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Call Him By His Name: Prince Of Peace: The Last, Best, Greatest Hope For Humankind

John 16:25-33

I shall be reading from the 16th chapter of the Gospel according to John. Jesus is speaking to His disciples. But the words He speaks are the Word of God.

“‘Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language, but will tell you plainly about My Father. In that day, you will ask in My name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No. The Father Himself loves you. Because you have loved Me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and entered the world. Now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.’

“Then Jesus’ disciples said, ‘Now You are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. Now we can see that You know all things, and that You do not even need to have anyone ask You questions. This makes us believe that You came from God.’ ‘You believe it last,’ Jesus answered. ‘But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave Me all alone. Yet I am not alone. For My Father is with me. I have told you these things so that in Me, you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart. I have overcome the world.'”

May God bless to us the reading and the hearing of this portion of His Holy Word.

Pray with me please. Give me Jesus, Lord. Give me Jesus. You can have all the rest. Just give me Jesus. Amen.

Thanks in part, I suppose, to Handel’s Messiah, the words of the prophet Isaiah are forever carved into our consciousness. “Unto us, a child is born. Unto us, a son is given. And the government shall be upon His shoulders. And His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Oh, how sweet those names of Jesus are. But I would suggest that perhaps the sweetest of them all is the last one. The name we call Jesus: Prince of Peace. Today I would like for us to ponder together some of the implications of calling Jesus the Prince of Peace.

In the first place, when we call Jesus Prince of Peace, we are affirming that God is in charge of this world.

Now I know that there are many people who look at the world today and say, “The world’s a mess. It’s too far gone. Nothing can be done to save it.” But Christmas says, “No. That is not true.” Christmas says, “God is still in charge. God has not abdicated His throne. God has not resigned from office. God is still in control of this world.” I know it’s hard to see that when you look at the world in which you and I now are living.

The peoples of this world seem to be divided into hostile camps. Relationships amongst the nations are marked primarily by fear and distrust. On-again, off-again hot and cold wars haunt both our waking and our sleeping hours. Tyranny and terror seem to be arising at every hand. And yet while there are many, many people in the world today who look at the world and who are gripped by a sense of paralyzing hopelessness, I am not one of them. Nor should you be. We are the followers of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. And therefore we are in possession of this great promise from the Bible that one day the kingdoms of this world shall become the Kingdom of our God and of His Christ. And He shall reign forever and ever. You and I, as followers of Christ, are in possession of this great promise from the Bible, that one day the nations of this world shall study war no more. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Make no mistake about it, dear friends. That day will come. That is the promise of the Scriptures. And that will be fulfilled by Jesus, the one we call the Prince of Peace.

I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about this or not. But there are some words that just sound beautiful when we say them. Regardless of the meaning behind the words, these words, when we speak them, make a beautiful sound. Listen. Dawn. Whisper. Melody. Or what about this word? Shalom. Is that not a beautiful word? Shalom. A beautiful word. And an equally beautiful meaning. Shalom, you know, means peace. That word, shalom, originally belonged to our sisters and brothers who are Jewish. But then along came Jesus, who Himself was a very good Jew. And Jesus took that word as His own. And He then proceeded to expand the meaning of that word to encompass the whole world. And He used that word, shalom, over and over and over again all through His teachings. In fact, on the night before He died, He delivered to His disciples, and to all of us who follow after Him—He delivered this incredible promise. He said, “My peace, My shalom, I give to you.” Whether the people of this world will admit it or not, whether they will see it or not, Jesus the Prince of Peace is engaged in spreading His shalom all throughout the world.

That means, dear friends, that the great hope of this world will never be found in stockpiles of armaments, be they nuclear or otherwise.

The hope of this world will never be found in a rising Dow Jones or falling interest rates. The hope of this world will never be found in controlling people China-style or Castro-style or Khomeini-style. The only hope for this world of ours is none other than Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. He and He alone is the last, best, greatest hope for humankind. Remember please, Jesus said, “These things have I told you so that in Me, you may have peace. You may have shalom. In the world, you have trouble. Yes. But take heart. I have overcome the world.” And that means that the day will come. Count on it. The day will come when peace on earth, good will among men, will no longer be just a Christmas greeting. It will be a Christmas reality. That is the promise of the Scriptures. And that promise will be fulfilled by the one you and I call the Prince of Peace. And when we call Jesus the Prince of Peace, we are affirming that God’s power will prevail in this world.

There are many people who look at the world today. And they say, “The only power that works in this world is money or military machinery or political maneuvering or social prestige. That’s the only kind of power that will ever get you ahead in life.” But Christmas says, “No.” Christmas says, “No. That is not true.” Christmas says, “Ultimately only the power of God will prevail.”

That means that the real power in this world will be found in a manger rather than in the White House.

In a cross rather than a crown. In choirs of angels rather than in armies of soldiers. In love rather than in force. In giving rather than in receiving. Have you ever stopped to think how God utilizes His power? He doesn’t come crashing into our lives. He doesn’t assault us with a frontal attack. He doesn’t manipulate us or coerce us or pressure us. He doesn’t bash down the door of our hearts. No. He is content to simply knock on the door of our hearts. He is content to reveal Himself in a silent incarnation. He is content to let Himself be known through a slowly-spreading, penetrating influence in the world.

