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About this series
The Hope of Christmas
Hope has tremendous power - the power to heal, to help you keep going, and to inspire! 700 years before Jesus was born, the prophet Isaiah wrote to the people of Israel who needed hope: "For unto us, a child is born, unto us, a Son is given. The government will rest on His shoulders and He will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” The hope of that message was for them then, and it's for us today! In this series, Chip reminds us that Jesus is all those things. Those are titles God gave Him and titles He claimed. If you need hope, join Chip for these messages. You'll be comforted, encouraged, and inspired!More from this series
I want to take a few moments and just make sure that we reflect and pause and think about what Christmas really is all about. And if you’re a lady, you can raise your hand, and if you’re a man, you probably don’t want to. But how many of you ladies like those Hallmark movies? I am married to one of those ladies. And let me just say, for the sake of marital alignment, I have watched a few.
I know the story. I know what is going to happen. I know they are going to kiss. And, yet, guys, I am sorry about this, I kind of tear up toward the end! And I feel like, “Oh, that’s so wonderful! And it makes me feel so good!”
And I have my Hallmark moment. And my wife turns to me and goes, “Now, isn’t that great?” I go, “Yeah.”
And my experience, probably, it’s me growing up, but Christmas Eve services for me were a Hallmark moment. I didn’t grow up believing in Christ personally, I had never opened the Bible, but I did go to Church on Christmas Eve and it was a lot like a little bit what you have experienced. There was greenery and there were candles and there were colors and there were banners and there’s just, there was something like, Wow! This is awesome!
And then, no matter what was going on in our family, we had some dysfunctional family issues and my dad was a good guy but he was an alcoholic and, but, boy that night, we all got along. It was great. And my concern is that our time together goes beyond just a Hallmark moment and that we really ask ourselves, So, why are we really here?
In other words, the question I want to ask is: who is this child really? The Hallmark moment is great, but I can’t base my hope on this good, warm, great feeling with Christmas music and a baby and Mary and shepherds and Maggi and opening presents and some good food.
I am living in a world where there is ISIS. I’m living in a world where there is poverty and disease and not talked about much, but it’s a huge area – HIV positive. I’m living in a world where divorce happens. I’m living in a world where three of my closest friends have four-stage cancer. I’m living in a world where one of my very closest friends, his son, in a really weak moment, after being through horrendous things – great, great guy – killed himself.
And so, I think we’ve got to pull back and say, Yes, this is an amazing moment, but where is our hope? Is it more than just a Hallmark moment? Is it a historical reality? And what I want to suggest is that we have been teaching thus far that it is a historical reality. I want you to know that what we are celebrating isn’t some person that came up with an idea, “Let’s start another religion.” Seven hundred years before Jesus was born, a prophet named Isaiah, would get a word from God and say in chapter 7, “A day is coming when there would be a virgin,” out of the blue prophecy, “that would be with child and His name would be Immanuel, God with us.”
Two chapters later, you have mostly got it on your Christmas cards, you have read this, or you saw it earlier, “For a child is born to us” – right? “A Son is given. And the government will rest on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father,” literally, “Father of Eternity,” “Prince of Peace. And His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of His ancestor, David. The passionate commitment of the Lord of heaven’s armies will make this happen.”
And here’s what I want you to get: what we have celebrated – who is this child? He is Wonderful Counselor, prophesied, fulfilled three hundred specific prophecies. The probability is for even six or seven of those is one with about thirty zeroes.
This baby was fully man and fully God. He is called the Messiah or the Christ. He came to save His people and us from our sin. He saw the humanity and our brokenness and our hurt and every one of us needs wisdom and He is a Wonderful Counselor.
All of us need power, we need the power to live the way we want to, but can’t. And so, He is a Mighty God.
And we need someone to carry us along, to know that this life isn’t all there is. He is the Father of Eternity. We need hope. You can’t live in this world the way you live it and not know there has got to be something more. And Jesus said, “Not only there is, but I came to die for the sins of all men of all time. And I am preparing a place,” and His last words to His disciples, “I will not leave you as orphans. I prepare a place for you.”
And then, finally, He is the Prince of Peace. This word for prince is, literally, it’s: chieftain or leader. It could be translated: the Prince or the King of Peace. And the peace that He is talking about, it’s something way bigger than you and I tend to think.
That’s who we are celebrating. It was a historical event on a piece of land in Israel with real people in real space/time, with struggles and ups and downs, at a time in the Roman Empire. That’s who He really is.
