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Peace Incarnate
a sermon based on Micah 5:2-5a|
by Rev. Randy L. Quinn

At some point today or tomorrow, hundreds of thousands of people will be making phone calls.  I haven't heard the statistics recently, so I may be misquoting them, but I think the highest volume days for long distance companies are Mother's Day and Christmas.

         Some people will be calling to simply convey greetings.

         Some phone calls will be made to thank people for gifts received.

         Some phone calls will be made by people feeling guilty for forgetting to send a present and now want to apologize.

         Some people will call to report on family celebrations that take place on the same day in two different locations.

You all will probably be included in one or more of those phone calls.  I know we will be calling my parents tomorrow to let them know how Christmas went for us and to thank them for the gifts we received.  Ronda's parents can expect us to call, too.  And we will wait for a call from our older children and grandchildren.  We will want to know what Christmas was like for each of them.

But there are also people who are waiting for a different kind of phone call.  Some of those people are waiting even today, right now as we are here in this place of worship.

         They are people who are wondering if someone who is traveling has arrived safely.

         They are concerned about someone who is in the hospital.

         They are aunts and uncles and grandparents to be who are waiting to hear how the newborn baby and mother are doing.

         They are people waiting for a doctor to call to give the results of a test that was run last week.

These are people who are worried.  They are anxiously waiting to hear a report of good news.  We can imagine what it would be like to have those concerns, and have waited for the same kinds of phone calls before.

It's also true that we are all waiting for news to arrive.

         Some of us are waiting at the phone.

         Some are waiting for a letter.

         Some are waiting for a sign from God.

         Some of us have been praying for a family member to realize the gift that God has in store for them.

         Some of us pick up the newspaper every day and hope to find that a cure for cancer has been found or peace in the Balkans has finally been forged out of the chaos of the past few years.

Certainly each of us has some tension or conflict that causes us concern.  All of us have some area of our lives that is in need of mending or fixing.  And at Christmas, many of us only want one thing - that thing may not be the same for each of us, but it's the same thing, nonetheless.

What we all want at Christmas is peace.  We want assurance that our needs are being met, that our prayers are being heard, that God is sorting out the trouble in our lives and helping us find solutions.

Do you know what is disconcerting in your life today?

Can you name your hopes and dreams?

Can you say out loud what it is that you are praying for?

Are you able to verbalize your innermost yearnings?

What keeps you from sleeping at night?

I heard of a man who realized how many people must be waiting at their phones to hear good news and wished he could call every single one of them and tell them what they wanted to hear.  He wanted to proclaim good news to every person on earth.

Wouldn't it be a great Christmas gift if all of our hopes and dreams were fulfilled that easily? 

But as the familiar Christmas Carol puts it, "the hopes and dreams of all the years are met in thee tonight."

And that's the point.  God already did it!  God has brought us peace.

Jesus is our peace.

But I found it curious that in our text for today, Micah does not say that the Messiah will bring peace; he simply says he will BE peace (v 5).

In him, with him, through him, we find peace.  Or in the Hebrew, we find shalom, a word that has the connotation of completeness and wholeness.  In him, with him, through him, we are complete.  In him, with him, through him, we are whole.

But that is easier said than experienced.

It's a little more than ironic that in Bethlehem today, the crowds are smaller than usual and much smaller than expected.  This is the millennial celebration of Christmas.  It's the time we sing songs of peace on earth.

But the recent violence in that city caused many travelers to change their plans.  The conflicts that were so quickly and easily portrayed in the news media raised fears and concerns in the hearts of many would-be pilgrims and worshippers.

The fear of becoming an innocent victim in the age-old conflict was enough of a worry that tours were cancelled.

In the place where the prince of peace was born, the lack of peace seems to reign.

It's easy to say he is our peace; it's another matter to put our lives on the line.  But there is another sense of peace that is just as difficult to experience.

That's the tension between our ideals and the reality of our lives.  It's the things we named earlier that keep us from sleeping.

I know for me, what causes me to lose sleep is unfinished business.  Right now my desk is piled with things that I need to do, and because of that, there is an unsettled feeling in my gut.  I have too much unfinished business.

When Opal Church went into the hospital, she told me she had too many things to do and I knew exactly what she meant!

I came to the church on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  Then I came out again yesterday.  Each time I noticed I had not changed the sign on the front of the church.  Appropriately, it had my sermon title from three weeks ago, "Making a List; Checking it Twice."

I have a long list of things to do.  And on the list is changing the church sign.

Either I didn't check my list, or other things were ahead of it on my list so it hasn't been changed!

It reminds me of the story of a woman who kept lists going constantly, especially when her life became busy.  And at Christmas her list seemed especially long.

On Christmas Eve one year, she looked at her list and saw a HUGE oversight.  She forgot to mail her Christmas Cards out!  Worse yet, she hadn't even bought any!

So she rushed to the store and bought the first cards she saw.  They had a nice picture of the magi at the manger and were already priced at 50% off.  (Who said that last minute shopping isn't very smart?  For all you last minute shoppers, there are stores still open after church today where you can shop until the candlelight service tonight!)

This woman ran home with her newly purchased cards to address them.  She dropped them in a mailbox on her way to the candlelight service at her church.

On Christmas Day, as she was cleaning up, she looked at the three extra cards she had and read what they said . . .

"This card is just a note to say . . . A little gift is on the way."

I don't know for sure, but I think she spent the day after Christmas looking for inexpensive gifts to send to everyone on her card list.

Sometimes we're better off leaving our work unfinished.  Sometimes we're better off spending time with family instead of working.

Jesus came to be our peace.  We can give him our cares and concerns.  We can lay our anxieties on his shoulders.  We can let him worry.

As hard as it is sometimes, we're better off letting him carry our burdens.  He is our peace.  And in him we can find rest from our worries.

When we do that, the good news that comes over the phone or in a letter becomes a message from God assuring us that God has indeed been taking care of us and answering our prayers.

Always has been.  Always will.

Thanks be to God.

Amen.