What are you hoping for this Christmas? What’s on your Christmas list? What gift is it that you just have to have in order for your life to be complete and for you to finally be at peace? As children we may have said something like a Red Rider BB gun or a Cabbage Patch Doll, but as adults our hopes change. Now we hope for the best Star War’s gifts out there like the light saber BBQ Tongs
so we can BBQ like a Jedi; or maybe it is the Darth Vader Waffle Maker.
Actually, as we get older the gifts we often hope for can’t be bought from amazon. Maybe the gift we hope for this year is for our family to be together, or for a relationship to be healed, or for our job situation to improve. Maybe the gift that will bring peace is to see our children grow in faith and find courage and strength to make it through difficult times. Through the years what we hope for changes, but what doesn’t change is that we still have hopes and dreams. We still long for gifts that we think will bring us peace. What Charlie Brown hoped for was something to help bring his life a sense of purpose and fulfillment. He wanted something to give him peace and he turned to many different people for help, but one person turned to him, his sister Sally. (video)
Sally had an extensive Christmas list and she had her hope set on every one of these very specific gifts. There were so many items on her list that she decided to make it easy on Santa and just ask for money. For Sally, her hope and heart was set on material goods. Her expectation and desire was for cold hard cash. That’s what she hoped for because that’s what she thought would make her life complete. Money was not only what she deserved, it was what she thought would bring her peace.
Today if we are looking for something that will bring us peace, we have a choice. Like Sally, we can look to the material goods and wealth of this world and trust rising stock markets, Christmas bonuses and higher paying jobs or we can look to God. Sally was a young girl who looked for peace in the world but Mary was a young girl who looked for peace in God.
Like all good Jewish girls, Mary had her own hopes and dreams. She dreamed of marrying a honest God fearing man and having lots of children because these were signs of God’s blessing Like all good mothers she dreamed that her children would grow up to have a life blessed by God and a life that would be a blessing to others. Many Jewish girls at this time dreamed that their children might grow up to the Messiah because that was the highest honor and the greatest blessing they could know and people at this time were looking for the Messiah to come. These were all things Mary would have hoped for and these were the things that would bring her life true and lasting peace and like most girls she would have thought these things would all come through the normal channels of life like a husband and marriage, but then Mary had a visit from an angel. Luke 1:26-38.
Suddenly Mary is faced with a choice. Would she place her hope for a child, and the hope she had for that child, in herself and trust in her upcoming marriage to Joseph or would she place her hope and trust in God? To trust God was difficult because Mary was a virgin so how could she possibly become pregnant without Joseph and if she did became pregnant outside of marriage it would end her future with Joseph, end her reputation as a faithful woman and maybe even end her life. From the world’s point of view God’s plan made no sense, was incredibly unlikely to happen and included tremendous risks, but Mary said yes. Mary trusted God to help her find true peace.
Sally turned to the world to find peace, but Mary turned to God. If we are looking for peace, where will we turn and what will we trust? Will we trust the things of this world? Will we trust the material goods of the world to make us complete? Will we trust the things that make sense to us and the things that don’t bring any risk or will we look for peace in God? To find peace in God means we have to commit ourselves completely to God, and say like Mary, Here am I, the servant of the Lord, let it be with me according to your word.
Mary surrenders herself fully to God and places herself completely in God’s hands and that is the only way to find true peace. To find peace today we have to submit ourselves to God and submission is a totally commitment. When Mary surrendered to God it was a total commitment. Think about what it means to become pregnant. I have it on good authority that it affects absolutely every part of your life. Being pregnant affects your eating and sleeping. It affects the clothes you wear and your ability to move. Physically, pregnancy affects everything, but it goes deeper than the physical changes and I’m not just talking about the emotions and hormones, I am talking about relationships. Relationships change, even a woman’s identity changes as she goes from being a daughter and wife to being a mother. For Mary, placing her trust in God meant that everything in her life would change as she now follows God’s will. Giving up this kind of control is often why we struggle to trust God. If we continue to trust the things of this world then we are still in control, but when we place our trust in God we are giving control to God and we set out on His course for our lives.
And surrendering to God in order to find peace doesn’t mean that everything is going to run smoothly. Think again about Mary; engaged to be married, but now pregnant by God. What will Joseph say? What will the people in the community say? From the very beginning this was going to be a struggle. When it was time for her to give birth they had to take a journey – when they got to Bethlehem there was no place for them to stay – when the baby arrived all they had was a manger. The only visitors were a group of shepherds. Not exactly the situation Mary may have anticipated or hoped for – but because she was fully surrendered to God and trusted him, she was able to remain strong. Mary wasn’t looking to things of this world to bring her peace and comfort; she was placing all of her faith and trust in God. Placing our trust in God means giving all we have to God and then sticking with God even when things get difficult.
