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Sunday, December 19, 2021

Prince of Peace

 A sermon based on Micah 5: 1-5

By Charles J. Tomlin, DMin;

December 19th, 2021,

Flat Rock-Zion Baptist Partnership

Series: The Royal Names of Jesus


Now you are walled around with a wall; siege is laid against us; with a rod they strike the ruler of Israel upon the cheek.

 2 But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.

 3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel.

 4 And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth;

 5 and he shall be the one of peace.  (Mic. 5:1-5 NRS)


Who would have ever dreamed that the gospel of peace came through Jesus, but Judas, one of his own, would betray him?   

Who would ever have dreamed that Jesus called Peter the rock, and then appeared to to Saul, who became Paul, but that later Paul and Peter could not get along over the matter of circumcision?  

Who would have ever dreamed that the Church in the East and the Church of the West would split apart, making an open door for Mohammed to correct all great schism of Christian division with Islam?  

Who would have dreamed that when the Protestant Church split from the Catholic Church, there would have a Christian war, continuous for over 30 years, where thousands of Christians would kill and murder other Christians in the name of Jesus?  

And who would have ever dreamed that this new country would enter a Civil War, south against north, in a bitter war over the issue of Slavery?   Furthermore, how that war would divide us up religiously too, between Christians in the south verses Christians in the north.  The issue of slavery has long been decided, but Christian still haven’t gotten back together, but have split again into other factions.

Finally, who would have ever dreamed that insurrectionists, made up of military vets and policemen would trust conspiracy theories, storming our nation’s capital and threatening the whole idea of American constitutional democracy, law and common sense, even going up against the pledge of Allegiance, that say, “One nation, under God, indivisible...?   It’s almost Christmas, and it’s not long until we sing Silent Night’ and intentionally pray for ‘peace on earth and good will to all’ but the ‘all’ doesn’t have the ring it used to have. 

Today, on this Sunday before Christmas, this Fourth Sunday of Advent, we are considering the final royal name of Jesus Christ as Prince of Peace.   While we certainly believe in a hope for peace, how we still believe, pray and hope for peace in increasingly divided world, is becoming the most important question?   Like those people in Micah’s day, long, long ago, we too can feel ‘walled around with a wall; with siege laid against us...  We say peace, when there is still little or no peace.  How can we believe in Jesus as the Prince real peace, in our world filled with conflict?



A few years ago, I watched the Documentary by Ken Burns on the Vietnam War.  I’ll never forget how one ex-marine, after he returned from war and started a family, had to explain to his children why he, as an ex-marine and a grown man, had to sleep with the light on because he was so afraid of the dark.  When the lights when out, he couldn’t help but put himself back into the horrors of that jungle war.    I guess you could say, he was still ‘walled around’ from every side.

As I watched, I immediately thought of my own father, who never talked about the battle theaters he was in, in Africa, in Italy, in France, in Belgium, and in Germany.   When he came to Europe visit me, while I lived there a few years, we drove to several to old battlefield sites but he claimed he couldn’t remember anything.  Maybe it was too long ago.  Maybe it was too painful.  Maybe everything had changed too much.  I took it all as a strategy of his unconscious mind to emotionally deny what was locked away inside, protecting his mind from reopening mental wounds too painful and disturbing.

In one film about that war, not far from where my father almost had his toes frozen off on the snowy, cold Christmas of 1944, somewhere near Belgium-Holland border, a few German and American soldiers ceased shooting at one another long enough on that Christmas ‘midnight clear’, just long enough to exchange greetings, cigarettes and drinks, to and sing a few Christmas carols.  Then they resumed fighting and attempting to kill each other again.  Peace, peace but there was still no peace’.  As Micah says, we ‘are walled around with a wall and a siege is laid out against us.’  You thought their would be peace and security, but the walls have been breached, becoming a ‘death trap’ with no place to go and no way of escape.

How do we expect or hope for peace, real peace, lasting peace, world peace, or now, even national peace, and family peace too in a world like ours; where Christ is often claimed as Savior, but seldom followed as Lord.  Now, even naming Christ makes for even more division, more conflict and more strife, rather than bringing hope for a deeper, greater peace among Christians too..

     Let me as add more more wall, if I might.  When I was hardly starting out as a college student, my Baptist family were already in a national conflict.  I’ll never forget how a few students at my school were bringing tape recorders, attempting to stir up controversy and get some of those so called ‘liberal’ professors fired. It wasn’t long until a well-planned and politically orchestrated takeover of the Southern Baptist convention succeeded.  They claim was that conservatives were saving the denomination from destruction.  Interestingly, our denomination, as well as others too, have been in decline ever since it was saved.   So, even in our church life too, we are ‘walled around with a wall and a siege is laid out against us.’  How can we—how will we and will we ever be able to ‘live secure’ and find a future way to peace?          



Although we are not in any major international conflict, at the moment of this writing, division and conflict come increasingly closer to us here, at home.   That certainly became clear to early this year in the insurrection attempt upon our Capitol in Washington.  So, since Micah’s hope for the prince of peace has already come, what is our real chance for real, lasting peace?

When you look closely at Micah’s prophecy, there is something very peculiar about it.  This hope for peace came from Bethlehem, one of the smallest towns in the southern kingdom of Judah.  Although this town was small, very small in comparison to Jerusalem, it was anything but ordinary.  This was the town King David came from, and he was the most successful military King in Israel’s history.

