Peace: Promise of Peace

December 20, 2022
Series: Peace
Book: Luke

Speaker: Michael Dennis

Audio Download

This last week I was walking out the door on a Sunday morning, locking everything up and I remember there are still some people in our church building in Austin, so I sat my backpack by the door to go and make sure everyone is exiting the building.

Wouldn’t you know it, while I walked away, someone came and stole my backpack sitting by the door?  Immediately I went into Inspector Gadget Mode and assessed what might have happened.

I started checking trash cans for my backpack in Austin.  I checked dumpsters in Austin.  And across the street I notice a neglected building, and inside I find my backpack!

I find my bible, my binders, my notes, my favorite pen but wouldn’t you know it, my Macbook is gone.  Apple products have security features so I was able to see my Macbook moving around our city, actually found the people who took my Macbook but still till this day I am waiting for the return of the Mac!  One day!

The Macbook battery is dead, the computer is no longer pinging its location in north Austin but there is still a small part of me, a very small part of me, that is thinking to myself, “One day, I am going to get that Macbook back.”

I think in a similar way, there is a small part of us that feels like there are parts of our spiritual life missing from our day.

Things have changed, we have changed and we find ourselves thinking, “Is God’s hand ever going to return in my life?”  Is that too dramatic?

I think there is a layer inside every one of us that is wondering, “I feel like I remember the Lord working in my life in a different way than He does today” so that there is a part of our soul pinging out its location and feeling like we aren’t getting anything in return.

It might be in our country, it might be in our personal lives but I think there is a layer inside of everyone wondering, “Where are you at work in the lives of your people today?”

In our passage this morning we are going to look at Luke 2, the birth of Jesus, and see God’s hand at work in places we would never expect and in ways we would never expect, so that this morning we are going to see three sub-points; 1.  What Would You Expect? 2. Why Would You NOT Expect?  3. Where Should We Look?  Let’s look at our first sub-point; 1. What Would You Expect?

  1. What Would You Expect?

Luke 2:1-7, “1 Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. 2 This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 5 in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. 6 While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

I had some words highlighted for us to help us see the unexpectedness of this passage and it starts with the geographical locations and historical events.  In verses 1-7 we see a geographical tour of locations and historical events.  Do you see that in verses 1-7?

We see Caesar in verse 1.  A government census in verse 2.  References to Syria, Nazareth, Galilee, Bethlehem and we see these detailed notes because in chapter 1 we learn that Luke is an investigative reporter, the original crime stopper, who is hired to examine these fantastical claims of Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection and a promise to return.

Today there are people who are debating Jesus’ view on sexual identity with questions like, “What did Jesus think about homosexuality, same sex marriage, etc?”

These are important questions but it’s almost like they are forgetting there are much more complicated questions about Jesus than sexual identity.  Jesus claims to be born of a virgin.  That’s not normal.  Jesus claims to be God in the flesh.  Crazy people make those types of claims.

Jesus claims to live a perfect life.  Not a good life, but perfect.  Jesus told people He would die and resurrect in three days.  We’re not even debating if the resurrection happened, but the simple fact that Jesus said He would do that is crazy.

And Jesus claimed, one day, He will return in glory.  That’s a big deal!  Those aren’t casual claims, so that as a human being today you can reject the claims of Jesus, which is understandable, you can embrace the claims of Jesus but you can’t be casual about the claims of Jesus.  Does that make sense?

This is why Luke makes references to geographical locations and historical events like Caesar Augustus is king in Rome.  Luke knows he is investigating an incredible claim, so Luke drapes geographical locations and historical events throughout his writing to reinforce the weight of these claims.  Does that make sense?

This is important because typically we would see fantastic claims wrapped in fantastic locations, with magical animals, and mythological beings, but you don’t see these types of things in the birth of Jesus.

Instead we see the camera fly over these amazing places like Rome, Athens, Jerusalem, and then zoom in on the most unexpected place of Bethlehem.

And not even the town center of Bethlehem but in a manger with the animals so that IF you were going to look for where the God of Scripture would be at work in the lives of His people it wasn’t in the obvious and expected places but in the least expected places.  Does that make sense?

I need you to hear the “unexpectedness” of Bethlehem.  Especially these days when I think we are asking, more than ever, “Lord, where are you at work in the lives of your people?  How are you working in the lives of your people?”

