Enter into Peace

Advent Is A Time For Us To Remember That Jesus Came To Bring Peace

Dan Franklin
Dec 4, 2022    43m
Have you found yourself struggling to find peace in your life? This message reminds us that Advent is a time for us to remember that Jesus came to bring peace to our broken world. Lean in and learn that we can enter into the kind of peace God offers by placing our trust in God rather than ourselves. Video recorded at Upland, California.

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Loren Van Woudenberg: [00:00:18] Our Scripture in your Bible today will be out of Luke chapter 1, would you be mindful of this? Watch the complications. Watch the stress. Watch the fear of Mary in this encounter. I'll be picking it up in verse 26 of Luke chapter 1, "In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32He 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, 33and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” 34“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35The 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 b the Son of God. 36Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37For no word from God will ever fail.” 38“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her." This is God's Word.

[00:02:13] Amen. You can grab a seat, thanks so much, Loren. We are on the second week of our Advent series. Today we are talking about peace. So I just want to ask you a quick question, who here wants peace? All right, we want peace, this is something we all crave, some of you might be feeling it in more intense ways than others, but we all want peace. In fact, here's one of the ways that we know that we want all want peace. Ironically enough, one of the ways that we reveal that we all want peace is that we are willing to fight to get peace. This comes up in all kinds of different ways; we are willing to fight and labor and suffer in order to get peace. Some of you know that one of the phrases that was used in the aftermath of World War One, and even during World War One, to describe what was going on was that it was the war...Some of you know it, the war to end all wars. How did that work out for us? It wasn't very good, but you can just think about that for a second. Even while it was going on, people had this sense of, all right, if we just do this, if we just do what's right here, and if we're willing to fight now, we'll never have to fight again. We're willing to fight in order to get peace. And there are all sorts of different ways in our lives in which we're willing to do it. In fact, we're willing not only to go to war to get peace, but we're willing to protest war in order to get peace and go out on the streets and protest injustice and protest oppression and protest all the things going on in the world. We're willing to put our lives at risk and even possibly go to prison in order to protest so that we might find peace.

[00:03:56] Some of you right now, at your work, or even with your personal finances, you are fighting, you are working incredibly hard. You're trying to get into the right career, and then you're trying to save up money and be really thoughtful with your investments, all so that you can reach retirement and have peace. You're willing to fight so that at some point in the future you can have peace.

[00:04:22] And also, there's probably a number of us in this room that have either been to marriage counseling or have been to personal counseling, and if you have done that, you know that it is no walk in the park, it's uncomfortable, it's unsettling, you're dealing with deep dysfunctions within yourself, and you're trying to figure things out, and it's really, really difficult. You really have to fight through it, but we do it because we think if we just go through this, if we battle through this, maybe we can have peace in our marriage, or maybe I can have peace from all of the stress and all of the difficulties and all of the dysfunctions in my life. We want peace so badly that we're willing to fight to get it.

[00:05:06] And today, as we begin the second week of Advent, we celebrate that when God sent Jesus, he sent us his gift of peace. And so we're going to go through a passage that talks about peace, and here's our theme for Advent, Jeff talked about this last week, and we're carrying it through today, our theme for Advent this year is we don't just want to talk about peace, we want to enter into peace, we want it to be our reality. We don't want to leave peace as a nice pretty present under the tree that we're looking at and talking about, we want to open up that present and experience the peace, we want to enter into peace today. And we get to do this by going through the passage that you heard Loren read a few minutes ago, the passage where the angel Gabriel appears to Mary.

[00:05:58] In fact, I'm going to tell you something about this. I like this passage so much that today I'm going to give two sermons on it, all within our allotted time, you know, we'll see, but that's how much, I'll explain to you why. But first of all, I just want to say this, we get to go through this passage where Mary is a central character. Now, for us, as Protestants, we don't pray to Mary, we also don't think that Mary was a perpetual virgin, we don't think that she lived as a virgin her whole life, but just that she was a virgin at the time of Jesus' conception, we don't believe that she was sinless, we don't believe that she ascended to heaven, those are beliefs that we don't find in the Bible. But I just want to say before we get into this, I hope that none of that takes away from the fact that we can read this passage and rightly and appropriately look at Mary as one of our heroes of the faith. She is an absolute woman of faith, and we're going to see that in both the sermons I'm going to give on this passage.

