Peace Be with You
Old Testament Reading- Isaiah 9:2-7
New Testament Reading- James 3:13-18
By Henry J. Rafferty CP -December 5, 2021
What a world we live in, or should I say, what a world we have created. Yes, I said created, because this certainly was not the work of God, God only makes things that are
good. God created a wonderful paradise of a world for His children, us, but we found a way to defile it by our disobedience to Him. We can still see the beauty and grandeur though that God created, beautiful blue waters of the Caribbean, majestic snow-capped mountain peaks of the Rockies, the Alps, and the Himalayas, rich green forests of the northeastern U.S., and the animal life on the vast African savannahs. All these things God created, and their beauty has lasted in spite of the fall of creation, imagine what it should look like! We can all still find beauty here, even in unlikely places, but we have really made a mess of things.
School shootings, drug violence, racism, sexism, families that are torn apart by all manner of problems, and war. It seems that we are just never satisfied, and in our lust for more things and more power, we steal, kill, and destroy. What makes us the way we are? What makes us do the things we do? If we grow up with no love, we are affected. If we grow up with too much, we are also affected. Too little money? We steal, join gangs, and sell drugs. Too much money? We kill our parents, because they wouldn’t give us our own way. Of course, these are generalizations, but haven’t you wondered about them? What is wrong with us?
Maybe you don’t have these kinds of problems, maybe you don’t even know anyone who has these kinds of problems, but yet here we all are, and if you think that we are not all affected by these things, you are wrong. It is like saying that the pollution in India has no effect on us, or the destruction of the rainforests in South America is too far away to worry about.
I think with the Covid pandemic, we have all learned, (at least I hope we have) that we now have world problems, not just isolated local incidents. Some people want to run away from it all so much that they say they are going to move to Alaska and live off the grid, then just like the human beings we are, they call in a film crew to make a television program to document their lifestyle, just doesn’t seem like living off the grid to me.
My point is that maybe we should all stop trying to run away from each other to live life on our own and accept that we can’t keep running away from each other to find peace, when peace comes from accepting that we are all different but are stronger together than singularly. Have you ever tried the rope lesson? A single strand of fiber rope pulled on each end with enough tension will break, but the more strands that are woven together and
placed under even much more tension than before will not break, stronger together. We are no different, but it starts with a single person, peace begins when you find the peace that God provides you, when you believe in Him and start trusting Him enough for Him to change your life.
One hundred and seven years ago, during WWI, imagine slopping through the mud and snow in those narrow, human-high trenches, not able to avoid the sick and the wounded’s cries for help. Trying not to be run upon by rats, and worried about the continual threat of chemical warfare, bombardment, and gunfire. No man’s land, an area of about 100 to 300 yards between the trenches was all that separated you from your enemies and was often filled with the bodies of men who had tried to spy on the opposing side and mortar rounds that had not gone off. War is hell, they say, and this type of warfare in the trenches of World War I was truly just that, but one person changed that on Christmas Eve.
As the British and French forces huddled in their trenches, dreaming of home and family on Christmas Eve they heard a familiar sound. Not the sound of bullets or artillery, but music, coming from the German trench across the way. Yes, it is definitely music and an unmistakable tune. The British and French soldiers could not understand the words, but that tune was undeniably the Christian hymn, Silent Night. Soon they ventured a look, against the wishes of their officers, across no man’s land, to the German trench and they were amazed to see little trees with candles lit on them. Little Christmas trees lined the top of the trench in spots along the way. Soon the British and French were singing the same song, but in their own languages and the German soldiers took notice.
Then it happened, against orders, one German soldier could not contain himself any longer. His faith had compelled him to do something that you never see in war, he came up out of the trench singing followed by one, then two, then many others, heedless of the cost to life or limb, their faith had given them strength to do what should have been impossible. It is amazing what affect the Spirit of God can have on us. These men, in this moment were no longer soldiers and enemies, but emissaries of Christ.
Soon, the British and French were led by the Spirit out of their own trenches and the three nationalities met together on the battlefield not as soldiers fighting for what their countries and governments felt was right or needed, but as brothers in their common faith, followers of Jesus Christ. Overcome by the power of their faith and the peace of Christ that fell on them on that eve of Jesus’ birth they met in no man’s land to sing and laugh. They gave each other gifts, as they could find: bottles of wine, cigarettes, candy, and chocolates; they even played a game of football.
Many will tell you that this was fiction, fabricated by Christians for a good story, but they are wrong. It really did happen, and we have photos and letters from those that experienced it firsthand. These men, faced with war and death, experienced real faith and the peace that only Christ can provide on that battlefield when they, if even for only that moment in time, found a way for enemies to become brothers in Christian love.
Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans 12:9-21,
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord. On the contrary:
If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” That is the beginning of it, the start of where your faith leads us in peace, it starts with just you deciding to be Christ-like and love even your enemies and those who could do you wrong. As far as it depends on you, not, well so-and-so won’t do this or that, NO, as far as it depends on YOU! You cannot control what someone else does, but you can control what you do. Start with peace in your heart. Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27
"We must do better at living our faith every day, in all places, not just in the confines of the church building," ~ Pastor Henry Rafferty
How could the soldiers of three armies meet together in fellowship on a battlefield in WWI? It sure sounds like a hoax, but it's not, that is what happens when singular believers follow Christ, the impossible becomes possible and peace is shared. Now imagine if governments, nations, religions, and organizations could follow that example, maybe there really could be peace on earth. Remember though that it starts with one person, like the song says, let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. If we started living our lives the way that we live on Christmas morning at a church service, where it is better to give than receive, oh what a wonderful world it would be. We must do better at living our faith every day in all places, not just in the confines of the church building.
I would remind you that, in a world that can seem upside down and when things look at their worst, know that Jesus Christ has made all things new again and that He provides a peace for you that never grows old. I will close with the words of Paul in his letter to the church in Philipi,
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:4-9
These words are trustworthy and true. May the peace of Christ surround you this day and always. Thanks be to God. Amen.