Maybe I am misremembering but I feel like it wasn’t that long ago that we were more clear where the Lord was at work in our lives?  Maybe I am naïve but I think we use to have some confidence that the Lord was at work in our politicians?  We knew they weren’t perfect but we had some confidence that His will would be accomplished through our politicians.

We use to have some confidence that the Lord was at work in our schools in Austin?  I love our teachers.  Our teachers are amazing but there are days where I am wondering, “Lord, how are you going to work through these schools?”

We use to think the Lord was at work in our health care?  Medicine was to be helpful.  Doctors were to be trusted.  Corporations weren’t perfect but generally helpful.

We use to think, “Surely the Lord is at work in His church and His people?”  Maybe He was, maybe He is, but at minimum I think there is a layer in us that is struggling with where and how is the Lord is working in our lives today?

And in Luke 2, God’s Word, the announcement of God taking on flesh as an infant, we see the Lord is at work in the least likely of places, a manger in Bethlehem.

The Lord passes over the power of Rome, over the wisdom of Athens, over the religion of Jerusalem and zooms in on a manger.  If any child today was born into a manger we would consider that birth a tragedy.  We might even think, “The Lord must have missed this because surely a baby wouldn’t be born in manger.”

And yet it is in the context of a manger in Bethlehem that we see the Lord is at work in the lives of His people.  Let’s look at our second sub-point, 2.  Why Would You NOT Expect?

  1. Why Would You NOT Expect?

Luke 2:1-7, “1 Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. 2 This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 5 in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. 6 While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

Again, I highlighted some words to help us see the importance.  The emphasis of David is a reminder of Old Testament promises that a Savior is coming, God in the flesh is coming, a baby is coming, and He will be born of David.

Now, this isn’t as meaningful to us if we aren’t familiar with the Old Testament but the people of Luke’s day would have been familiar with the Old Testament, so that almost every other word in verses 1-7 is like a glaring strobe light flashing over and over and over, “Look over here!”

Micah 5:2, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”

Isaiah 11:1, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.”

Jeremiah 23:5, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.”

These are all promises of God’s hand at work in the lives of His people through the genealogy of David but it isn’t just the references to David because verses 1-7 are also references to the Exodus in the Old Testament.

Just Moses had a pharaoh who was opposing God’s hand in Egypt, we see a reference to the Caesar issuing a census to keep track of who lives where in his empire.

We see orders of a census that make life more difficult just as they are enslaved in Egypt.  We see the birth of a baby bringing hope to the people.  We see the baby is wrapped in clothing, placed in a manger, just as Moses was wrapped in clothing and placed in a basket.

The point is if you know the Old Testament then the idea of God taking on flesh in a manger in Bethlehem is kind of obvious.   In those days if you were looking for the Savior, a new beginning, a messiah, a righteous branch, then you would be looking in Bethlehem and probably walking around until you saw another woman being bullied by an imperial power who places their baby in a basket, so that the events in Luke 2 are a bit obvious.  Does that make sense?

Sometimes we talk about faith like it is so mysterious and unexplainable and in some ways, there are parts that are very mysterious but in many ways our faith is very obvious.

The God of Scripture created humanity to be in a perfect, loving relationship with Him, we rejected that in our sin, and from that moment on He makes a promise and plan to restore our relationship with Him.

He takes on flesh.  He lives an extraordinary life. He performs miracles to validate His claims.  He tells us He is going to die for our sin on a hill so that everyone could see and conquer them in the resurrection where He appears to over 500 people for 40 days.  It’s mysterious and obvious at the same time!

This is the beauty of God’s Word. Yes, there are parts that are mysterious and there are parts that are obvious and this is a reminder of how the God of Scripture works in our life today.

As we are asking the questions, “Lord, where are you at work in the lives of your people?” we need to remember manger in Bethlehem and remember His work in our lives today is going to be mysterious and obvious at the same time.  Let’s look at our last sub-point; 3. Where Should We Look?

  1. Where Should We Look?

We are asking the question, “Lord, where are you at work in the lives of your people?”  And His Word is teaching us that His work is mysterious and obvious, therefore, let us look in these three places:

Jesus’ Life.  If you are struggling to see God’s hand at work in the lives of His people then look at the life of Jesus.  Look at the cross.  Look at the resurrection.  Look at Jesus’ promise to return.

I don’t mean generally know about those claims but genuinely read and study the life of Jesus because the hand of the Lord is all over those places.

Listen to me church family in north Austin, this is not the time to put our faith on cruise control.  Yes, we might be a little discombobulated right now but this is not the time to veg out and be a people who are tossed to and fro by every news event of the day.

