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1 PEACE OF CHRIST Luke 2:1-20 Christmas Eve 2016 The peace of Christmas Eve? The peace of Jesus Christ? Are they one and the same? Christmas Eve peace? Jesus Christ peace? Are they the same??? We all know that Christmas Eve is about peace. Ever since we were children and brought to the church on Christmas Eve, we were taught that tonight was the birth of the Prince of Peace. Tonight was the beginning of the period of peace So we come to church on Christmas Eve and we want to sing those carols about peace, carols which we know so well, those carols that we learned in childhood. Silent Night, holy night, all is calm and all is bright, round yon virgin mother and child, holy infant so tender and mild, sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace. It came upon a midnight clear that glorious song of old, when angels bending near the earth, they touched their harps of gold. Peace on earth Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn King. Peace on earth We have come here tonight because we believe in this peace, this peace of The Prince of Peace. We believe we believe that our lives can be touched by peace and that we too can be touched by peace and that we too can be children of peace. That is why the whole world is drawn to sanctuaries on this Christmas night to worship the newborn king the Prince of Peace. Tonight, we have come to hear those words of peace from Isaiah, the prophet. We have come to hear those beautiful images of peace; that our God is a wonderful counselor, might god, everlasting father and..prince of peace..and of his government and of his peace,there shall be no end!!! Peace will be establish- ed with justice and righteousness and the zeal of the Lord of Hosts will do 1

2 this. We have come to hear those words tonight, those magnificent metaphors about peace about turning swords into plowshares spears into pruning hooks nations not making war against nation anymore a leopard shall lie down with a lamb and a cow and a bear shall graze together in the same pasture and a little child shall reach his hand into a swarm of hornets and not be stung. Then we come to that absolutely gorgeous line: They shall not hurt and they shall not harm one another anyplace in my holy mountain for the whole earth shall know the Lord. Wouldn t that be nice to live in that kind of world? where there was no hurting or no harming or no injuring of other people...wouldn t it be nice to to be that kind of person? Who did not hurt others?...and wouldn t it be nice to live in that kind of house? Or apartment? Or live in that kind of family? Or live in that kind of city or world? Would you like to live in that kind of world that understood and experienced peace? All of us long for peace and want to be children of peace. That is why we are here tonight: We want to be touched by God s love and peace. We want to be touched by that babe in the manger. In Paula McDonald s book The Last Straw, she tells how one mother was distressed that her household seemed sadly lacking in the Christmas spirit. Her four children seemed to delight in making one another miserable bickering, teasing, arguing over their toys. Eric and Kelly, who were just a year apart in age, had been particularly horrible to each other. One day, the mother, Meredith, thought of an old custom her grandmother had used to make the birth of the Christ Child more real to the children. She gath- ered her brood together and asked if they would like to do a Christmas project. They could only do it if they would keep it a secret. At that, the children were interested. 2

3 She explained that there would be a manger in the living room and a tray of straw in the kitchen. Each Sunday, they would draw the name of a person in the family, including the father and mother, for whom they would do a secret kindness each day. Every time they did this, they would take a piece of straw from the kitchen and put it in the manger. By Christmas, there would be enough straw for a soft bed for the baby Jesus. It worked like a charm!! They all reported good things happening to them, and the straw bed was getting bigger. Kelly was particularly pleased that someone was turning down her bed and putting out her blue nightgown. The mother s only concern was that Eric seemed unhappy each time they drew names. The last Sunday of Advent that year was the day before Christmas Eve. After dinner and before they drew names, Meredith told the children how proud she was of them. There were hundreds of pieces of straw in their manger. After tomorrow the straw would be up to the top for baby Jesus. When they drew names, Eric looked as if he were going to cry, jumped up from the table, and ran to his room. When his parents followed him, they found him putting on his coat and packing his small suitcase. Through his tears, he told them he had to leave or he would ruin Christmas for everyone. But why, and where are you going? asked Meredith. Eric explained that he was going to his snow fort across the street and would be home right after Christmas. Meredith was about to tell Eric how cold it would be, when her husband touched her shoulder and shook his head. They watched as the little boy with his sadly sloped shoulders trudged out the door and through the snow. Give him a few minutes alone, and then go over to talk to him, said 3

4 the husband. When Meredith walked across the street and sat down beside her son, she quietly asked, What is it, Eric? I know that something has been bothering you since we put up the manger. Please, tell me what it is, honey. The child dissolved into tears and threw himself into his mother s arms. He told her that he had drawn Kelly s name every week. He described all the things he had done for her, even letting her borrow one of his favorite race cars, which she had smashed. I can t do it one more day, Mom: I m afraid I will hit her and ruin Christmas for everyone just when we put baby Jesus out. Meredith suggested that they exchange names, which suited Eric fine. But when she went upstairs later to turn Kelly s bed down, someone already had done it, and there was a race car on her pillow. Eric had placed the last straw in the manger for the Christ child. Christmas is a reminder that God s love and peace extends not just to the people we like, but to all people. We are to be God s instruments of His love in the world. Speaking of smelling the hay in the manger Pam Kidd tells this story: Christmas was near, and I was longing for a place to smell the hay. That s my gateway to the real meaning of it all, when everything falls away and I m standing at the manger. My daughter, Keri, and I had just arrived at Spruce Street Baptist, a church on the edge of downtown Nashville, where serving those in need was priority. We were there to distribute toys. Nearby, the women of Spruce Street were preparing the free noon meal. The church s annex looked like a toy store. First to arrive was a mother with a little girl. The child was beautiful and well cared for, and from the minute 4

5 she walked in her eyes were fixed on a particular doll. Santa told me this was meant for a special girl one with big brown eyes, I said. I think that s you! She held it close. Then her eyes fell on a sleeping bag that was pushed under the table. Keri had brought it as an afterthought. The little girl carefully returned the doll to its place. Look, Momma, she said, picking up the sleeping bag. I should take this instead. Oh, honey, her mother answered, won t that be wonderful to have in the shelter like sleeping in your own bed! Keri and I froze. Our eyes met. This little girl and her mother were homeless? How could it be? Seeing them leave, clutching the doll and the sleeping bag (we d insisted they take both) was little comfort. We looked at those still waiting: homeless mothers and children. The next free meal was Christmas Eve. Keri and I arrived at the church with two carloads of sleeping bags. The women were cooking; the people were gathering. There was good food, Christmas carols, camaraderie, and plenty of sleeping bags to go around. And God was there with us. The smell of hay had never been so sweet. Seems to me that the mother and daughter in that true story had added lots of straw to the baby Jesus manger. Sharing God s love and peace begins with us, friends. When the Prince of Peace comes to live in us, we want to add straw to the manger to make him a soft bed we want to live our lives remembering Him from the manger to the cross to the empty tomb. There is no place we d rather be than at the manger with the Christ Child. Amen and amen. 5

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