Christmas Sermon on “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men” December 6, 2009Posted by roberttalley in Advent, Christmas, Isaiah, Jesus, Longfellow, Peace, Religion, Sermons, World Peace.
This week on “Eternally Significant”
Tuesday: Going Beyond Saying “Merry Christmas”
Wednesday: Why Sport’s Commentators Condemn Tiger
THE HUMBLE BEGINNINGS OF PEACE ON EARTH
INTRODUCTION: One of the most obscure prophetic references of the New Testament is found in Matthew 2:23, where he writes of Joseph bringing his family back from exile in Egypt to the city of Nazareth. Matthew writes, “And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled, which was spoken by the prophets, ‘He shall be called a Nazarene.’” He is referring to this first verse of Isaiah 11. The word “branch” is the Hebrew word, “netser”, which means a sprout or a shoot. Matthew was trying to emphasize the humble beginnings of Jesus.
A. The twig or sprout symbolizes for us the humble beginnings of Jesus Christ (verses 1-9). Compare verse 1 with Isaiah 53:2-3 to see another description of the humble beginning of Jesus Christ. In that chapter we see that Jesus was despised so that He could make peace with God for us. He paid the penalty for our sins so that we could come to God. Why then did it have to be Jesus? Why could it not have been some other descendant of the royal line that provides the peace Isaiah describes in this chapter? What makes Jesus different from the other descendants of Jesse? Isaiah goes on to tell us in this chapter (Isaiah 11).
1. He has the Spirit of God continually on Him (verse 2). Now Jesus, as far as we know, was not born with the Spirit of God upon Him. He was God who became man but when it came time to begin His ministry, He went to be baptized publicly by John the Baptist. When He came up out of the water, the Holy Spirit came down in the form of a dove and rested on Him, anointing Him as the Messiah. I do not understand how God the Spirit who is one with God the Son can do that but that is what happened. The reason it happened was to identify Jesus as the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Sent One, the Christ of God. (That is why the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit was such a serious crime, an unpardonable sin. The underlying foundation of that sin was a total rejection of Jesus Christ as the Messiah and of the proof of the Holy Spirit in His life.) When Peter first preached the gospel of Christ to the Gentiles in Acts 10:38, he pointed out that this anointing of Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and the works that followed were what set Him apart from every other man. These works by the Holy Spirit proved His Messiahship.
Four times in the book of Revelation, Jesus is identified as having the seven Spirits of God. This is a reference to verse 2 of our text. Here is proof again that this not just another royal descendant but that this little sprout of which Isaiah writes, this little shoot is the Holy One of God, the Messiah.
2. Not only does He have the Spirit of God continually on Him but also He judges righteously and faithfully (verses 3-5). Our Lord Jesus Christ judges so righteously and so faithfully that His name is called in Jeremiah 23:6 and 33:16, “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” In other words, this is not some unknowable, untouchable King who will rule the earth but a Lord who becomes righteousness for His people. We are unrighteous and unfaithful by nature but He changes that for those who believe in Him. He comes as the gentle, loving healer and counselor of men and He comes also as the King of kings and Lord of lords. He comes as the hope of this world, the Prince of Peace, and as the Man that men cannot forget. Most precious of all to me though is that He comes as the LORD our righteousness. 2 Corinthians 5:21 puts it this way, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
As we continue to look at Isaiah’s description of Jesus as the righteous and faithful judge, we see, in the middle of verse four, another of those transitions that take us from the past when Jesus came, meek but Spirit-filled ministering to those who are weak, into the future, when He establishes His kingdom on this earth. There is a change and this change is identified by the destruction of Christ’s earthly enemy.
Who is His enemy? Of course, all those who reject Him, the earth, but the end of verse four singles out a particular person. He is called “the wicked” or “the Wicked One”.
“…(W)ho is this individual here called the ‘Wicked One’?… The apostle Paul quotes this very scripture in 2 Thess. 2:8: ‘And then shall that Wicked One be revealed'”; (Jennings). This is directly talking about the Antichrist. This little sprout, this little shoot is different because of the character and the power of His justice. He will judge His enemy, the Wicked One.
3. He brings peace to all of creation (verses 6-9). These are amazing verses. Could this literally happen? Could the predator and its prey become playmates? Is it possible that we need never fear danger to our children from the wildlife around us? According to Hosea 2:18 God will make it possible. “In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, with the birds of the air, and with the creeping things of the ground. Bow and sword of battle I will shatter from the earth, to make them lie down safely.”
That passage as well as Ezekiel 34:25 teach us that God will make a covenant with the animals of nature that will make the world safe for His people, Israel. When God makes peace in the Middle East and throughout the world, it will be world peace. Both nuclear bombs and rabies will be eliminated. There will be no more need for satellites to watch other nations and no need for protection from wild animals. How will it happen? This sprout, this shoot, will make it happen.
B. Isaiah not only presents Jesus as a sprout but also as “the root of Jesse.” This shows us the eternal establishment of peace on earth through Jesus Christ, who was of the house and lineage of David (Compare Revelation 5:5-6 and 22:16 with verses 10-16 to see that these verses are talking about Jesus Christ). Yes, Jesus started as a sprout, as a shoot coming up out of the decaying stump of the royal house of David but He will take root, He will become a tree. When He does, a new day will dawn on the earth. Verse 10 uses the phrase “in that day.” Verse 11 states, “It shall come to pass in that day…” The question now is this. What will happen that will reveal Jesus in His power and His glory?
