December 15, 2011 Devotion Sharing (It Came Upon the Midnight Clear)

Submitted by William K. from Gracepoint Davis Church

Although Jesus came to bring God’s true peace to humanity, the hymn points out that the world is full of “sin and strife,” and “man, at war with man, hears not the love song” of the angels at Christmas. Why would being “at war” with others, or being “men of strife” make it hard to “hear the angels sing”? 

When I am in the midst of strife with others, I am only thinking about myself, about how I got hurt, or about how I can get back at others.  I want justice and my heart can’t rest until I get it.  On some occasions, I do question whether or not I am in the right, and, when I do, I play out a dialogue of the events–of the other persons wrongs–and try to remember certain facts so that I look like I am in the right.  When I am in this mode, there is no way for me to hear the angels sing “peace on earth and good will to men.”  During moments of strife, peace is not what I want.  I want justice, I want payback and I want to settle the score with the determination not to be happy until I get what I want.  The angels also sing about good will to all men, and that’s the last thing that I want for those I experience relational strife.  Because my mind and heart are preoccupied with these things, the powerful words of the angels fall on deaf ears.

Why would people not want to enter into the peace that Christ came to give?  

Some people don’t want to enter into the peace that Christ can give because that means they need to give up their right for revenge or payback.  The relish too much the thought of seeing the ones who hurt them hurt and they’re unable to give that up to enter the peace that Christ offers.  The only way to enter this peace is to make peace in all of one’s relationships.  This requires the exercise of forgiveness which can be too difficult and costly. 

Jesus himself declared that he will be the cause not of peace but of division.  Why would this be the case?  

Jesus does bring peace, but it is on His terms.  He brings peace through the forgiveness of sins and through the Lordship of Christ.  Jesus isn’t being autocratic by giving these terms, but these terms are the only way that man can experience true peace because we were designed to have a relationship with Christ as Lord over our lives, and only the forgiveness of sins makes this relationship possible.  However, most people do not want peace on those terms, but on their own terms.  They want significance, security, meaning, purpose, and comfort while maintaining their own independence and by determining what is good and wrong in their lives.  Peace on Jesus’ own terms (a relationship) is the only way He can deliver peace.  Any other peace is fictional and inconsistent to reality and the way that we are created.  The division is created along the lines of those who accept those terms and those who reject them.

Luke 12:49–53  

49 “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! 51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

To what extent have I experienced the fundamental realignment described here because of my response to Jesus?  

The first fundamental realignment came when I was in college.  That’s when I followed Jesus and I wanted to learn more about Him and I found myself having more kinship with my friends in Christ than my closest friends in college.  I shared a stronger bond with my brothers and sisters in Christ because our friendship was based on the gospel, and not common interests.  I tried to let my college friends know about Christianity but they weren’t interested.  After six months, I had become a completely different person, and I just felt like I belonged in the church and not in the world.  The second fundamental realignment came in my relationship with my parents.  As good Asian parents, they wanted me to have a comfortable American life which could only be made possible if my faith took a back seat to what they thought were more important–career, financial security, physical comfort, nuclear and extended family.  My parents envisioned a family clan and the role of the gospel was to provide health and wealth, and they wanted me to be a part of it.  I disagreed with them according to my reading of the Bible and took responsibility of my own life by living out my Christian life according to Biblical values. It’s been over twenty years, and my realignment has been a blessing for them because, according to their words, my faith has challenged them to live more Biblically.

Reflect on the words of stanza 3.  What words can you relate to?  

When the stanza refers to those who are under “life’s crushing load,” I feel that the stanza is addressing me.  As I get older and gain more responsibilities at church, my work, and my family, I have more things on my plate.  Because we live in a fallen world, those responsibilities require a lot of attention, and sometimes I feel overwhelmed.  Just thinking about what I need to do can become a huge chore. I don’t complain and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I am thankful that God gives me a lot of work to do because they are opportunities for me to be a blessing to others.  The reality is that the more people I have in my life, then the more burdens I will have to help them along life’s journey.  I am thankful for these words and for other promises and my daily devotions for they are food for a weary soul.   They encourage and sustain me, and day by day and week by week I feel that I can go on and on.

Write a prayer of thanksgiving (or confession) that in the midst of “crushing load,” “toil,” and “painful steps” God enabled you to “hear the angels sing.”  

Dear heavenly father, I want to thank you for sustaining me this past quarter at Davis.  It was my very first quarter at Davis and also the very first time in a lead pastor role.  My responsibilities increased as I gave more messages and as I ministered to more people.  The fact that I made it through and the fact that I’m looking forward to the next quarter and many quarters after that are a testament to the power of your words which have sustained me.  Lord, there were some moments when I felt like I was feeling a crushing load.  Sometimes I felt that making it through the day felt like toil and painful steps.  But Lord, you were with me and I am so thankful to be celebrating Christmas here at Davis in one piece.