Mary shows us that true peace isn’t found in this world but in giving ourselves fully to God but she also shows us why we can trust God and what God’s peace looks like. After Mary said yes to God she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was also pregnant in a pretty miraculous way. Elizabeth was much older than Mary and had never been able to have a child, but now in her old age she was also pregnant and when Mary arrives, Elizabeth affirmed that God had truly blessed Mary and that her child was from the Holy Spirit. During this visit Mary shared this song of praise: Luke 1:46-55.
It is in these words where we begin to understand where the Mary’s peace came from. It came from Mary believing that God really did know her, and that God was doing something great in her and that God was going to lift her up. Luke 1:48, Luke 1:49, Luke 1:52b. This is still where peace still comes from, it comes when we believe that God knows us and that God will do great things for us and that God will lift us up.
God knows us. God knows our strengths and weakness, our hopes and dreams, our gifts and abilities. At times, God knows us better than we know ourselves and God knows what will bring us peace. When I first gave my life to Christ I told God that I wanted to serve him with my life’s vocation and I looked at everything except the local church. Because I didn’t want to be a local pastor I looked at being a chaplain, I looked at being a missionary; I looked at producing Christian TV programs. I looked at everything but refused to look at being a local pastor until God put me in a local church during seminary. It was through a placement at Mt. Hermon UMC in Graham NC as an associate pastor that I finally faced the reality that God knew me better than I knew myself and that the local church was a good place for me and maybe the only place where I would find peace. When we truly believe that God knows us better than we know ourselves and that God knows what is best for us and leads us in that direction that we can fully give ourselves to God and begin to find some peace.
Peace also comes in knowing that God will do great things for us, but let me be clear – God can only do great things for us if we will give ourselves to Him. God could not have done anything in Mary if she had said no, but because she surrendered herself and said yes, God was able to do something miraculous and bring Jesus, our Savior, into this world. It is only when we say yes to God and surrender to God our hearts and hands and lives that God is able to begin to do great things in us. Sometimes God doing great things in us starts in very small and unseen ways. I’m sure Mary wondered if God was doing anything in her during those first few days and weeks, but after her cousin Elizabeth affirmed God’s blessing she knew that God was doing something great. It often takes time for us to see the great things God is doing and sometimes we may not see it at all.
Many times the great things God wants to do in our lives may not be anything that can be seen. For example, faithful prayer may not be seen by the world as anything great, in fact many people today don’t see prayer as effective at all, but prayer is powerful and important and God can do great things in us and through us if we will surrender to him and pray. And we may never see the results of those prayers, but again, it doesn’t mean God isn’t doing something miraculous.
Giving is also not something people see as a great thing – but when lives are changed by our gifts – it is truly great. Through your generous giving we were able to help a couple get back together and start to heal their relationship and move forward in life and faith. While Mary could see the great thing God was doing in her, we often do not see it but faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen and faith brings peace. Peace comes when we surrender to God knowing that God will use us for something good even if we don’t know it or see it.
Peace also comes when we know that God will lift us up but again God can only lift up those who will first bow down to him. This is what Mary tells us in Luke 1:52-53.
It is the hungry and the poor and the humble and the servants that God lifts up. It is those who have surrendered to God that God honors and fills and brings peace. James 4:10 says, humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up. So humility and surrender are necessary for us to experience the blessing of God’s peace.
For Sally, peace came from trusting the things of this world but for Mary, it came from trusting God. Today peace still comes from God but only when we are willing and able to say, Here am I, the servant of the Lord, let it be with me according to your word. I invite you in these days leading up to Christmas to surrender to God. Don’t look to the world to bring you peace and don’t trust the gifts that can be purchased to make you whole. Turn to God, trust God and surrender to God fully for this the only path that leads to peace, a true and lasting peace that passes all understanding.
A Charlie Brown Christmas ~ True Peace
1. Growing up, what gift did you think you just had to have in order for life to be complete? Did you receive it? How long did the peace and fulfillment last?
2. What gift do you want this year? Is it something that will bring true peace?
3. Read the story of Mary in Luke 1:26-56
4. Mary experienced true peace because she surrendered herself to God.
• What would complete surrender look like in your life?
• What area do you struggle to give to God?
• What can you do this Christmas to draw closer to God?
5. Peace for Mary came in knowing that:
• God knows us – Luke 1:48
o Do you find this scary or encouraging? Why?
o What hope and dream can you share with God?
• God will do great things in us – Luke 1:49
o What great thing has God already done in you?
o What great thing would you like God to do in you?
o What great thing can you do between now and Christmas? Prayer, Giving, Faith Sharing
• God will lift us up – Luke 1:52
o Humble yourself before God in worship and prayer
o Think of others before yourself during the Christmas Celebration
Join us for Worship on Christmas Eve at 4:00, 7:00 or 9:30.