171225 Luke 2:13-14

Last Updated on Monday, 25 December 2017 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: Luke 2:13-14
Theme: Peace For The Broken

It was our first Christmas in our first house. Shannon and I had lived in three different apartments the first three years after we got married, but now we finally had a place we could call our own. We could paint the walls whatever color we wanted. We could pound nails into the walls wherever we wanted. And we could decorate our house for Christmas however we wanted.

That first year we didn't go over the top with a Griswoldesque outdoor light display, but we did go out and get a tree, a real tree with lights and tinsel and ornaments. Part of the fun of putting ornaments on the tree is that each one is special. Some have sentimental value. Some have monetary value. And a few ornaments have both.

My wife is an Irish girl from an Irish town, and so one of our first ornaments was a gift from one of her friends who worked at the Irish store. It was one of those delicate glass blown ornaments. I can't remember if it was a leprechaun or a shamrock or something else, but I do know that it was green.

One day I noticed something on the tree that didn't look quite right, and when I tried to fix it that's when it happened. I knocked the wire hook holding up the Irish ornament, and it fell. Even though it felt like it was falling in slow motion, I wasn't able to catch it in time. The shiny, green, expensive ornament hit the hard floor, and when it did it broke. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that it shattered into pieces.

My initial response was panic. I tried to pick up the pieces. For a brief moment, I entertained the thought that I might be able to glue all those pieces back together, but reality quickly set in. I couldn't undo what had been done. I couldn't fix what I had done. The ornament in my hands was irreparably broken.

That long-forgotten memory flooded back to me when I looked at this postcard. It's a picture of an ornament, a broken ornament. We mailed out a few thousand of these Christmas invitations a couple weeks ago. Maybe you are here today because you received one and decided to check us out. Maybe you shared this invitation with someone you know.

But much more important than the picture on this postcard is its message. Much more important than any Christmas decoration is the message of Christmas. It was this good news of great joy the angels proclaimed to the shepherds. It is the same good news our Savior shares with us today. On this Christmas Day the Christ child gives us a priceless gift. Today Jesus opens his hands and holds out...

PEACE FOR THE BROKEN

You don't have to be a Christian to agree with me that people are pretty good at breaking things. Let's start with the young people here today. How many of you know what you want for Christmas? How many of you are still playing with the gifts you received last Christmas? How many puzzles or games are missing pieces? How many electronic devices are in need of new batteries? How many of those toys that were brand new just a year ago are already decomposing in some landfill?

For the grown-ups here this morning, let's take a different approach. Last week you might have heard the news story about one of the largest airports in the world shutting down. A week ago Sunday an electrical fire in the Atlanta airport caused a blackout that delayed hundreds of flights. The next day a commuter train derailed in Washington state, leaving behind death and destruction and tons of twisted metal. And to complete the planes, trains and automobiles illustration, take a couple minutes this week and add up how much money you spent on car maintenance in 2017. Hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars on repairs to keep your vehicle on the road, to fix things that were broken?

And it's not just the things we own that break down. We do too. Whether it's a certain quarterback's fragile collar bone or eyes that seem to be squinting more often or a heart that needs a pacemaker to keep beating on a regular schedule, the older we get the more realize that our bodies won't last forever.

The world we live in seems to be broken as well. Chivalry has been dead for a long time, but these days civility appears to have at least one foot in the grave. There is so much anger, so much hate, so much conflict in our world and in our own lives. Maybe you are having a hard time getting in the Christmas spirit this year because of a broken relationship in your life. Maybe you are hurting because you know that you are at least partially to blame. Maybe the source of your guilt is something you have done to damage your relationship with God.

We break things. We break rules. We break promises. We break every commandment every day. Like human wrecking balls, we destroy everyone and everything in our path. And what is the result? What is the end result of all the damage and carnage we cause? We end up broken. We have no use. We have no redeeming value. We deserve to be thrown into a landfill like last year's Christmas gifts. But instead of giving us what we have coming to us, Jesus does something totally unexpected and totally undeserved. Jesus brings peace, peace for the broken.

You don't have to take my word for it. Listen to the angel's announcement to the shepherds in Luke 2. He told them that the Savior had been born. He told them where the Savior had been born. He even provided small details like where he was lying (in a manger) and what he was wearing (strips of cloth). Listen to the angel choir that lit up the night sky and sang: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests" (14).

It was a marvelous birth announcement for a most special baby, but it was only the beginning. After his humble birth in Bethlehem, Jesus grew. Like every other child, he grew in wisdom and stature. But unlike any other child, Jesus was sinless, flawless, absolutely perfect. He followed every rule. He kept every promise. He obeyed every one of the commandments perfectly in our place...to give us peace.

Jesus told his disciples as much when he said: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you...Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (John 14:27). Do you know when Jesus spoke those words? It wasn't after a long day of teaching the people. It wasn't after a day of healing and helping people. It was Maundy Thursday, the night before Good Friday. Jesus was hours from being arrested and convicted and executed, and yet he wanted to talk about peace, perhaps to clear up any misconceptions about his definition of peace.

The peace that comes from Jesus came at a high cost. Ironically, the peace that Jesus brings was the result of a life and death struggle, and he was the one who died. But Jesus' death on the cross did not signal his final defeat. On Easter morning Jesus rose from the dead to declare victory over death and the devil, to guarantee that our sins have been forgiven, to give us true and lasting peace.

What does that kind of peace look like? Try to imagine it. Close your eyes and try to picture it in a nature scene. Are there a few puffy white clouds floating across the sky? Do you see some rolling hills or a grassy meadow? Perhaps some animals grazing or children playing? Or does your picture of peace look more like this? (show the picture on the screen)

It doesn't look very peaceful, does it? The skies are dark and foreboding. You can't look at the lightning without hearing the accompanying rumbles of thunder. Wave after wave of water is crashing down on the rocks below. You and I might call a picture like this "The Tempest" or "Nature's Fury" or something similar, but the artist chose a different title. Jack Dawson called this work, "Peace in the Midst of the Storm." And a closer look will explain why. (show the close-up picture on the screen)

In the middle of the picture near the bottom is a small bird. It isn't flapping its wings wildly. It isn't trying to escape the wind and the waves. Instead, it is nestled in the cleft of the rock. Because that rock provides shelter from the storm, that bird isn't going anywhere. It feels safe. It is protected. It is at peace.

What I like most about this picture is how accurately it portrays a Christian's life. Peace is a popular theme for Christmas cards and Christmas songs, but it's superficial. The good will and good feelings don't last. And it won't be long before people are as mean and nasty to each other as they were before the holidays.

The truth is that living in a sinful world is not easy. Life can be hard. Life is full of storms. But we don't have to be afraid. We don't need to feel overwhelmed...because we have a God who loves us, a Rock who will protect us, a Brother who will never disappoint us. Jesus sees us as we are. Jesus knows how broken we are. But instead up sweeping us up and throwing us away, he picks up the pieces and puts us back together. He forgives our sins and gives our lives meaning and purpose and hope for the future. And on this Christmas Day our Savior gives us a gift, a precious gift that will never wear out, a priceless gift that will never grow old, the gift of peace, peace for the broken. Amen.

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Compelled by the love of Christ, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School seek to reach out to our families, community and world, using Law and Gospel to make disciples, growing and nurturing them in their Christian faith and life.

 

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