Sean C. Kim
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
24 December 2023
On this holy night, we greet the Coming of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We join his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, his father, Blessed Joseph, the shepherds in the manger, and the hosts of angels in the heavens in unbounded joy and excitement. The eager waiting and anticipation of the past forty days of Advent has come to an end. The Messiah is here!
In the Book of Isaiah, we read of the prophecy that foretold of the coming of the Messiah: “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). The Prophet Isaiah proclaims this vision to the people of Judah in the face of a foreign threat in the eighth century B.C. The Assyrians have begun their invasion and conquest of the Kingdom of Israel and will later go on to attack the Kingdom of Judah and threaten its existence.
In the centuries the preceded the birth of Christ, the Israelites experienced countless foreign invasions and endless political and social turmoil. In their desperation, they prayed for divine intervention, a Savior who would liberate them from the conflicts that tore apart their nation. They dreamed of a Messiah who would bring peace.
In the Gospel of Luke, we find another expression of this perennial desire for peace. We read of the choir of angels who announce the birth of Jesus: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (Luke 2:14). When Jesus was born, the Jews were suffering under the yoke of yet another foreign invader, the Romans, and social and political turbulence continued to plague the people. Jesus’ followers believed that Jesus was the Prince of Peace foretold by Isaiah, the fulfillment of the centuries-old prophesy.
Today, as we celebrate Jesus’ birth, conflict in the Holy Land continues, as war in Israel and Gaza brings death and destruction. And we also have a long, protracted war in Ukraine. These are only two of the many conflicts that afflict our world today.
Here, in the United States, we may not be in the middle of a war, but we find ourselves surrounded by our own set of conflicts: gun violence, racial tensions, political polarization and division in our national life. Then, there are the conflicts that we confront in our daily lives: road rage, bullying, office politics, church politics, broken relationships with family or friends.
Peace seems ever elusive. But, as Christians, we place our hope in the Savior born in Bethlehem today, Jesus, the Prince of Peace. And as his followers, we share in his mission of peace to this turbulent and conflict-ridden world.
There’s a song that I learned in Sunday School, and I’m sure you’re familiar with it as well. It goes like this:
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be
With God as our Father
Brothers all are we
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony
Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
The song was composed in 1955 by Jill Jackson-Miller and Sy Miller. By the way, Jill Jackson-Miller was born in Independence, Missouri – where I grew up. Jackson-Miller, a devout Christian, composed the song during a difficult period in her life. She had become suicidal after the failure of her first marriage, but then she discovered what she called the “life-saving joy of God’s peace.”
Our Lord Jesus offers this same peace to all of us. In the Gospel of John, Jesus promises his disciples: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give you” (John 14:27). The Apostle Paul later speaks of this peace that Jesus offers as the “peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension.” (Philippian 4:6-7). The peace of Jesus is beyond our human understanding and potential. To put it another way, it is a divine peace, God’s peace.
As Episcopalians, we are reminded of God’s peace every time we gather for Mass. Soon, we will greet each other with “Peace be with you” or “Peace of the Lord.” And when we finish our service and go out into the world, we are often dismissed with the words: “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”
Dear friends, what are the areas of your life where you need God’s peace? What are the ways in which you can work for peace in your community, the nation, and the world? As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, our Prince of Peace, may he grant you the peace in your lives that only he can grant. And may he empower you to the work of building his Kingdom of Peace on earth.
The sermons preached at St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Kansas City, are posted here!
To the Glory of God and in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary
St. Mary's is a parish of the Diocese of West Missouri, The Episcopal Church, and the Anglican Communion.