[00:06:53] Now here's what we're going to do, here's why I want to go through this passage twice. I want to go through this passage once to talk it through, sort of from our perspective, when we come in. And we're going to place Mary at the center of this, and kind of try to find ourselves in Mary when we come into this, and we see ourselves at the center of the story. And then I want to go through this passage a second time because I think that there's a different way of reading this that will help us gain and experience the peace that Jesus came to bring, but we'll go through it.

[00:07:25] So here we go into sermon number one on this passage, on Luke chapter 1 verses 26 through 38. It's going to have four movements because we're going to look at sort of the four stages that Mary goes through in this passage.

[00:07:38] And the first stage that we're going to see Mary go through in this passage, I'm going to call, life is good. So let's look at verses 26 and 27. In verse 26 we read, "In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee." A quick pause, if you were to read the verses before this in Luke chapter 1, you'd find out that Elizabeth is the wife of Zechariah, and Zechariah is a priest in Israel. And they had had a previous encounter, Zechariah had had a previous encounter with an angel who had said to Zechariah, hey, even though you're old, and even though your wife is old, and you haven't been able to have children all this time, your wife is going to get pregnant and she's going to have a baby and that baby would end up being John the Baptist. So that's what he's referring back to. In verse 27 he says, "To a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.

[00:08:26] So we get introduced to Mary right away, and I just want to say, in starting off this story, in this initial description of Mary, might be fair to say, okay, this is sort of a phase where life is good for Mary, not perfect, nobody's life is perfect, right? But life is pretty good, she's a young Jewish woman engaged to be married to a nice Jewish boy. We don't know a lot about Joseph, but everything we know about Joseph pretty much is positive. We read in other passages that he was just, he was a God-fearing man, so this is a pretty good situation for Mary. So we are looking at this and saying, all right, nobody's perfect, I'm not saying that she was a giddy bride-to-be in the way that we sometimes stereotype it, but this is a pretty good situation for her. She's thinking, all right, there's some security in the future, I'm getting married to a good man, there's probably going to be children in the future, and the community is going to celebrate this wedding when they come together. So we might call this at face value, all right, nobody's life is perfect, nothing's ideal, but life is good for Mary at this moment.

[00:09:28] But in the next phase of this story, we see life disrupted. God sends the Angel Gabriel, and the Angel Gabriel says to her in verse 28, "Greetings, you who are highly favored.", this is where we get that phrase, hail Mary. "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you. And Mary is greatly troubled." And notice this, this is something that would be easy to miss, we think, well, she was troubled because the angel was glowing in brightness. Maybe, but it says, "She was troubled at his words, and wondered what kind of greeting this might be." And this probably means that Mary was looking at it and she was like, is he talking to me like with this, highly favored, the Lord is with you? She's confused, she's troubled, and everybody who encountered an angel in the Bible is troubled, that's why they're always saying, don't be afraid. And guess what Gabriel says to Mary? He says, "Mary, do not be afraid." And then he begins to tell her what God is doing behind the scenes. He says, "You have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. And we know from Matthew, that the name Jesus means God saves. "His name will be 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, 33and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”.

[00:10:51] Now we'll talk a little bit more about this later, but we can look at this and say, this is all good news, This is all good news of what's going on, but once again, let's just think of how this is hitting Mary right now. She's a young Jewish woman engaged to be married and she is just told, you're going to be pregnant. And she's probably thinking, how am I going to explain this to Joseph? How am I going to explain this to my parents? What is the community going to say about me? And it's not crazy that we would speculate that because there are hints in the Gospels that throughout Jesus' life, there was still slander and whisperings about how Jesus was conceived. There's a passage where the Pharisees, looking to strike at Jesus, they say, hey, we weren't born in sin, implying that Mary had gone off the reservation and had gotten pregnant somehow in some illicit encounter. Mary probably is hearing this, and this is good news, there are prophecies being fulfilled, but she's also probably thinking, this was not my plan. My plan was to get married to Joseph and then have some babies and have a family and have the best life that we can make for ourselves, and now that plan is being disrupted by God having a specific calling for her life.

