in opposition to God, we are His enemies.
Colossians 1:21-22 (NKJV)21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight--
Romans 5:10 (NKJV) For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
Sin created a barrier between us and God and we can’t destroy that barrier on our own. Without God’s intervention, we would have never found the way of peace with Him. But He provided the perfect solution to our sin problem. He sent His Son, Jesus, the Prince of Peace, to pay for our sins and remove the separation that existed between us and Him. When we trusted Jesus as our Savior, we were reconciled to God and no longer His enemies. In Jesus, the Prince of Peace, we have peace with God.
Here’s what the angel said when he announced the birth of the Prince of Peace to the shepherds;
Luke 2:14 (NKJV) "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"
Luke 1:5-25 (HCSB)5 In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest of Abijah’s division named Zechariah. His wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth 6 Both were righteous in God’s sight, living without blame according to all the commands and requirements of the Lord.7 But they had no children because Elizabeth could not conceive, and both of them were well along in years.8 When his division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God,9 it happened that he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense.10 At the hour of incense the whole assembly of the people was praying outside.11 An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense.12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and overcome with fear.13 But the angel said to him: Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John.14 There will be joy and delight for you, and many will rejoice at his birth.15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord and will never drink wine or beer. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb.16 He will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God.17 And he will go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to make ready for the Lord a prepared people.18 “How can I know this?” Zechariah asked the angel. “For I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years.”19 The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and tell you this good news.20 Now listen! You will become silent and unable to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary.22 When he did come out, he could not speak to them. Then they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept making signs to them and remained speechless.23 When the days of his ministry were completed, he went back home.24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived and kept herself in seclusion for five months. She said,25 “The Lord has done this for me. He has looked with favor in these days to take away my disgrace among the people.”
When Zechariah got this news from Gabriel ( we do have to admit that this was unbelievable, life changing news) he responded in unbelief so he wanted a sign. (18 “How can I know this?” Zechariah asked the angel. “For I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years.). Maybe he was just scared by the angel appearing, but regardless he didn’t respond to the news with joy, peace, hope and faith, even though He was in the temple. He actually responded with agitation and doubt.
Gabriel responded with agitation and doubt? What was the sign that he got?
This really dovetails with our study on doubt. Zachariah wants to know how, but Gabriel emphasizes belief. When we get confusing, or bad news we often want to know why rather than resting in God’s peace because our faith in in Him and His promises.
This Christmas we can learn from Zechariah and learn to believe in God’s words to us and the plan He has for our lives;
Jeremiah 29:11 (HCSB) For I know the plans I have for you”—⌊this is⌋ the LORD’s declaration—“plans for ⌊your⌋ welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
Romans 8:28 (HCSB)28 We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.
Whether the news is bad or too-good-to-be-true news (which is really the news that Zachariah got) what we can learn from Zack is that God really can be trusted and that should bring us great peace.
Luke 1:25 (HCSB) After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived and kept herself in seclusion for five months. She said,25 “The Lord has done this for me. He has looked with favor in these days to take away my disgrace among the people.”
Now let’s look at a response to a message from Gabriel that is the direct opposite to Zack;
Luke 1:26-38 (HCSB)26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth,27 to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.28 And ⌊the angel⌋ came to her and said, “Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you.”29 But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be.30 Then the angel told her: Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.31 Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call His name Jesus.32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.34 Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?”35 The angel replied to her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God.36 And consider your relative Elizabeth—even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called childless.37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”38 “I am the Lord’s slave,” said Mary. “May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel left her.
Mary, a young girl, probably as young as 13, was going about her own business when Gabriel appeared and gave her, like the news to Zachariah, unbelievable, life changing news. Her initial response was much like Zack’s;
Luke 1:34 (HCSB)34 Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?”
She was no doubt confused, nervous, afraid, excited.
But there was a difference in her response to Gabriel. What was the difference?
Here’s the difference though, Zack demanded a sign, Mary responded with;
Luke 1:38 (HCSB)38 “I am the Lord’s slave,” said Mary. “May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel left her.
Think about that. Mary would have known that she would be labeled a suspected adulteress because even though engagement back then meant that she and Joseph were legally married except the sexual consummation, here she was pregnant. Would Joseph divorce her, would she be tried and found guilty and stoned? She may also feared for her unborn child. When he grew up he would be taunted as an illegitimate child. Yet she replied “May it be done to me according to your word”
Instead of yielding to fear Mary was at peace. That peace gave her the courage to obey and accept whatever the Lord had for her. Mary can be an example to accept with peace bad or too-good-to-be-true news
That’s two reactions to unexpected, news. Both Zechariah and Mary were told they would have a child, and both of them shouldn't have been able to. Zack responded in disbelief; he had no peace about this announcement because he thought he and his wife were too old. Because he didn’t believe he couldn’t talk until after his son John was born. So his lack of peace with the news caused him to become mute.
On the other hand Mary responded with peace. There is a song that Mary sings when she goes to visit her cousin, who just happens to be Zack’s wife. In that song Mary predicts that everybody will know that God has blessed her.
Luke 1:48 (HCSB)48 because He has looked with favor on the humble condition of His slave. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed,
Mary had peace with God’s word to her and she trusted Him.
Pursue the peace that passes understanding in all you do because there is something greater at stake. In this world where there seems to be no peace and no way to achieve it, we need to be the ones who say that real peace is available only in the Prince of Peace. Make this one of the gifts, in fact the most important gift, you give this Christmas. Your witness.
Here is the way that Philippians 4:7 reads from “The Passion Translation”. ,
Lord Jesus Christ, my Prince of Peace, I come to you to tell you every detail of my life, so that “God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to me through Jesus Christ”