1. He will rescue His people, Israel (verses 11-16). The beginning of verse 11 shows that God will bring Israel for the second time into the land. The first was when he called them out of Egypt. They are in the land now but Christ has not yet called them there. They still have not accepted Christ as their Messiah. There is coming a day, though, when they will accept Christ as their personal and national Savior. That is the second time that God is talking about in this verse. This little sprout, this little shoot that was despised and rejected in Isaiah 53 will come back in strength and in power and will rescue His people Israel.
Notice that the root of Jesse brings change to the landscape of the Middle East (verses 14-16). I am not talking about the political landscape although that will also be true. Christ is going to change the geological landscape of the Middle East when He returns. I do not understand exactly why or how but it will be another proof to the nations of who He is. He is no longer the little sprout, the shoot but a mighty, all-powerful root, which changes the landscape of the world if it should suit His purposes.
2. Not only will He rescue His people Israel but He will be worshiped by the Gentiles (verses 10 and 12). Verse 10 says they will seek Him. Romans 15:12 translates this phrase, “In Him the Gentiles will hope.”
Let me clarify what a Gentile is for our young people. Before Christ came, God divided the world into two groups: his people, the Jews and the rest, the Gentiles. When Christ came and died He tore down the ethnic dividing wall and took from the Jews and from the Gentiles and made a new people, the Church. This is what is meant by “the Gentiles will hope.” We have hope in and through Jesus Christ. We were not Jews. We were not of His people but God made a way of hope for us through Jesus Christ. He sent a little sprout, a little shoot to die for us and become the root on which we can stand and draw strength.
The Gentiles will not only seek Him but they will also rally to Him (verse 12). The wicked are destroyed, the Jews are restored but there are those who are not Jews who have turned to Christ. He was a despised, overlooked sprout but now He is the rally flag for all who serve Christ both now and in the future and forevermore. At that time peace on earth will be complete.
“Tragedy struck both the nation and the Longfellow family in 1861. Confederate Gen. Pierre G. T. Beauregard fired the opening salvos of the American Civil War on April 12th, and Fanny Longfellow was fatally burned in an accident in the library of Craigie House on July 10th. The day before the accident, Fanny Longfellow recorded in her journal: ‘We are all sighing for the good sea breeze instead of this stifling land one filled with dust. Poor Allegra is very droopy with heat, and Edie has to get her hair in a net to free her neck from the weight.’ After trimming some of seven year old Edith’s beautiful curls, Fanny decided to preserve the clippings in sealing wax. Melting a bar of sealing wax with a candle, a few drops fell unnoticed upon her dress. The longed for sea breeze gusted through the window, igniting the light material of Fanny’s dress– immediately wrapping her in flames. In her attempt to protect Edith and Allegra, she ran to Henry’s study in the next room, where Henry frantically attempted to extinguish the flames with a nearby, but undersized throw rug. Failing to stop the fire with the rug, he tried to smother the flames by throwing his arms around Frances– severely burning his face, arms, and hands. Fanny Longfellow died the next morning. Too ill from his burns and grief, Henry did not attend her funeral. (Incidentally, the trademark full beard of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow arose from his inability to shave after this tragedy.)”
“The first Christmas after Fanny’s death, Longfellow wrote, ‘How inexpressibly sad are all holidays.’ A year after the incident, he wrote, ‘I can make no record of these days. Better leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace.’ Longfellow’s journal entry for December 25th 1862 reads: ‘A merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.’ Almost a year later, Longfellow received word that his oldest son Charles, a lieutenant in the Army of the Potomac, had been severely wounded with a bullet passing under his shoulder blades and taking off one of the spinal processes. (Charles did not die but it was a serious wound.) (T)he Christmas of 1863 was silent in Longfellow’s journal. Finally, on Christmas Day of 1864, he wrote the words of the poem, “Christmas Bells.” We have part of this poem in our hymnbook. We call it, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”
1. I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
2. And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
3. Till, ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
4. Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The Carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
5. And in despair I bowed my head;
‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said;
‘For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!’
6. Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!’
If you are a believer, you have peace with God. Do you have the peace of God? Philippians tells us in 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing but in prayer and thanksgiving let your request be make known unto God; and the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ.” Christmas can be a troubling time. We saw in Longfellow’s the difficulties sorrow brings. Eighteen years later he wrote in a poem that he still suffered from sorrow. In your sorrow, in your troubles, in your worries and difficulties you can have peace. The peace of God. He began as a little sprout, a little shoot in Nazareth but He can be a root of strength and nourishment in your life. Go to Him, throw yourself on Him for strength and insight and direction and help in the time of need.
This peace on earth, good-will to men began as a little sprout, a little shoot. It still is not fully grown. Christ is yet to be revealed as the Root. That will happen when He returns. Yes, hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men. The thunder of our weapons drown the sound of peace on earth, good-will to men. But God is not dead, He neither slumbers nor sleeps. Wrong shall fail and right shall prevail with peace on earth, good-will to men.
How is it possible to have this peace? According to Romans 5:1, “…having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is only possible through faith in Him. He died for you, so you could have peace with God.
Will you trust Him today? Will you let Christ make your peace with God for you by becoming your righteousness.