Can’t you see the drama unfolding in every news cycle by now?  Can’t you smell the next wave of fear that comes across your timeline by now?  You better hurry.  You better worry.  You better not say the wrong thing at the wrong time or the wrong place to the wrong people.  Ugh, it’s so played out!  Instead, let us a be a people who are captivated by the life of Jesus, the death of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, the return of Jesus.  Might we look for His hand in those places!

God’s Word.  If you are struggling to see God’s hand at work in the lives of His people then read God’s Word.  Please don’t settle for simply listening to God’s Word on Sunday morning.

It’s great you are here this morning but I am not talented enough to sustain you for 6 days.  Open up God’s Word every day.  Study God’s Word every day.  Own your faith.  Own the Word.  Become students of God’s Word.  Wrestle with God’s Word.

Forget about the powerbrokers in Rome.  Who cares what Elon is doing?  What the Kardashians are doing?  What Kanye is doing?

Forget about the wisdom of Athens.  The next talking head on the news.  The next YT Influencer pushing self-help. Forget about the religion of Jerusalem.  The next 30 day make over to get the best life possible.  The Lord’s hand is at work in His Word and we know this, therefore, let us be a people who read God’s Word, study God’s Word, memorize God’s Word because we need to see His hand at work in the lives of His people.

The Church.  Last one, right now the church in north Austin, the body of Christ in Austin, is making a lot of headlines and many times for all the wrong things, so that yes, the body of Christ, has many opportunities to grow and mature but there are many examples of the Lord’s hand working in the lives of His people in the church.

We just need to look in the eyes of His people who are right next to us on a Sunday morning.  We need to look into the eyes of His people who sacrifice time, energy, resources over and over on a Sunday morning.  We need to look into the eyes of His people who sing out in worship.

We need to look into the eyes of His people who repent of our sin.  We need to look into the eyes of His people who want to be a people who submit their lives to Jesus and follow Him.  We need to look into the eyes of His people bless not only the people of North Village Church in Austin but also actively look to be a blessing to the people in our neighborhoods, schools, and work.

Let’s stop worrying about these national, global problems and build lives, nurture our marriage, enjoy our children, serve others and we will see God’s hand at work in the lives of His people.

This is a copy of the Austin Statesman yesterday.  Perhaps you took a moment to look at the Austin Statesman yesterday?  Perhaps you found yourself asking the question, “Lord, where are you at work in our lives today?”

Do we see many references to the glory of God in the Austin Statesman?  We see references to political corruption.  We see references to economic doom.  We see references to Christmas but it is for shopping, so not sure that counts.

We see references to athletic achievements.  We see references to the brokenness of humanity and all the ways we fail.  We see references to the high’s and low’s of humanity but you don’t see the stories of sacrifice, love, prayer, support, encouragement, correction taking place in the life of the local church.

So that on some level we should at least ask ourselves, “If I am struggling to see God’s hand at work in the lives of His people, is it possible that I am looking in all the wrong places?”

Are we really that surprised if we don’t see the Lord’s hand at work in our politics?  Are we really that surprised if we don’t see the Lord’s hand at work in the media of our day?

Therefore, if we are fainthearted, if we are discouraged, if we are lacking confidence this season of Christmas in the glory of God’s hand at work in the lives of His people then might we store in our heart the manger in Bethlehem reminds us the Lord is at work in the lives of His people in the expected and unexpected.

Luke 2:11-14, “11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

Verse 14 says, “Yes!”  Jesus, God in the flesh, has come to bring peace through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection so that when we believe in Jesus the God of Scripture is pleased with you for eternity.  Isn’t that glorious?

This week someone asked me, “What if I don’t make all the right decisions in life, can I still be at peace with God?”  What if I am a glutton, liar, lazy, failure in life who never accomplishes anything significant, can I still be at peace with God?”

The glory of Christmas is that this baby in Luke 2 lives a perfect life, yet willingly lays down His life at the cross and raises up His cold, lifeless, body in glory, so that all who trust in Jesus, believe in Jesus are made at peace with God.

You need to believe in Jesus this morning.  You don’t need to just believe in Jesus, but you should give Jesus’ your life.  Follow Jesus.  Read about Jesus.  You might say, “I have questions about the bible.”  Then seek answers to those questions but give your life to Jesus and follow Him because Jesus is at work in the lives of His people.