Submitted by Esther K. from Gracepoint Davis.

Although Jesus came to bring God’s true peace to humanity, the hymn points out that the world is full of “sin and strife,” and “man, at war with man, hears not the love song” of the angels at Christmas.

Why would being “at war” with others, or being “men of strife” make it hard to “hear the angels sing”?

Being “at war” with others or being “men of strife” would make it hard to “hear the angels sing” because the focus is on the wrong the other person committed.  Their minds are filled with their own ruminations and emotions of self-pity or anger or hurt.  Their thoughts fuel their emotions so that they can’t hear God, nor does the message pierce their own thoughts and feelings.

Why would people not want to enter into the peace that Christ came to give? 

People would not want to enter into the peace that Christ came to give because that means that they have to let go of their anger, their sadness, their self-pity or their hurt.  That means they need to forgive or seek reconciliation in order to enter into the peace that Christ came to give.  Most people don’t want to let go of their anger or hurt.  They think they deserve an apology or some revenge or reconciliation on their own terms.  There is a lot of dying that has to happen in order to enter into the peace that Christ came to give, but our ego doesn’t want to die and be the first to initiate reconciliation or extend an apologize.  Often people’s notion of peace has to do with the other person apologizing, the other person being nice to them or doing exactly as they want from them or gaining certain respect/position.  People want their ego stroked and they want to be made much of.  However, the peace that Christ came to give had to do with not holding on to one’s rights, but humbling oneself as Jesus did by incarnating as a baby.

Jesus himself declared that he will be the cause not of peace but of division.  Why would this be the case?

Jesus himself declared that he would be the cause not of peace but of division.  This is the case because Jesus points out that our greatest problem is our sin.  He says that we are sinners and that we need to make Jesus the most important person in our life.  That means we should look to Jesus and His Word to determine our decisions.  However, the struggle and division comes when we don’t want Jesus to be the Lord, the final authority of our lives.   There are so many other people who want to be that important person in our life, whether our parents or spouse or friend or professor.  Division comes about when we make choices to obey God, which are contrary to what our parents, what media, what our friends tell us.  Division also comes because we have difference opinion about what is our greatest need.  As Christians, we know that our greatest need is forgiveness of sin.  However, the world tells us that our greatest need is money, security, or that special someone.  When we live our lives agreeing with the Bible, then it’s natural that we will have division as our lives and choices will take us on different paths.

Luke 12:49–53  

49 “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! 51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Reflect on the words of stanza 3.  What words can you relate to?

The words that I can relate to are

“beneath life’s crushing load”:

I’ve experienced this in high school when I experienced the crushing load of the guilt of my sin.  I tried to cover up the lies and deceit. However, I couldn’t get rid of the guilt.  I would take those painful steps to try to do good at home and at church, but none of that could get rid of the crushing load.  However, when I personally understood what it meant to make Jesus the Lord over my life, that’s when I understood that I didn’t have to bear the burden on my own. I just needed to confess my sins and receive forgiveness to live in obedience to the Lord’s words. That’s when I experienced rest beside the weary road.

I also experienced the life’s crushing burden of leading the Davis ministry.  When my focus was on doing a good and having a successful ministry, I felt the crushing load of the responsibility.  However, I heard God’s voice through my morning devotions in Acts 26:16 16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me.”  All that God was asking of me was to be a SERVANT and a WITNESS.  God’s word lifted the crushing burden and he gave me rest as I was convicted that I was appointed to be a servant, this is something that I could do.  God also appointed me to be a witness, which is something that was doable to testify to what I had seen and heard.

“Who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow”

I can relate to these words when I’m toiling along the climbing way of life:  trying to get higher, trying to be more spiritual, trying to be more liked, trying to achieve ministry success, or trying to get out of the pit of discouragement or concern over someone that I cared for.  I’ve experienced the painful steps of just trying to get through the day or through some difficult situation.  I would commit to put my foot forward and keep moving by doing what I knew was right.  I would do my DT and pray.  I would take one step at a time, even though there seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel with the situation that I was in.  However, there were always those moments when God broke through the darkness and the sin through God’s word or answered prayer or some reminder of what God is like.  That’s when I heard the angels singing as I was reminded the joy of God’s words convicting me of my sinfulness or giving me hope in who God is and his promises.