You may recall that when Samuel was led by God to choose David, he was the least of Jessie’s many sons.  He wasn’t even as manly as the others, for he was still a Shepherd boy, and a musician and poet too.   Everything about David went against him being the next King of Israel, but as the text says,  “God doesn’t look on the outward appearance, but God looks upon the heart.’    Micah prophesied that the hope of lasting peace would come in much the same way, not fitting any kind of human agenda, but fitting God’s agenda.   This future prince of peace would even be born in the same little town, Bethlehem, which was the city of David.

Much can be said about this ancient prophecy and what it means.  But no matter which way you look at it, it’s hard to think of Christmas without singing that song from Philip Brooks, ‘ O Little Town of Bethlehem.   It was in August, 1865, shortly after the Civil war was over, that the members of Holy Trinity Church in Philadelphia sent their pastor, Phillips Brooks, on a Sabbatical abroad for a year.  His travels took him through Europe, and in December, to the Holy Land. There he traced the footsteps of Jesus southward and visited the scenes of the Bible narrative.

After two weeks spent in Jerusalem, Christmas Eve found him in Bethlehem at the birthplace of Jesus.  He wrote about that “Holy Night,” to his Sunday school back in Philadelphia:

“I remember standing in the old church in Bethlehem, close to the spot where Jesus was born. The whole church was singing hour after hour with splendid hymns of praise to God. It was as if I could hear angelic voices telling each other of the Wonderful Night of our dear Savior’s birth.” (Carl F. Price, One Hundred and One Hymn Stories (New York: The Abingdon Press, 1923).

Two years later, in 1867, Brooks put his pen to paper and wrote the immortal words:    “O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

Did you catch that line: ‘in thy dark streets shines the everlasting light?  The prophet Micah, who announced where Christ would be born, was a contemporary of the prophet Isaiah, who called this ‘child’ the coming ‘Prince of Peace’ God was speaking to them both 700 years before Christ’s birth.  What they were both saying, each in their own way, offered hope.  When the time was right, God would send a small child, born in a small town. 

This was not some super-mensch from a sprawling metropolis, but a small, vulnerable, human baby, who would grow up to show the way to peace for a conflicted, war-torn, world.  This would not happen in a power center of the world, nor would it happen with pomp and circumstance, but as we know, this prince was born, not just in humble surroundings, but in humiliating circumstances---in a stable, in a place to feed animals only furnished with straw.

On June 21, 1982, at 9:03 p.m. the future King of England, came into the world. He was named William, Prince of Wales, and as you know, was born to Prince Charles and his young wife Diana. This boy was a legitimate heir to the British throne. He was of royal ancestry. Born a prince who will one day, be crowned king. 

When that new King was born, ‘you could hear the shots of artillery in a 41-gun salute. When that new king was born, flags billow and chapel bells pealed loud into the night. When that new king was born, champagne corks stream through the air.  When that new king was born, people stood together and sing choruses in the street.  Clouds of euphoria made millions of people, subjects to the British Throne, feel like they are members of one, large, harmonious family (Matthew Roger). 

That’s certainly not the way it was when Jesus came into the world.  ‘Imagine, rather pains of labor coming upon a young woman who must give birth to her baby in an abandoned car in some urban alleyway, and you come closest, for our time, to the way the king of all kings was born into this world.



The most unique quality of this king, this prince of peace, Micah says, is that this king is also a shepherd, who feeds his flock in the strength of the Lord (4).   This is how he is a one of peace and why those who follow and feed from him live secure, even in a world full of conflict.     

The writer, Frederick Buechner, in his book Listening to Your Life, wrote: “When [this] child was born, the whole course of human history was changed. ...Art, music, literature, western culture itself, with all its institutions and the western understanding of  the world  came under his influence.. ..The birth of Jesus made possible not just a new way of understanding life, but a new way of living it.  The mystery of the eternal, cradled in a manger, elicits awesome wonder and grateful praise.” (Matthew Rogers, christmas-matthew-rogers-sermon-on-christmas-41581.asp.


Notice what Buechner says: “The birth of Jesus made possible not just a new way of understanding life, but a new way of living it.”  We often hear people ask, why can’t we keep the Christmas spirit all year long? And the answer is, of course, that is why Christ came--that we might keep his spirit all year long. The Christmas spirit is no more than the way the follower of Jesus is to live every day of his or her life--showing kindness to strangers; treating all people regardless of their station in life with respect; being generous with the poor and compassionate with the wayward. That’s not an aberration. That is simply living the Christ life.  And this is the life and way of peace.

Helmut Nausner was a Methodist pastor living in Austria. He told of a Christmas Eve Service during the Nazi occupation when he was very young. His father was away, so his mother gathered the children around her to read the Christmas story and to pray. As they did they could hear the soldiers outside their windows, marching the streets, patrolling the curfew, and enforcing the orders forbidding religious celebration. They were very quiet.

During the reading and praying, young Helmut kept wondering what his mother would do about the music. Poor as they were, they had a piano that was used for house services where his Papa preached and his Mama played the hymns. Mama, he said, loved the Christmas music, but surely the soldiers would hear if they sang. “What would they do to Mama and to us?” he wondered.

When they finished their reading and prayers, Helmut’s youngest sister asked, “Mama, aren’t we going to sing?” With only a moment’s hesitation, his mother answered, “Tonight we celebrate the coming of the Christ Child into our world. He came that we might never be afraid any more. Of course we are going to sing.” 

So she gathered her children about her and they sang, “O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant. Come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem.”  (Sally B. Beis in Circuit Rider, July/August 1990, p. 8.)


Folks, today, even in a world of conflict we can have peace, because we can know today that the prince of peace has us.   Jesus is the baby who grew up to die and rise again, so that he can shepherd us, and lead us to be secure in the strength of the Lord.  He is the only one who can give us God’s strength and peace.  Amen.


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