[00:12:05] So a quick pause on this, just for all of us to take this in, God will disrupt the plans you have for your life. Can I get an amen? God will, even though I know this is sermon number one, and I'm going to give another better sermon later, still, this is true, God will disrupt your plans for your life. You see this throughout the Bible, you've got Abraham back in Genesis and he's living with his extended family, and then God disrupts his plan by saying, leave behind your family, leave behind your land, and go somewhere that I'll tell you about later, and Abraham's life is never the same. When you think of the Apostle Paul, his life was disrupted by God. He was ascending through the ranks of Judaism, he was a rising star with a lot of prestige and status, and then Jesus confronts him on the road to Damascus, blinds him, calls him to be a missionary to the Gentiles, and Paul spends the rest of his life being estranged from his people, regularly beaten and thrown in prison, and then ultimately executed. God will disrupt the plans for your life.

[00:13:12] I don't know, maybe I will ask for a show of hands on this. Has anybody ever had a time where you were reading the Bible and you're reading the Bible, and then the Spirit convicts you that there's something specific you need to do? Like you need to apologize to somebody, or you need to reach out to somebody with the Gospel, or you need to give more generously. And you read that, and you know the Spirit's calling you to do that, and you just think, oh, shoot, that was not my plan. Like I had a plan for that money that now we're going to give away, I had a plan for my afternoon before I was supposed to do this, and suddenly God disrupts you. God will 100% disrupt the plans you have for your life. We have life and it's good, and then we have life disrupted.

[00:13:52] And then we just have, life is confusing because Mary asked a very understandable question. She says, how will this be since I am a virgin? Now, a quick note, if you read again, the earlier story in Luke 1 about Zechariah and Elizabeth, Zechariah goes in to do some priestly responsibilities and that's when he is met by the angel Gabriel. Gabriel says your wife Elizabeth is going to get pregnant even though you're both beyond this age, and even though she's never been able to get pregnant. And Zechariah asks almost the same exact question, he basically asks, how is this going to happen? Zechariah gets an answer, but he also gets some consequences for asking this question. The angel says, all right, I'm going to give you an answer, but also, you don't get to talk until the baby is born. People debate whether or not Elizabeth was happy about him not being able to talk until the baby was born. I've heard a lot of people say, yeah, she was probably excited because she could talk to him, and he would just have to listen. But I've never met a wife that says, I wish my husband talked to me less. So I just don't know, I don't know how this worked, either way, he had a consequence. And yet we have Mary, she asks almost the exact same question, by the way, she's going to get an answer, no consequences for her. And it's like, well, why was it bad for Zechariah to ask this? Why was it not bad for Mary to ask this? There's a very obvious answer to this question, Elizabeth was going to become pregnant in the normal way that a woman becomes pregnant. It was going to be miraculous, but it was not confusing how it was going to happen. Zechariah was basically saying, how can I be sure of this?

[00:15:25] Mary is not saying how can I be sure of this? She's saying, I don't understand, how is this possible? I'm a virgin, how am I going to suddenly end up pregnant? And Gabriel answers her. He says, “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 b the Son of God. There's not going to be a human father, God is going to do this miraculously. And then to confirm that this is something that God can do, he says, "{Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37For no word from God will ever fail.” He says, in case you're looking at this and you're like, I don't understand how this is possible. Hey, don't worry, Mary, it's going to be miraculous. And in case you're wondering if God can do the miraculous, your relative Elizabeth, who is way past the age of childbearing, she's going to have a child. Just like Abraham and Sarah, way back in the Old Testament, had this happen, because no word from God will ever fail.

