Peace on Earth

Gloria in excelsis deo

Gloria in excelsis deo (Photo credit: Boston Public Library)

Luke tells us that angels appeared to a group of shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus. They told the shepherds that the Christ, the Promised Savior, had been born in Bethlehem. The angels let them know that they could find the Savior as a baby swaddled in cloth and lying in a feed trough for the animals.

After the announcement, Luke says that a multitude of angels appeared in the sky and began to sing these words, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth, peace to those on whom His favor rests” (Luke 2:14).

As we celebrate Christmas, we like to talk about peace and goodwill coming to us from the Christ child. But there isn’t much peace around us. Peace can be hard to come by. But there are some practical ways that peace comes to us through Christ.

First, we experience personal peace when we find that we have forgiveness from God. Our minds and hearts can be troubled as we deal with the effects of the ways our sin hurts us and others. As Paul writes in Romans, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

Second, as we live according to the teaching of Christ, as we follow Christ, we create peace in our circles of influence. Jesus taught us to be peacemakers. For most humans, our instinct is to fight back, or to seek revenge. But with Jesus’ Spirit giving us strength, we can bring peace in place of aggression. As Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).

Finally, the promise of God is that the whole universe will live according to the peace of God. There will be a day when God will put an end to all evil. There are many places in scripture which affirm this beautiful truth. Maybe the most powerful are these well-known words from Isaiah. “And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever” (Isaiah 9:6-7).

So as the excitement of this Christmas fades, remember those words which the angels sang to the shepherds and how God really does bring peace to us and our world.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to those on whom His favor rests.”

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Love in Christ,

Greg Burriss, Pastor

Rocky River Baptist Church

Siler City, NC

Simple Folks

Birth of Jesus Matthew 2:1

Birth of Jesus Matthew 2:1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Andy Warhol famously said that everyone would have his or her fifteen minutes of fame. I can imagine that we are closer to that reality now than we ever could have been. The advent of the Internet makes it possible that you can share your own original music or your dangerous backyard pranks with the world. And if you can get enough people to watch, then you too can be a star.

At the same time, we are a culture that is more and more celebrity obsessed. Hollywood stars, professional athletes and political figures are ever-present on the late night news or the Yahoo news feed. The media sells us the idea that those people are more important than ordinary folks. We may be tempted to see ourselves as insignificant in the great scheme of things.

The stories of Jesus’ birth in Matthew and Luke remind us that God doesn’t see things that way. Those stories are full of the gracious affirmation of God that the ordinary, the plain and simple, is where we will find God at work. A poor peasant girl, Mary, becomes the mother of Christ. Lowly shepherds are invited to be the first guests at the humble birth of Jesus. Foreign wise men, not Jewish kings or preachers, see the star and honor the Son of God.

Maybe you feel like the world is not noticing you at all. Perhaps it is not. But God is. The lives of simple, ordinary people in simple, ordinary circumstances, that is exactly where God wants to be. Welcome Him.

Merry Christmas!

Love in Christ,

Greg Burriss, Pastor

Rocky River Baptist Church

Siler City, NC

The Light of Christ and the Darkness of Depression

Jesus Walks.

Jesus Walks. (Photo credit: CarleyJane)

It’s cold outside. Some people really like the changing seasons, the constant revolution of cold to warm to hot and back. Some of us like that, in theory, until it actually gets cold. And now, it’s cold outside.

Cold slows things down. It becomes harder to talk and move. Anything that requires fine motor skills is much more difficult. Just ask someone who has to work in the cold and use tools.

Winter and its cold temperature can also aggravate the emotional cold a lot of people are feeling. Cold makes the body slow down. Emotional cold makes the heart and will slow down. Depression becomes a real threat at this time of year. The longer periods of darkness, the cold temperatures and the stress and pressure of holiday demands can send a struggling soul into a deep pit of sadness from which it feels impossible to escape.

John begins his gospel story of Jesus by saying that Christ, “the Word,” existed from the beginning with God and that He brought light into our cold, dark world. Then John says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).

The message of the gospel brings light into a dark and depressing world. And that light has the power to overcome darkness and depression, even in winter.

In the gospel we learn that we have forgiveness from God. Our worst mistakes can be forgiven. We don’t have to live in shame. In the gospel we learn that God is God and we are not. We are set free from running the universe. We can leave that in God’s hands. In the gospel, we learn that we have a purpose to fulfill in God’s plan. In the gospel we learn that we are not alone. That God loves us and promises to hear and answer our prayers.

These are some of the ways that the Light, Christ Himself, shines in the darkness. The Light of Christ, the true light of Christmas, always overcomes the darkness. Allow Him to light your darkness this winter.

Love in Christ,

Greg Burriss, Pastor

Rocky River Baptist Church

Siler City, NC

“May Your Word Be Fulfilled”

Gabriel making the Annunciation to the Virgin ...

Gabriel making the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary. Painting by El Greco, 1575 (Museo del Prado, Madrid). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The season of Advent has begun. As we approach Christmas, we focus our attention on waiting. The Jews of ancient Israel were waiting for their Savior, the Messiah. He would come as the Anointed One of God to deliver them and free them to worship God without interference from conquering nations. They were waiting, but many missed His coming because they would not let go of their preconceived ideas about what the Messiah would do.

Luke tells the story of how the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary in the privacy of her room and announced that she would give birth to the Messiah. Mary hesitated because she did not understand how this could happen since she wasn’t married yet and had not been with her husband. She could not conceive a child.

Have you ever doubted that God could do a work in your life or use you to be a blessing because you knew it wasn’t naturally possible? We often put limits on God’s ability to bless others through us because we say that we can’t do something.

God is not limited by our circumstances or weaknesses. As the angel, Gabriel, declares to Mary, “For no word from God will ever fail.”

God has many blessings to share in the world around you. As you await the coming of God in Christ into the situations and circumstances of your life, don’t be surprised if the voice of God shows up in your prayers to tell you that He is going to bless someone through you! Like Mary, you may not have the natural ability to accomplish what God declares He will do. But God’s work was not defeated by Mary’s circumstance. May our response to God be the same as Mary’s response. “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”

Love in Christ,

Greg Burriss, Pastor

Rocky River Baptist Church

Siler City, NC