When I was 12 years old, I wanted a BMX bike for Christmas.
My brother had a cool BMX bike. Brenden down the street had a cool BMX bike. And I knew that I would not be at peace until I came down into the living room on Christmas Day and saw that bike by the tree.
However, after every single gift was opened that year, there was still no bike.
I tried to hide my disappointment. But then, my mom and dad said, "Toby, I think we might have one more gift for you. Why don't you go look out in the garage?"
And there it was - my very own BMX bike.
I was so excited. I thought I had finally arrived. I could be at peace.
But having that bike didn't give me the peace I thought it would. After a few weeks, I punctured the tire, the breaks stopped working - and then my brother got a 10-speed road bike for his birthday.
That's how life is, isn't it? Just when you think you've found true peace, it slips away. Peace seems elusive.
The Bible has a lot to say about peace. The word is used 156 times in the English New Testament alone. In Isaiah 9:6, in the Old Testament, it calls the Messiah the "Prince of Peace."
"Unto us a Child is born; unto us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6)
Isaiah makes it clear that peace would be connected to the reign of this coming Child; He would be called the Prince of Peace.
Peace is something that people are desperately searching for in our world today. In the last few years alone, I have seen some of my favorite entertainers, of my generation, die by their own hands. People are looking for peace in a world that seems more uncertain and chaotic by each passing year.
There is a fable of two rival tribes in South America that had been hostile toward each other for years. In spite of this, through a stroke of fate, the sons of the two chiefs became friends.
On a late spring night, a large tropical system came through the Amazon valley and began to flood the area. One of the chief's sons, whose village was upstream, knew that the dam shielding the lower village wouldn't be able to hold back the powerful, rising rifer. So he hopped in his canoe and paddled down the raging river himself, blowing his horn to warn the people there.
At first, the rivaling tribe thought he was announcing war - but when they heard his warning, they fled to higher ground. As the boy tried to navigate through the rough waters and join them at the shore, the dam gave way, causing a deluge of water to rush through the valley - sweeping him to his death.
Because of this courageous act, his friend and most of the rival tribe were saved. But something even greater happened! Through this amazing sacrifice, peace was established between the two tribes.
Jesus Christ is just like that boy. He left the safety and security of His seat in heaven so that we could be saved - and His sacrificial act has enabled us to have peace with God. Romans 5:1 says, "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
Jesus also brings peace to the hearts of those who believe in Him. Those who put their faith in the Prince of Peace experience the peace that surpasses all understanding.
Romans 15:13 says, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Paul wanted the Roman believers to be filled with peace, but there is a dependent clause: they must trust in the Prince of Peace to be filled. When they put their trust in Him, He becomes the rock in the midst of their storm.
Sadly, so many people, even believers, are living their lives today with an absence of peace. It's because they put their trust in the wrong place. They trust their money. They trust their own abilities. They trust tin material things and concepts. They even trust other people. When things get hard, Jesus is the last person they think about.
But when the storms of life are raging and the waves come crashing in, He is the only Anchor that will hold.
The question I have for you this Christmas is this: Is Jesus the Prince of Peace in your life? Has peace with God become a reality for you?
Or is peace on Earth just a nice slogan that you see on billboards or Christmas cards - something to fantasize about, but never truly attain? I hope for each of us, it's the former - not the latter!
Pastor Toby Gallego
Riviera Baptist Church