[00:16:20] Sometimes, let's just pause and take it in again, sometimes life just is confusing. Sometimes you feel like God's calling you to do something and you're like, I don't know how this is going to work out. I don't know how this is going to be good. I don't know how I'm going to be happy at the end of this. I don't know how this will lead me to peace. Life is confusing, but God always has a response and has a path, even when life is confusing.

[00:16:43] And finally, the fourth movement that we see in what happens with Mary here is, we could just say life is God's. In other words, our lives all belong to God. He's the one that calls the shots, we're not in charge, he is in charge. We're not God, he is God. And so look at Mary's faith-filled response. She says, “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her." Mary receives and accepts this calling. Sometimes God calls us to do stuff that's disruptive to our lives, but Mary, in this faith-fueled statement, receives and accepts God's calling for her life and says, bring it on. She yields her plan to God's plan, and she has peace because she's yielded her plan to God's plan.

[00:17:40] Now let's just look at these four movements again, we could say this is a pretty good sermon if I do say so myself. It's like, all right, that was not like a bad, false sermon right there, that seemed pretty good, that seemed pretty in tune with the story, that there are times where we feel like we're just going along and life is pretty good, and then God disrupts our plans, we know that he's the kind of God that does that and we experience that disruption and we're not sure we're crazy about it, and sometimes it's confusing and we're not sure how God's going to do good in it. But ultimately, at the end of the day, we accept that God is God and that we are not, and so He gets to be the one who tells us what to do, and so we're going to accept that, we're going to receive that, and we're going to try to find peace in the fact that God is God, and you are not God.

[00:18:22] So that's not a terrible message, if we walked away from that, there are a lot of worse messages that we could get than that. But I do want to say, I think that there are a couple of flaws with us reading the passage and just coming away with this. The biggest flaw is this, what we get in this reading is we get a man-centered reading of this passage, Mary is the central character. Now, Mary is obviously core to this story, but we're looking at this whole thing through the eyes of Mary. Just as most of us live our entire lives, purely thinking about how the events around us affect us. Many of us experience life that way, we have a hard time even thinking more broadly than ourselves. We have a major catastrophe that happens in the world, and we're not quite sure how it's going to affect our daily life, rather than thinking about how it's affecting the entire world. This is a man-centered reading of this, and what we want to end up getting to, is we want to end up getting to an idea of what does this look like if we're really seeing these events through the grid of God. What is he doing, and how is he at work in this?

[00:19:38] Here there's the second problem that I think we could see in this. We end up with Mary sort of willingly, maybe begrudgingly, but just accepting, saying, okay, you know, God is God and I'm not, so I accept. By the way, has anybody ever said that before to God, just sort of like, we all probably have at some point. We've been like, I've prayed for this, I've asked God to do something different, but okay, God, you're God, I'm not, I guess I'll just accept that's the way that things are going to be. That's better than outright rebellion against God, but I don't think that's where we want to be, and I don't think that's where real peace is found.

[00:20:17] And finally, the third problem with this, that's going to launch us into the second sermon is our starting point here. Do you notice the starting point? The starting point with this sermon is life is good. Life was good until God came along and got involved. And so I want to start this second sermon with a different approach and the different...All right, I'm not sure, we just skipped all the way to the end. Spoiler alert, we're going to talk about entering into peace. All right, so we're going to figure this out and we're going to go to the second part of the sermon, which should say instead of life is good, there we go, life is broken.

[00:21:00] Now, we have the same circumstances here. And again, we have Mary engaged to be married, that's not the part that's broken, but I want you to remember what's going on in Israel at this time. Israel is an occupied nation; Rome is in charge and Rome is brutal and oppressive to Israel. That is the kind of world that Mary is living in and that all the Jewish people are living in during this time. So Mary is not entering into a world where everything is flowers and dresses, she's living in a brutal world where her people are occupied. And there were better times for Israel, there were times in Israel where they were not in these dire straits, where they were free, and they longed for those times again. But at this point, when we encounter Mary, she's in occupied Israel with a brutal regime over them.

