Episode 1. A Battle on Our Hands
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It’s amazing how on the one hand, we head into Christmas wanting it to be full of peace and rest – yet so often there’s turmoil…what’s going on? Join Berni, as he takes a look at …
Well, here we are. It’s December … again. And isn’t it amazing how on the one hand, we kind of head into Christmas wanting it to be full of peace and rest – yet so often there’s turmoil…what’s going on?
The lead up to Christmas is always a bit of a funny time, it’s a mixture of being rushed and pressured, presents to buy, things to finish off at work. There are all sorts of distractions and for some people there’s a sense of desperation or loneliness. I don’t know many people who associate peace and rest with those few hectic weeks and yet that’s what Christmas is all about, the coming of the Prince of Peace but peace from what? So many people have a sense of turmoil and unrest in their lives but what’s the cause of that? And well, if God sent us the Prince of Peace, Jesus, if that’s what Christmas is all about then exactly how does that first Christmas present bring us peace and peace from what?
December is a funny time isn’t it? It’s that rushing and work and presents and parties and anticipation. I always think of December as a month of pre-occupation with other things, with something and you get to that Christmas time and often we’re so exhausted that the Christmas experience which should be a celebration, which should be family, which should be remembering the wonderful thing that God did for us through Jesus, ends up being empty and hollow and it doesn’t live up to expectations and we look back and go, “Why did I do all of that? Why did I buy all that food and buy all those presents? What’s this Christmas thing all about?”
Have you ever felt that way? I just would love to work our way through that given that we’re at the beginning of the month now and maybe we can do something to really think about what Christmas is in the hectic lead up time. Sometimes there’s turmoil where there should be peace, there’s unrest. We can feel so far away from the whole peace and goodwill to all men thing that Christmas is supposed to be and that is what Christmas is about. Christmas is when we celebrate God’s declaration of peace with us. Peace from what? From turmoil, from war, the mother of all wars, a war between us and God. Maybe you’ve never thought of it that way but Christmas is the time when we celebrate the coming of the Prince of peace into our lives, into lives that are so often full of turmoil, lives that so often feel like war zones that we need peace but peace from what? From the war between God and humanity, the war that began at our initiative, no surprise to God but it began with our rebellion.
It’s interesting when you look at a book in the Old Testament called Ezekiel, it’s written by a prophet and his job was to go to God’s people and say, “You know, you people have rebelled against God.” And that’s exactly what he told Israel. Israel was God’s chosen people, God took them out of Egypt and took them through the desert and put them in the Promised Land, He gave them this land and they rebelled against Him. God has such a heart for His people, God’s cry for His people; you can read about it in Leviticus chapter 26 if you want to.
I will be your God and you will be my people.
It’s what God’s cry is to us today, it’s what God’s cry is to us in Christmas time yet Israel rebelled against God as so God brought the Babylonians and destroyed Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple and so many of His people were killed and those that were left were taken as slaves into exile in Babylon. Ezekiel was writing to God’s people in those early years of their exile when they were wondering, “what’s gone on here? Where’s God?”
And this is what Ezekiel wrote, he said this is what God is saying: “Jerusalem, I’ve set you in the centre of all these nations with countries all around you but you rebelled against me, you turned away from me, you were more turbulent than all those nations and instead of following my commands you actually acted like those nations that I put around you. You don’t look like my people at all, you look like them and so I’m coming against you and executing judgement against you in the sight of all the nations, because of all your abominations I’ll do what I’ve never done before and I’ll never do again and I’m going to bring famine and pestilence and war on you and you’ll be destroyed and I’ll unsheathe my sword after you. My anger will be spent on you; I’ll vent my fury on you.”
You might say, “Berni, that doesn’t sound much like a Christmas message, I mean what are you talking about this stuff for in December? I’ve got enough problems in my life without you telling me about some God who’s going to come up against me.” But you know unless we understand this bit, unless we understand that when we rebel against God, ultimately God is going to bring His judgement against us. We don’t get Christmas because God has no heart for doing this, God’s heart is to be our God, God’s heart is for us to be His people but you and I, we’ve rebelled. Israel did it, Adam and Eve did it before them and you and I have done it after them.
We’ve all sinned, we’ve all fallen short of the glory of God and God doesn’t want to bring that judgement on us. That’s why He always planned on Christmas, not turkeys, not wine and food and holidays and sure they’re all lovely things, I mean, hey I have a rest over Christmas and it’s fabulous but that’s not the main thing. The main thing is that God planned Christmas to be an end of the war but before we can accept that, before we can say, “You know this Jesus that God sent for me at Christmas.” Before we can really, really accept this present that God gave on that first Christmas we’ve got to admit something. There’s a war happening, there’s turmoil in our lives, we wonder why our lives are a mess sometimes and yet at the same time we’re ignoring God.
Come on, wake up, I’m not being rude I just really feel that to get in your face today and say, God’s got a plan for your life and that plan, right at the top of the list is this. “I will be your God and you will be my people.” That’s the cry of God heading into Christmas this year; it’s the cry of God for you, specifically for you. It’s no coincidence that you and I are together today, God is reaching out to you, will you let Him be your God? Will you be one of His kids, one of His family, one of His people? Or are we going to spend the rest of our lives rebelling against Him like Israel did. The way is open, the door is open, the path is open through Jesus, this Jesus who cried out for that first time in Bethlehem on that night a couple of thousand years ago for peace, peace with God and there’s no other peace like it.
We’re going to be looking at that peace for the rest of the week on the program, but today I just want to implore you, I want to encourage you to admit the turmoil, to name it for what it is, to say, “You know something, this joker that I heard on the radio today, he’s talking stuff for me.” Because your God wants to reach out to you today so much, your God is aching for a relationship so deep and so wonderful and so vibrant with you that we can scarcely imagine. That’s what today is all about, Christmas is coming. Christmas is God’s declaration of peace, my prayer for you is that in these days and weeks leading up to Christmas, you just stop and pause and think and reach out and say, “God, I want your peace.”