During Advent I used a little book of readings called ‘The Dawning of Indestructible Joy’. In his final chapter John Piper gives a short sermon under the title ‘A Saviour is Born! God Gets the Glory, Your Get the Peace!’. He used the words of the heavenly host of angels recorded in Luke2:14 as his text:
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!
This verse is very familiar, often quoted on Christmas cards, but too often the final seven words are omitted.
Peace is promised us when we humble ourselves and acknowledge God as sovereign in our life – not easy in these days when moral absolutes are unfashionable and we are sold the umpteen steps of self-help programmes as the solutions to our problems and lack of peace. John Piper sums up like this:
If we want peace to rule in our lives, God must rule in our lives. God’s purpose is not to give you peace separate from himself. His purpose is to give you peace by being the most glorious person in your life.
A wonderful illustration of why Jesus came to Earth as our rescuer and the restorer of our right relationship with God was given at our student-led carol service the Sunday before Christmas. Tim, the young speaker (a bit older than a student but still young enough for me to remember him in the children’s groups!) began his talk by sharing a personal experience of rescue. During a break from studies he and a student friend decided to spend a day on the coast traversing a headland by alternating swimming and rockclimbing. They had the sense to check the weather forecast was set fair before beginning their adventure. Half way round the headland the wind got up unexpectedly and the waves got bigger, making swimming difficult and the cliff face rocks too slippery to climb. Tim began to struggle in the conditions and had to scramble onto a rock. He was stuck, unable to go back, unable to go forwards. His friend, a stronger swimmer, went ahead to find help. Some while later Tim heard his friend calling from the clifftop above him, ‘It’s ok! The helicopters on it’s way!’. At the end of his talk about the reactions of Simeon and Anna on meeting baby Jesus (listen at http://media.stmarys-basingstoke.org.uk/sermons/fetch/2014-12-21-1000.mp3 ) Tim concluded his own story of rescue by recounting his feelings at the time.
Although obviously mighty relieved to hear the helicopter overhead and see the winchman coming down to him with a safety harness at the ready, Tim actually felt embarrassed to have to admit his helplessness and total dependence on being rescued. Of course, despite those feelings, he didn’t push the winchman away or refuse to have the harness looped around him! It is a great illustration of how we so often don’t acknowledge or welcome Jesus into our lives – it takes getting over our pride and accepting we won’t have ‘the peace that passes all understanding’ if we insist we can rescue ourselves from the rock we’re stuck on and refuse to give God the glory!