[00:21:52] Now, let's go further then because we could say, okay, but within that, Mary's life is okay. And that's true, better than some people within this oppressive regime. But still, let's play out sort of the best-case scenario for Mary's life as this unfolds. Let's say Joseph really is a good guy, let's say he is a good, godly man. Not to be mean, but Mary is going to marry a good, godly man. But you know what he is? He's still a man, he's still going to be difficult to live with. And any woman who has ever been married to a man knows that there are going to be times where Joseph is not going to be very sensitive to Mary's needs. There are going to be times where he's neglectful toward her. There are going to be times that he's baffled by her, and he isn't sure what to do in her heart is breaking and she feels deeply lonely, even in the best scenario, that's what she's got in her future as she heads into marriage. Beyond that, Mary almost certainly is going to have children, they didn't have birth control back then in the way that we do now, so she's probably going to have a bunch. And we also didn't have epidurals back then, so childbearing is going to be brutal and dangerous. So a lot of maternal mortality, a lot of infant mortality, and so she's going to have some kids, hopefully, some of them will live into adolescence and adulthood, but who knows, because it's a brutal time in life. But let's say some of those kids live into adulthood and Mary has the joy of having those kids live into adulthood. I once heard somebody say this, they said to be a parent is to have your heart live outside of your body. And if you're a parent, I think you kind of get that. It's the idea that you're so vulnerable, when you have a child, you are so vulnerable, to either having extreme joy or extreme sorrow based on what's going on with your kids.

[00:23:39] And I want to say, for those of you who are in here and who are young, there are probably times that your parents get really mad at you, and you feel like it's disproportionate, and you might be right. In fact, sometimes you're definitely right, sometimes your parents get mad at you to the point that you're like, I don't get what's going on here. I'm going to tell you what's going on in some of those times, not every one of those times, but some of those times here's what's happening, your parents are so deeply invested in things going well for you, that they're going to be mad at any threat to things going well for you. And at that moment you are the threat to things going well for you, so they're mad at you, and they're just like, will you cut it out? Now, I'm not saying this is good, I'm just saying if you can see that, if you can see sometimes if you're like, what are mom and dad doing right now, and if you can think maybe what's going on right now is that they think if I don't get my act together, my life will be terrible, that's a lot more charitable than mom and dad just don't like me, which is almost never the case.

[00:24:39] When you have children, your heart is living outside of your body. And so Mary is going to have some children, and maybe some of them will do well, but you never know. Once again, we're in an oppressive regime, so you never know when the Romans are going to decide to do something to one of her children. And even if her children live and physically survive, who knows if they're going to follow God? Who knows if they're going to make good decisions or if they're going to make destructive decisions, but again, let's say our best-case scenario, they live pretty good lives. Mary lives to see her children and gets to see her grandchildren, and after that, you know what she's going to do? She's going to die because we all came from dust, and we all return to dust. So Mary's story is going to be some level of joy and trauma for all the rest of her life, and at the end of it, she will return to dust.

[00:25:24] That is the broken world that we enter into at the beginning of this story, and that is still the broken world that we live in today. We don't live in a world where life is good, we live in a world where life is broken. We live in a world where we have wars and where we have refugees and where we have trauma and where we have ethnic cleansing and genocide, and where even some of the things that we have that we know we need, it's like we got prisons. Is it good that we have prisons? It's like, yeah, we need them. But the fact that we have prisons is a sign that there's something deeply wrong in the world and that we're saying, all right, for this guy, we've got to take away his freedom and put him behind bars to protect the rest of us. We live in a broken world, that's even something that's needed, and it's deeply sad that we're in that place. And then we get beyond that, to just some of the other difficulties in life. And I know some of you, I want to give you permission for something, some of you might feel like you don't need this permission, but I think sometimes in the US, we're like, we live in the richest, most prosperous, safest society in the history of mankind. And yet the statistics show that we are more anxious than anybody else before us or anywhere else in the world, and sometimes we feel like that's ridiculous. Like we can't justify that level of anxiety, we don't deserve to have that level of anxiety. We've got to talk to ourselves, or we've got to look around and be like, gosh, what are we doing? We have plenty of money, we can get food, we're pretty safe, and we have this big military, why are we so anxious? Stop being anxious. What I want to say is the fact that we are living in such a safe and prosperous society, and so many of us are anxious, shows that our biggest problems are not the lack of money or lack of safety, we have a spiritual deficit going on.