The second question: why did He come? Why did He come? We know from what Mary sang and what Joseph would say and what Zechariah would say as you read the New Testament documents, He came to save His people. He came to save, He came to rescue, He came to deliver.
But I’d like to focus on this one great thing. He came to be the Prince of Peace. Now, when you and I think about peace, and wanting peace, the English word basically means to be without conflict or turbulence. So, it could be external. In other words, there’s not chaos at work or there’s not turbulence out there in your circumstances or in a relationship. It’s at peace.
And the other way we apply it in English is that there’s not conflict in your soul. You’re not uptight. You’re not anxious. We say to one another, “I’m not stressed out. I’m at peace.”
But if our English word for being at peace has this much meaning, the word that Bible uses is this big. It’s shalom. It’s the Hebrew word and the Greek takes it with all full of its meaning. And the word shalom, literally, He’s the Prince of Shalom.
In the Old Testament it’s what God calls Himself. But the meaning of shalom is so much bigger than the absence of disturbance or conflict. It has four basic meanings. The first one, it literally means health. In other words, or wholeness, that you are whole.
The world is fallen, there is disease, there is hurt, there is difficulty. And for shalom, it means that things would be right, your body and mind and heart and soul.
The second meaning of the word has to do with harmony. It means there is harmony between you and God. Harmony between you and other people. It means there is no guilt, there is no shame, there is no dissonance, there is no fear other than a reverential awe. That you and God are aligned. There is shalom between you, there is shalom in your marriage, shalom in your friendships, shalom at work. He came to be the Prince of Shalom.
The third meaning of the word has to do with fulfillment. In fact, it’s translated: prosperity or success. We are His handiwork. He made us. And for God, when He, the Prince of Shalom, is that you would be discovering your design, that you would be successful and fulfilled and do what only you could do. In fact, it’s translated in parts of the Old Testament as prosperity. The shalom, the blessing of God, that He loves us, He is for us.
And the final use of the word is a victor over enemies. Enemies like death, enemies like the evil one, enemies like at times our own selfishness and our sin.
Why did He come? He came to give us shalom. So, here’s the next question. Where is this peace that He promised, right? There’s not a lot of shalom, is there?
I got a text from a very, very close friend. His son, in a really weak moment, after being through horrendous things he came and he had been in and out of drug rehab about three times, but was clean for ten years. But it did some stuff to his brain and so he was bipolar and had some real struggles. This kid, thirty, thirty-two, his heart is this big. Awesome guy. I had a chance to baptize him over there about four months ago. Radical change in his life. But he so struggled with those dips of depression. And in a moment of weakness, killed himself.
Some of you, this Christmas, it’s your first Christmas, there is no shalom. You were married last Christmas; you’re not this Christmas. For some, it’s a father or a son or a daughter and you have experienced a death or your visits are to the cancer ward and there is no shalom and you say, God! If You came to bring peace, I’m not experiencing it.
Because, see, that prophecy of: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity, and Prince of Peace – it’s a double prophecy. And if you could imagine a prophet looking at two mountain peaks and seeing how they align, the first part of that verse is about Jesus’ first coming. He is coming and He is the Wonderful Counselor, He is the Mighty God. He raised people from the dead! He brought peace. He would heal this person. He fed five thousand people. He demonstrated: “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.” I am the peace of God. I am the bridge. I will show you: this is what life is all about.
But you notice it says, “And the government,” the tense changes, “will rest upon His shoulders.” It says, “He will be on David’s throne.” In other words, this isn’t linked to some fairy tale, this is linked to a real person who was a king that God made promises to named David. And see, His first advent, but the second mountain peak is when He returns.
When Jesus came the first time, His last official act is He came into Jerusalem riding on a colt or a donkey. In the Middle Eastern culture, when a king would come and ride on a colt or a donkey, he was coming in peace, looking for a reconciliation with the group that he was visiting. He would go to a city and say, “I don’t want to attack. Let’s have a covenant of peace.” And Jesus came and was rejected and killed and beaten.
When He returns, the fulfillment of all those other things, He will not come on a colt, He will come on a stallion with the host of angels. And He will bring about what you want and what I want: no more wickedness, no more selfishness, no nations fighting against one another. He will bring absolute peace and death and sin and sorrow and pain and all of it will be swallowed up.