Submitted by Kit N. from Gracepoint Davis Church

Although Jesus came to bring God’s true peace to humanity, the hymn points out that the world is full of “sin and strife,” and “man, at war with man, hears not the love song” of the angels at Christmas. Why would being “at war” with others, or being “men of strife” make it hard to “hear the angels sing”?

It is because being at war with others and trying to out do others make one preoccupied with “self.”  When I am comparing myself to others, I can only think of others and myself in terms who is doing better, whether I am being approved or not, and how I should be looking and acting in front of others.  My ears are cluttered with noises from this world to advance myself so that others won’t step on me.  In contrast, the hymn that the angels came to sing was “peace on earth and goodwill to men.”  This is the language of love telling me to lay down my gripes against others and to cease the endless comparison.  It is the call to be at peace with others and no longer see others as competitors.  In short it is a message that is completely opposite to what men of strife, including myself, are used to.

Why would people not want to enter into the peace that Christ came to give?

People won’t want to enter into this peace because by doing so people need to lay down their agenda, maybe even things that they derive their identities and power from.  To enter into this peace is to agree to the terms of this cease-fire, meaning to let go of the value system of comparing and competing to accepting and embracing others as fellow children of God instead of competitors.  It is to see life not as a zero-sum game but under the auspices of a loving and generous God, who loves and accepts me as his child and therefore no longer need to strive.  But this is so foreign and unnatural, even frightening to some to actually let go of this game. Some call this utter foolishness and do not want to enter into this peace regardless of how good it sounds.  I think back on when I struggled with comparing myself to others, and even though I knew of this peace that Christ offered, when push came to a shove, I stubbornly clung onto competing and comparing with others and forfeited the peace.

Jesus himself declared that he will be the cause not of peace but of division.  Why would this be the case?

Jesus declared himself to be the cause of division because the values He proclaimed, the life He called Christians to live, and the self-sacrifice and humility He modeled for us were so foreign to the modus operandi of this world.

To what extent have I experienced the fundamental realignment described here because of my response to Jesus.

I find this to be my experience.  Because my life and values are so different, I am often at odds with non-Christians around me over various issues such as media consumption, how I spend money, how I spend time, and steps I take to guard myself against sin.  Sad to say because of these things I have drifted apart from those who find all these too hard to accept.  At times I also have had some heated debates with some who are close to me over these issues as they were in disagreement with the Biblical views and values that I was embracing.

Reflect on the words of stanza 3.  What words can you relate to?

Out of stanza 3, I could relate to the “life’s crushing load” that I experienced when I got into different forms of strife with others and within myself over my Christian beliefs.   Moreover as I recognized my sins, such as being hurtful to others, my heart grew heavy for the consequences I left behind and the kind of person I was.  I also thought about the values that I was indoctrinated with and how hard it was to actually change even though I desired these changes.  I also felt helpless when I thought about the temptations I faced and how I needed to struggle hard so as not to fall.  Indeed these “crushing load” often caused me to be tired, feeling “forms bending low” in my daily life.  And often when I focused on my sins and how much I need to fight and struggle, each step seems to be a “toil” and wearisome.  The steps I had to take to protect myself and to grow in my character are often painful and transformation seem to come slowly.  But because I realized how life could be a struggle, I increasingly long for the times of refreshing fellowship that I could have, such as the end of the year snow trip I went on this past weekend.  In the midst of God’s creation and God’s people, I experienced rest and my heart was lifted up. Times like this reminded me that life is not just about its crushing load and toil, but also about these “glad and golden hours” when I could experience a bit more concretely God’s love for me.  Moreover through the Angel Tree visitations of bringing Christmas gifts to children of incarcerated parents,  I was also reminded that God still delighted to use a sinner like me to bring the Good News to others and my life is not defined by its toils or my failures.  Moments such as these reminded me of the spiritual reality that often gets clouded by the mundane grind of daily life.

Write a prayer of thanksgiving (or confession) that in the midst of “crushing load,” “toil,” and “painful steps” God enabled you to “hear the angels sing”.

Heavenly Father, please forgive me that I am still so short sighted that I only think of my life in terms of its “crushing load” and “toil,” whether it be demands of life or sins done unto me or done by me.  Through these “painful steps,” You work on my character I often grow weary and disappointed at how little fruit I actually bear.  Even though my sense of sinfulness and inadequacies grow, I am thankful that through times of fellowship and acts of service You lift up  my heart as I recognize that you are my loving Heavenly Father.  Thank you for reminding me that my life is not defined by my mistakes and failures, but rather by Your love towards me, concretely demonstrated by You sending Jesus to this earth to bear my sins and imparting this identity of sonship to me through Him.

 

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Response