That is precisely the reason that Christmas is so charming and so appealing. You see, we have a tendency, don’t we, to want to surround Christmas with all kinds of clatter and glitter? And yet, think about it. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day mark the only time in the year when suddenly everything shuts down and everything stops moving. It’s the only time when our hearts are held in a holy hush. And that is because the great God of the universe, the God who created everything that is and everything that ever will be—this God dares to come to this earth, holding a little baby in His arms. And He keeps coming back in that child at Christmas, year after year, saying to us, “It is My power which ultimately shall prevail.” Yes, dear friends, the real power in this world is to be found in the things that a little band of shepherds talked about on that first Christmas so long ago. Here is the truth. And it is upon this truth that I have staked my entire life. The Christ who comes at Christmas is the last, best, greatest hope for all humankind. This Christ is the one who says, “In the world, you have trouble. But take heart. For I have overcome the world.” That is the power of God. And God’s power will prevail in this world. That’s a part of what we mean when we call Jesus the Prince of Peace.

That truth overwhelmed me on another Christmas. It was Christmas in 1981. That was when my family and I traveled to the Middle East for the very first time. The trip was meant to be a spiritual pilgrimage for the five of us: Meg and Beth and John David and Trisha and me. We were scheduled to be in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve. The whole experience turned out to be one of those events which are burned forever into the memory. It was a deeply moving time for us, yes. But it was also a time twisted with a terrible agony and irony. Bethlehem on that Christmas Eve was an armed camp. Just a few weeks before, Anwar Sadat, the Prime Minister of Egypt, had been assassinated because he had helped to forge a peace between Israel and Egypt. The Palestine Liberation Organization was threatening a terrorist incident in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve. As a result, heavily armed soldiers surrounded the little town of Bethlehem. A blockade was established on the outskirts of Jerusalem six miles to the north of Bethlehem. On that Christmas Eve, entrance to Bethlehem could be gained only by submitting to harsh, thorough security checks.

And so it was that the five of us on Christmas Eve expectantly and, I suppose, in retrospect, naively, walked up to the Jerusalem checkpoint. Immediately we were completely surrounded by soldiers and looking at the killing end of machine guns. They demanded that we surrender our passports. They then forcibly took John David and me, separated us from Trisha and our two daughters. And they placed us on separate buses. There then followed an extended time—I cannot for the life of me remember exactly how long it was, but it seemed to me like an eternity—an extended time of apparent inactivity on the part of the soldiers, coupled with a rising anxiety on my part. Finally the buses, loaded almost entirely with soldiers surrounding each of us, took off from the outskirts of Jerusalem and headed toward Bethlehem. When we arrived at the edge of the little town of Bethlehem, we were ordered off the buses. And thankfully the five of us were, to our great relief, reunited as a family. It was a relief and a reunion which would be short-lived. For thereafter, relatively soon, suddenly we found ourselves surrounded by soldiers aiming their guns at us again. Sharp, crisp orders barked out by the soldiers’ commander ordered us to separate once again, male and female. We were then roughly hauled off into large, olive drab military tents.

And there we were searched. Harshly, thoroughly, completely searched. The tactic of intimidation underscored by rough jostling from the soldiers, and by the constant prodding of the barrels of the guns. To think that we had come to Bethlehem to celebrate the birth of the one we call the Prince of Peace. Finally we were released from the tents, reunited again, thank God. And then we were escorted into Bethlehem, into Manger Square. And there, before we could even begin to recover from the shocking treatment at the hands of the soldiers, suddenly we were besieged by people. People who were desperate. They were trying to take advantage of the occasion, trying to make as much money as they could in any way that they could by hawking trinkets and souvenirs and relics. They were literally clawing at the five of us. And as I looked at them, I felt that their desire for dollars had rendered them stark raving mad. And to think we had come to Bethlehem to stand on the very ground where the one whose peasant birth took place in the rude barrenness of an animal’s feeding trough, and whose adult life was marked by the fact that He never had a permanent place to lay His head.

And then worst came to worst. We were suddenly swept up and trapped in the midst of roving bands of drunken, cursing young people. Sadly, most of them American. They seemed determined to submerge the loveliness of Christmas Eve beneath a sea of raucous, repulsive ugliness. And to think that we had come to Bethlehem to pray to the one who said, “I have come to seek and to save the lost.” It was at that point—it seemed to me then, it seems to me still, to be a miraculous act of God that the five of us were suddenly led, along with some others, to slip away from the chaos of Manger Square, to make our way onto the outskirts of Bethlehem, out to what are called the Shepherds’ Fields. There, no more guns. No more hawkers. No more revelers. Just beauty. Quiet, quiet beauty. With some beautiful people. Men, women, and children from all over the world. Different colors, different nationalities, different languages, different dress. But everyone celebrating one Lord.

And it was there on rocky, cave-pocked hillsides—there, as the night gradually squeezed the last light out of the day—there, as the stars began to pierce the gathering darkness—there, our family, surrounded by the family of Christ—there, we sang our Christmas carols in five different languages. We read the Gospel stories of the first Christmas. We prayed together. We wept together. We worshiped together. We felt at one with one another in Christ. And we felt at one with Christ Himself. We felt the power of the one we call the Prince of Peace.

It was there, seated on a rocky hillside, the five of us, with our legs and feet dangling over down across the mouth of a small cave where shepherds of Bethlehem then and now shield their flocks from stormy weather—it was there that I found myself captured—heart, mind, body, and soul. Captured by the setting and the circumstance. And it was there that I heard, literally heard, the promise of Christmas. The promise that the shepherds had heard on the first Christmas so long ago. The day will come when there will be peace on this earth and good will among men.

That feeling, being captured by that truth—that feeling was born in me that Christmas Eve night in Bethlehem. That feeling has never, ever left me.

And so unto us, a child is born. “Unto us a son is given. And the government shall be upon His shoulders. And His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, yes. Mighty God, yes. Everlasting Father, yes. And yes, Triumphant Prince of Peace.”

And that is why, my beloved people, my wish for you this Christmas—my wish for you is shalom. Shalom, my beloved. Shalom in Christ alone.

Soli Deo gloria.
To God alone be the glory.
Amen and amen.

 

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