But the distance between the first coming and the second, He has entrusted to us the message of peace. In fact, He has this strange thing that He calls Christ-followers. He says, “You are My body. You are My hands. You are My feet.” I want you to tell the world that when I died upon the cross, I paid for the sins of all people, of all time.
In fact, peace is a gift. You can’t earn it, you can’t get it, you can’t be successful enough, you can’t do enough, you can’t be famous enough. Peace is something that God gives where you can actually be in right relationship with Him and yourself and others and not have guilt and not have shame and not have to impress anyone or not have to get into this school or that school. Or your kids don’t have to be that successful or this successful. And you don’t need to look a certain way. You can be loved for just who you are because you’re at peace. It’s a gift from God.
That’s why He came. And the reason we don’t have it yet is because genuine love never forces itself on anyone. God says, I love you. I make the offer. He comes to us as a Savior saying, If you want peace, I want to give it to you, but I won’t force it on you.
I remember my old days at college, I would talk especially to young guys who would have a crush on a girl and she wouldn’t give them the time of day and, “She is so beautiful and I just want her. And if there is any way I could make her love me and like me, it would be great!” And we would be talking about that and their relationship with the Lord.
“And why is there so much evil in the world?” I said, “Well, here is the price tag of genuine love.” I said, “You know what? If you could get that gal over in the student union to just sit down with you for a coffee or a coke or something and when she looked away, if you could get a little blue pill and put it in it, and it had magical powers and then when she would drink that, she would go, “I love you!” And she would just call you and want to – you would be it!
And then you guys would get married, she would get up and cook breakfast and she would just look awesome all the time. And you would just be, she would just love you, love you, love you, love you, love you, love you.
And they are thinking, “Yeah! Where’s the pill?” I said, “Well, it would be great for two weeks. It might even be great for a couple months, actually. For some of us, we might be able to endure that for a year. But there would a day when you would wake up and you would wonder, Does she love me because she swallowed the blue pill? Or does she love me for me?”
And the high price of God saying, No blue pills allowed; the price of love is you can receive Me or reject Me. But the price tag is a world where there is sin and there is selfishness and there is hatred and there is war and there are people who choose to reject His love. And He has called us to share it.
Final question is: what do you really need this Christmas? Not what do you want. What do you really need?
I doubt, maybe some of you will get that new Lexus with the bow on the top when you wake up. Or maybe you get the new tech toy. Or maybe a coupon for the awesome vacation or a new coat or some clothes or, if grandma is in town, at least in our world, it means everybody gets underwear. But what do you need?
See, you know what I think has happened, especially for us Americans, is we think that what would really satisfy is if we were happy. And happiness revolves around our circumstances changing: I don’t have a person in my life. If I had a person in my life. I don’t have the good enough job, if I had that kind of job. I don’t own a home, but if I owned a home. If my kids get in this school, if we could finally have kids. Or, I am single…
And if/when, if/when, if/when. And then as soon as whatever it is, what do you know about fleeting happiness? It’s then, it’s the next thing. And I don’t know why, but just in my line of work, I have just had the chance in the last twenty or thirty years to meet people that you all and I would think, at least until I got to know them well, that they are so pretty and they are so wealthy and they are so famous. And the most lonely people I have ever met are people that have everything that they thought would make them happy, but they don’t have peace.
And I would like to suggest that what I need and what you need more than any gift or fleeting happiness is a lasting peace. And so, my final little question is: well, how do you get that peace?
Jesus told His disciples the last night, “I am leaving you with a gift.” You can’t buy gifts, you can’t earn gifts; they are free. “Peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give.” No wonderful relationship, no amount of money, no amount of fame, no new job. The world just can’t give it. “So, don’t be troubled or afraid.”
I want you to know that I think God wants us to have a Hallmark moment. I think it’s great. But I think He wants you to rest your hope in a historical reality where the God that made all that there is interrupted human history and took on human flesh to be for you, personally, a Wonderful Counselor; a Powerful, Mighty God; a Father of all Eternity; and if you would so choose, to be your own Prince of Peace if you would say, Not my kingdom, but Yours.
And if you would turn from your control and yourself and say, I need You to forgive me. I believe that when you died on the cross, You paid for my sin. And what gives us peace with God is not our morality. What gives us peace with God is God looking down on us through the atonement, or the blood of Christ, and we have received the gift.
And the Scripture says that, “He that has the Son has life. And he that does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
The Scripture says God will keep him or her in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Him.