Our family was driving around looking at Christmas lights and listening to Q99. I wasn’t paying much attention to the radio until one of my kids asked a question. He said, “Dad! What are the kids saying in this song?” Everyone quieted down. I turned up the radio to hear it better. It was John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s familiar song, “Happy Christmas.”
You’ve probably heard it before. It has that hippy-era Sargent Pepper sound that the Beatles adapted later in their career. In the chorus of the song, he sings, “A very Merry Christmas, And a happy new year, Let’s hope it’s a good one, Without any fear.” While you hear those words, a chorus of children begin singing in the background. They slowly and repeatedly echo Lennon. Sounding like an angelic choir, they sing, “War…is…over. If you want it. War is over now.”
Once I realized what the song was, I told my son. He then asked a question that was far more profound than he realized. With a confused look on his face, he asked, “But what does war have to do with Christmas?” My answer was simple, “War has everything to do with Christmas.”
War & Peace
Article XVI of our doctrinal statement (the Baptist Faith & Message) is entitled, “Peace and War.” Take a quick moment and read through what we, as a church and as Southern Baptists, believe about the issue of war. It reads:
It is the duty of Christians to seek peace with all men on principles of righteousness. In accordance with the spirit and teachings of Christ they should do all in their power to put an end to war.
The true remedy for the war spirit is the gospel of our Lord. The supreme need of the world is the acceptance of His teachings in all the affairs of men and nations, and the practical application of His law of love. Christian people throughout the world should pray for the reign of the Prince of Peace.
Did you notice what I did? The article is entitled, “War and Peace,” but it might as well just be entitled, “Peace.” It doesn’t speak of Just War Theory or any of those ethical issues. In fact, it has a surprisingly nonviolent and almost pacifistic tone. It rightly reflects the spirit = of what our Lord said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:9)
Now you may be thinking, “Okay. But back to the question. What does war have to do with Christmas?” If I may borrow from one famous author, “Advent is the beachhead upon which God launched his assault on sin, death, the fall, and our broken, messed up world.” At Christmas, God declared a war.
One of the questions of the ages is, “Will there ever be peace?” Not just peace for a moment or for an hour but true and lasting peace. It’s a basic human craving. Children, teenagers, adults, men and women all desire to experience peace. We see people around us calling for peace through their protests, T-shirts, and bumper stickers. We crave peace.
And not only that but the desire for peace is found in human issues both great and small. Whether it’s the ongoing friction with the guy in the cubicle next to us, or the back-and-forth nitpicking in our marriages, or even to the volatile and explosive situations in parts of the world – we are constantly faced with this question. Someone, somewhere is asking themselves right now, “Will I ever find true peace?” That someone might even be you.
One of the most famous Christmas prophecies in the Bible comes from Micah 5:2. The prophet predicted, “But as for you, Bethlehem…from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.” In other words, 700 years before Jesus was born, the prophet, with striking accuracy, predicted that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. That’s the most memorable prophecy in Micah 5. But it’s not he only one. Later, in Micah 5:5, he also assures us that, “This One will be our peace.” Read that again slowly. “This One…will be our peace.”
Some people misunderstand the peace of Jesus. They imagine Him to be the first and greatest hippie (kind of like the Beatles at one point). They see Jesus with sandals on his feet and flowers in His hair as He holds up two fingers in a V-shape everywhere He goes. His presence is thought to be calming. His voice soothing. He only speaks of love, happiness, joy, and smiles.
But that’s not exactly what Micah predicted. (Nor is it how Jesus presented Himself. See Matt 10:34.) Micah did not predict that the Messiah would merely bring us peace but that the Messiah would Himself be our peace. Jesus was not just born to be a peaceful man as much as He was born to become our man of peace. He did not come to fill our lives with Zen, but to rid our lives of sin. The death and resurrection of Christ ratified the eternal and lasting peace agreement between God and man. It can also bring peace between man and man too.
Today’s advent candle, the fourth one, represents the answer to the age old question, “Will we ever have peace?” Just before the birth of John the Baptist it was recorded in Luke 1 that people were asking the question, “What will this child turn out to be?” In Luke 1:79 it says that his life and preaching would “guide our feet into the way of peace.” Like a lighthouse pointing out the safety and security of the shore, so John the Baptist was pointing the world to the source of true peace, which is Jesus. And the message of John the Baptist is the same message that we celebrate this morning. As Ephesians reminds us “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace…” (Eph 2:13-14)
We light the Candle of Peace to remind us that Jesus is the Prince of Peace. And whether you are looking for peace globally (for the rest of the world) or simply looking for peace personally (in your own heart) – please know that true and lasting peace can only be found in Jesus Christ. Receive His gift of salvation and you can know His peace today.