“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” (Luke 2:14, esv).
I think we could all point to a lot of places today where we’re not exactly experiencing peace on earth, on our planet.
But that’s not the kind of peace the angels were talking about when they appeared to the shepherds in Luke 2. God’s intent was that the outcome of the incarnation, the outcome of the birth of Christ, would mean peace in people’s hearts—those people who are deeply impacted by the reality that Jesus came to this world.
That’s a peace we can all be seeing and experiencing—the peace that serves as an antidote to the pressure we all feel.
The biblical characters who make up the Christmas story went through their own forms of stress and pressure. Mary and Joseph were sure feeling it, the kind of stress and pressure that comes when things happen suddenly, like when “a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered” (Luke 2:1). It was sort of an empire-wide audit, a way for the government to get a head count by forcing everybody to journey to the place where they were born. And for Mary and Joseph, it couldn’t have happened at a worse time.
But not only was it one of those aggravations that hits out of nowhere, it also started a chain reaction of things that kept building up. Mary wouldn’t have had to make this trip at all if she hadn’t been so close to delivering her baby. Joseph could have gone alone. Then once they were there, “the time came for her to give birth” (Luke 2:6). And—as if anything would surprise them by the time they got to this point—somebody lost their reservation, as it were. They had to lay him “in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).
Isn’t that how stress happens? The pressure builds? The struggles never stop?
But even when the pressure’s up, the peace of God can bring calm assurance to your heart. It doesn’t matter what arrives in the mail today, doesn’t matter what the doctor says, doesn’t matter who rings your phone, doesn’t matter what comes your way. “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
Wouldn’t you love to know a peace inside that nothing could penetrate? Wouldn’t you love being like the believers you know who personify how to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” (Colossians 3:15)?
One way to do it is through acceptance—accepting the fact that you’re a sinner, that every day won’t be a great day, yet trusting that God is in control at every level.
Another way is through focus—not wasting time thinking and fretting about things that aren’t going to help you, choosing instead to set “your affection on things above” (Colossians 3:2, kjv).
In addition to these, gratitude—not staying focused on what isn’t, not always asking when and why and how long, but “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving” letting your “requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).
If you’ve been feeling pressured and stressed this Christmas season, open your mind right now to the possibility of peace. There may not be peace everywhere on the earth, but He’s come to flood your heart with it. “Glory to God in the highest” for doing what He’s already done to keep you in perfect peace.
Father, I pray for Your peace. How quickly the details of life penetrate my experience and cause me to live apart from what I know to be true. But I reach out to You today in faith, fully yielded. Grant me a holy calmness and confidence, certain that my way is known to You and my trust in You is rightly placed. I pray in Jesus’ name, the Son that You sent from a heart of love to a world so desperately in need, to give us peace that passes understanding, amen.
He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God (Luke 1:63–64, esv).
Maybe nine months without being able to talk would be just the cure we need for whatever keeps us from praising God with the mouth we already have. Maybe the joy we’re not feeling and expressing today is directly related to an unwillingness to embrace this message:
God has been gracious to us.
Did you know that’s what the name “John” means? The Lord has been gracious. When Gabriel told the old priest Zechariah, “Your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John” (Luke 1:13), here’s part of the reason why this name was chosen. Every time he held that baby in his hands, every time he saw him growing up as a kid, every time he thought about what his son’s birth meant in terms of God’s faithful promises, he was supposed to think, The Lord has been gracious to me.
But he didn’t see it at first. Zechariah couldn’t get there in the moment. He said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years” (Luke 1:18). He couldn’t believe that the Lord had been that gracious to him.
And if that’s you, sitting here not enjoying the Lord like others do, you’re going to miss out—like Zechariah did, when he was made “unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words” (Luke 1:20). If you’re so focused on what’s yet to be, on what your mind says can’t possibly be, you’ll miss the joy that comes from embracing that the Lord has been gracious to you already.
So make your focus this Christmas, “The Lord has been gracious to me.” Sure, you could list the things you’ve been waiting and longing for, all the prayers He seems to have left unanswered through the years. But are you really going to lose your joy over those things that haven’t happened yet, when He’s given you help and strength and life and breath—a Bible in your hands, the Spirit in your heart, love showered on you in innumerable ways?
Picture Zechariah, when his wife Elizabeth came to tell him she believed she was pregnant, but he wasn’t able to speak. Imagine him putting his hand on her stomach and feeling the baby kicking, but not being able to say anything. Even after the boy was born, as their neighbors and relatives were rejoicing, as Zechariah held him in his arms, he still couldn’t utter a word. He couldn’t embrace it. He’d lost the capacity for joy.
But then the day came for them to name their child. How was Zechariah going to handle it? “He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’” He wasn’t going to blow this again. For nine months he’d been thinking every day, The next time I get to talk . . . he was going to praise God. He was going to say what he wouldn’t say the first time. He was going to embrace what he hadn’t been willing to embrace before. “John”—the Lord has been gracious to me.
Do you want joy? Then get to the place where, in spite of what you’re waiting on, in spite of the thoughts you think in your weaker moments, in spite of where you feel you’ve been forgotten by God, you speak it and mean it from your heart, “The Lord has been gracious to me.”
Because that’s where the joy flows.
Lord, You have been good to me. Forgive me for looking at things I wish were true and failing to rejoice in what already is. I don’t have what I’m going to have some day, but I have what You’ve provided for me. And in all of it, I want You to hear from me the acknowledgment that You are good. Keep me in the place where I can say it with all my heart, in Jesus’ name, amen.
Where Would We Be Without Christmas? | Revelation 5
Where would we be without Christmas? How dark would this world be without the light of Christ? What would we do if we didn’t have God’s Word?
There would be nothing important enough to celebrate or a message good enough for me to share in these weekend teachings.
God doesn’t want us walking in darkness and doubt, that’s why He clearly reveals His Word and His Son. Only God’s Word can change a human’s heart and shine a light in the darkness. Join us as we jump into Revelation 5 – and see God’s revelation to us!
We Wait for the King
We’ve been given an immense responsibility. We have time, resources, and abilities. The King expects a return on His investment. Have you stopped to consider all that God would give if you would steward what He gave initially?
We Bring Gifts to a King
Before the Wise Men could offer their gifts and worship to Jesus, they had to do a few things. You too must prepare yourself to adore Him. Find out how to recognize the King, verify that He is worthy of your loyalty, and present your gifts unashamedly. As you allow Him to fill your heart with abundant joy unrelated to your circumstances, coming to adore Him will never be the same.
We Bow to the King
Have you bowed? This is not something you want to be foggy about. You can either bow before the King of Kings willingly today or forcefully in eternity. In other words, you have to get the second life during the first life or you’ll get the second death after your first death.