[00:27:16] So some of you are coming in this morning and you're like, life isn't good, life is broken, I am stressed out. I am anxious about inflation, and I don't know if we're going to make ends meet. And I am anxious about what's going on with my family. I'm anxious about college applications. I'm anxious about my work. I'm anxious about my relationships. I'm anxious about the fact that I feel like I still have habits and dysfunctions in my life, and I don't seem to be able to get past them. I'm anxious about all of those things, I do not have peace and I just want to say you have full permission to fully acknowledge that that's where you're at right now. And just because you live in the United States doesn't mean that you are exempt from any of that brokenness in the world. We enter into a world of deep brokenness at the beginning of this, and we all know that at the end of whatever joy or brokenness that we're going to experience, we will return to dust because from dust we came. We enter into a world that's broken, and Mary is just one fellow traveler in that broken world.

[00:28:21] But here's the good news, in the first sermon we went from, life is good, generally speaking, to life is disrupted by God. Here's what we go from in this, we go from life is broken, to God is active. God is on the move, and Angel is appearing to Mary, and she's confused and she's not sure what's going on, and she's troubled because she doesn't feel like she's anybody important or anybody special when the angel greets her in this way. But then the angel starts to unfold what God is doing behind the scenes, do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 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. Then he goes on to say, The Lord God will give him the throne of his father, David, and He will reign over Jacob's descendants forever, and his kingdom will never end.

[00:29:17] And if you are here last week, when Jeff opened up our series in Advent, he brought us through Isaiah chapter 9 verses 1 through 7. And then earlier today, you heard Jen read a portion of that, and those are some of the promises, that prophecy is some of the promises that Gabriel is alluding to here. He'll be a child of his father David. David, the great King of Israel, is going to have a descendant who's going to sit on the throne, and he's going to reign over Jacob's descendants, not just for ten years, not just for two terms, not just for 40 years, like David, he is going to reign forever, once he establishes justice, his reign will never end.

[00:29:56] God is on the move, God is active, and God is sending his Son, and his Son appeared that very first Christmas Day. And we know that he appeared not only to be a precious baby, but he appeared to be the suffering servant that was prophesied in Isaiah Chapter 53, the one who would come and take on the sins of all the people of the world, the one who would be wounded for our transgressions, the one who would be killed for all of the sins that we've committed. God is active, God is doing something, and God is reaching into the broken world and doing something that is going to change things forever. God is active.

[00:30:43] And then what we get next, instead of just it being confusing, it is confusing to Mary, but what we get next is the movement that God is unstoppable. Because Mary says, this doesn't seem like this could work, I'm a virgin, I see a major obstacle to this working, I don't understand how this could happen, and the angel says, “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. 36Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month." And then the key is verse 37, "For no word from God will ever fail.” Hey, Mary, I get it. Mary, I get that you're looking at this and you're saying, I don't understand how this is possible. But Mary, I want you to remember this, God has done miracles in the past, and he's doing a miracle again, and nothing that God decides to do will be thwarted, God is unstoppable in his mission to bring redemption to the world.

[00:31:41] And by the way, one of the reasons why we need the second sermon so much more than the first is because as long as we are living in a reality where we see ourselves as the main characters of the story, we will never find peace. But if we find ourselves as graciously chosen supporting characters in God's great drama of redemption, suddenly, we can find peace because God is shouldering all the responsibility. He is active, he is unstoppable, and nothing that He is planning to do is going to be stopped by anyone else.

