Read Isaiah 9 and Luke 2 here.
It’s Christmas Eve! You made it!
You’re here! This is it!*
Just breathe that in for a moment. . . And as you breathe, breathe in peace.
I wish I could roll back the ceiling so we could all sit here and look up at the stars. I find being outside at night under the stars to be incredibly peaceful. This is what I picture when we sing that carol we just sang, O Little Town of Bethlehem, when we sing “Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.”
One of the things I love about living away from the city is that we can see the stars at night. There are so many of them. Have you ever thought about how many there are? In our galaxy, the Milky Way Galaxy, there are so many that scientists can only estimate. They say there are about 100 billion stars just in our galaxy. And they estimate that there are 10 trillion galaxies. That would mean that there are 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars. There are 24 zeros in that number. That’s a lot of stars.
Maybe the reason looking at the stars is so peaceful is that there are so many. Looking at the stars is like looking at eternity. Some say the farthest star we can see with the naked eye, without a microscope, is Casseiopia, which is roughly 16,000 light years away. And if we can see Casseiopia, we are actually seeing light that is 16,000 years old. We’re looking back in time 16,000 years. That would be about the time that cave men were doing that painting in that cave in Lascoux, France that we had to memorize for art history class.
Looking at the stars and the immensity of space and time can make us feel small and insignificant. Maybe it’s that perspective that brings peace.
Looking at the stars and imagining the immensity of time and space also tells us about God. How amazing it is that God created all of that. Even more amazing – the same God who create all those trillions of galaxies full of stars also created each one of us. And the Bible tells us that God knows each one of us down to the very hairs on our heads. And from the very beginning of time God had a plan for each one of us to know his love and his peace.
Maybe Isaiah was sitting out under the stars when he wrote what we read earlier: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 6:2).
The prophets foretold it because the plan was already in the works. God spoke through Isaiah the words we read earlier hundreds of years before the child Jesus, the prince of peace, was born.
Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, the prophet Micah said:
“But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrath, who are one of the least of the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days” (Micah 5:2).
O little town of Bethlehem…
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight
Are met in thee tonight
The prophets and hymn-writers spoke of hope…hope for a ruler who would bring peace.
The shepherds out in the fields that night under the stars heard the angels singing:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good will to all.”
Peace and good will is what they were all hoping for. Peace is what we all hope for. Peace sometimes seems impossible…especially in the midst of war.
During the brutal fighting of WWI, Pope Benedict XV issued a plea in 1914 that there be a ceasefire for Christmas. He said, “May the guns be silent on the night we heard the angels sing.” He wasn’t successful in achieving any sort of official ceasefire, but the men fighting in the trenches of Belgium and France longed for this peace, and on their own declared a truce in various spots for Christmas. Some of you may have seen the movie that portrays this event, Joyeux Noel (2005).
How amazing it is that in the midst of that war, there was peace, seemingly impossible peace. Even though it was small in compared to the size of the war, there were dozens of these truces, because these men would not keep fighting when the world was celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace. Even a small bit of peace can be huge.
Maybe we find peace looking up at the vast amount of stars because we wonder at the immensity of God who created them and how amazing it is to have peace with God. And how even more amazing that our peace with God would come one night under the stars of Bethlehem through one little baby born in a manger.
All of eternity transformed in a moment.
This is the one who was with God at the beginning of time creating all the worlds that fill the skies.
This is the one by whom all of time is defined as either before or after.
This is the one whose life and death and resurrection is our salvation, our peace.
This is the one who is God with us, Immanuel.
Tonight as you go out and look at the stars may they remind you of the one who is called
Prince of Peace
* This is borrowed from Jimmy Fallon who begins every Tonight Show with a similar greeting.
 Shively Smith expands on the Old Testament prophecies at http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3540