[00:32:17] Have you ever had a time that you were like, God, I just don't really see it? You know, I know Romans 8:28, I know that great verse that says that God works everything for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purposes. But sometimes we reach a point where we're like, God, I don't think it can happen. It's a little bit like Mary saying, I'm a virgin, I don't see how this is playing out. We're like, God, I don't see this happening. I don't see you overcoming the anxiety that I have right now because I still don't have a job, we just don't have enough money, and I don't see a way out of this. Sometimes we reach points where we say, I just don't see how it's possible for God to do this. Or maybe the task is just too big, we're like, peace on earth, peace on earth that the angel proclaimed with the shepherds, I don't see how it's possible with us. I don't see, I mean, look at Ukraine and look at Afghanistan and look at these different places that are war-torn, I don't know that this is going to happen.

[00:33:10] And then we get to verse 37, God is unstoppable, "No word from God will ever fail." And by the way, if you're looking at this and you're saying, I want something to hang my hat on, the angel tells Mary, look at your pregnant cousin, in fact, go visit your pregnant relative, which she ends up doing and finding the miraculous God at work. A child born to a virgin is pretty miraculous, yeah, that's pretty good. If we're looking at this and saying we want evidence that God is unstoppable, this is pretty good. Do you know, it's even better evidence that God is unstoppable? A man who is dead coming back to life. If we're looking at this and we're saying, I don't know, I don't know if I can have peace, because, God, I just don't know if you can do it, I don't know if God is capable. I don't know if he can overcome my own dysfunctions or my own difficulty or the brokenness of the world. Jesus was in the grave and God got him back out of the grave, God is unstoppable no word from God will ever fail.

[00:34:15] And finally, we have Mary's beautiful response again, and what we get to see here is that God is trustworthy. I want you to see that this is not Mary begrudgingly saying, well, I guess you're God, I'll just accept. This is Mary willingly receiving and trusting the God who's made this promise. I am the Lord's servant, may your word to me be fulfilled. Mary is saying, bring it on, I'm ready to be a part of what God is doing. Even though there's going to be whisperings. Even though there's going to be confusion. Even though there's going to be how do I explain this to Joseph? How do I explain this to my parents? What is the community going to say? Are they ever going to believe me? All of those questions are still up in the air, this doesn't seem like a peaceful moment for Mary, but Mary sees God as trustworthy.

[00:35:03] And some of you right now you're in a season where you're like, I've got lots of questions, I don't see how this is going to work out. I don't know exactly what God is going to do, and God hasn't given you steps one through twenty-five of how he's going to bring peace into your life. But he's given you step one, and you need to decide if you're going to receive that and say, I am the Lord's servant, may your word to me be fulfilled. Are we willing not so much to trust God's detailed plan that he hasn't shown us, but to trust the unstoppable, deeply caring, active God who has made the promise? Mary says I'm willing to trust that God, may your word to me be fulfilled.

[00:35:49] Now, let's take a moment in all of this, and let's talk about ourselves. I said earlier, we don't want to leave that gift of peace under the Christmas tree. We want the gift of peace to open up. We were praying before the service, and one of the constant prayers that elders, and pastors, and prayer team members were all praying was that when we leave, each person who is here, that when we leave today, there will be more of God's peace reigning in our lives than when we came in. That there's going to be less anxiety because our hope and our peace is in God. That there's going to be less despair because our peace is found in God.

[00:36:31] So let's take a few minutes and just ask the question, how do we enter into the kind of peace that's being offered to us in this? And here's the short, simple answer, this is how we enter into peace, the short, simple answer is this, we enter into peace by trusting God and not ourselves. We enter into peace by walking every day and saying, I am walking as a son or a daughter before a God that I can trust and he's working all things together for my good. And you know how this works itself out, I'll give you a couple of ways that this works itself out, we enter into peace when our prayers become prayers with hope. If you have ever prayed something and while you're praying it, you've been pretty convinced it's never going to happen. But we probably all have, we probably have been praying for something, I guess I'm supposed to pray for this, I'm not anticipating anything, I'm not making plans for God to do anything, but I'll go ahead and pray it. When we have peace, suddenly we're praying with hope because we know that God is working all things together for our good. So suddenly, when we came to come to a point where we're like, God, I can't kick this habit and it's frustrating. And it's frustrating because I know that it's holding me back, it's bringing dysfunction, it's bringing difficulty into my life. God, I keep praying that you're going to lead me to victory in this, but I just don't see it, but I'll keep praying. I'll keep praying, God, please lead me to victory, but I'm not anticipating anything. When we have peace, suddenly we're praying with hope, suddenly we're praying with expectation. We're saying, God, I don't know how, and I don't know when, I don't know exactly what it's going to take, but God, I know that one day you will complete the good work that you started in me. So I'm praying for you to do it, God, and I'm praying in hope because the burden is not on me, the burden is on you. In fact, that right there may be the key to how we live by peace.

[00:38:30] I'll tell you real quick, my favorite part of my prayer times. I don't know if this is good that this is my favorite part, but this is my favorite part. My favorite part of my prayer time is when I utterly unburden myself before God of all of the things that are stressing me out. Do you guys know there's a great passage in First Peter Chapter 5 that says, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." And kind of the image there is that you're walking to God with this giant backpack filled with rocks laying you down, and then you take it off, you throw it to God, and he's got it now. And here's what I want you to take in, we are not told, hey, you're allowed to do that, we are told you are commanded to do that. God does not begrudgingly receive our anxieties and say, okay, I guess I'll deal with these. God says, you better do this, you better come to me with all your stresses, you better come to me with all your anxieties, you better come to me with all the things that are weighing you down, you better come to me with all those things because I will carry those for you. And if right now you're looking at your life and you're saying, I got no peace, then the next thing that you need to do as soon as humanly possible, maybe before you leave this campus today is to have some prayer time before God and utterly cast your burdens on him.

[00:39:56] But let me say one more thing about how we live by God's peace, how we enter into God's peace. We enter into God's peace when we choose to obey him instead of short-circuiting his plan through our own disobedience. Sometimes we think we see a shortcut to peace, like, all right, this is what God's calling me to do, but if I just do this, or if I just say this, or if I just manipulate here, or if I just lie here, or if I just sort of do this thing for this other person, if I just get my own revenge, if I just do something that's not integris, I'll get to peace faster. Men and women who live by peace before God don't need to turn to disobedience because we trust that God in the end will work together all things for our good.

[00:40:47] I don't want to brag, but I think the second sermon is a lot better than the first. I think come into God, I appreciate it, you don't need to do that. I think coming to God and saying there is a broken world that God is actively entering into is a better way to approach God than I had a pretty good life before God interfered. And what we experience when we celebrate Christmas, is we experience that appearance, that advent, that start, that sending of God for his Son into a broken world to bring peace where no peace would be possible without him. And the question before all of us is, will we choose to enter into that peace that God has sent to us?

Dan Franklin: [00:41:37] Let me pray for us right now. Father, thank you so much that you have not come to interrupt our otherwise good lives with your own demands. You have come into our brokenness, and Jesus entered into our brokenness even to the point of death on a cross. Thank you that you are active, and you don't simply watch us in our darkness, thank you that the light has come. And Father, I just pray right now because we crave peace, and most of us struggle to get it, we try to find it in rest and we try to find it in money and we try to find it in distractions, we struggle to find the peace that we long for. Father, may we find peace in Jesus? Father, I pray right now over all the burdens and anxieties in this room that are weighing us down. Father, I pray that there would even be a physical sense right now of you lifting those off of our shoulders, of us putting our trust in you, of us willingly obeying you and accepting your calling for our lives because we know that the yoke of Jesus is easy, and the burden of Jesus is light. Lead us into the peace, to enter into the peace that Jesus came to bring. I pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Recorded in Upland, California.
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Life Bible Fellowship Church
2426 N Euclid Ave
Upland, California 91786
(909) 981-4848