LUKE 2:1-20

There were shepherds out in the field, minding their own business.  Out of nowhere, an angel of the Lord appeared and said: Don’t be afraid.  I bring good news, news of great joy for everyone.  To you is born this day a Savior, the Messiah, the Lord.

Then suddenly a multitude of heavenly beings joined the angel.  They praised God and said: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

How about that?  You know, angels are God’s messengers.  Tonight they bring us three very distinct messages.

#1.  Do not be afraid.

#2.  There’s good news – good news for everyone.

#3.  Your savior has arrived. 

Apparently, angels like to praise God.  Even their praise has a message: Glory to God in the highest, and Peace to God’s people on earth.

Peace.  God’s peace is given to you.  Peace is yours.

Tonight in this church and in countless churches throughout the world, in a multitude of languages, millions will sing a song of peace:

[sung]    Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.

Sleep in heavenly peace: it’s a benediction, a bedtime blessing for all who would receive it.

Are there Simon and Garfunkel fans among us?  I don’t know about you, but I have never forgiven Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel for splitting up some forty years ago.  If none of this makes any sense to you, don’t worry.  Just know that Simon and Garfunkel were a popular folk-rock duo back in the 1960’s and early 70’s.  They helped form the social consciousness of a generation, and their music is still heard today.

On Christmas Eve many years ago, I was given their 1966 album: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.  The final song on that album is unusual.  It’s called “The 7 O’clock News”.

It begins with a very official-sounding news cast, and in the background Simon and Garfunkel sing Silent Night.  They sing softly and beautifully while we hear the actual news events of August 3, 1966.

This is the early evening edition of the news.
The recent fight in the House of Representatives was over the open housing section of the Civil Rights Bill.
It brought traditional enemies together but it left the defenders of the
measure without the votes of their strongest supporters.
President Johnson originally proposed an outright ban covering discrimination by everyone for every type of housing but it had no chance from the start and everyone in Congress knew it.
A compromise was painfully worked out in the House Judiciary Committee.
In Los Angeles today comedian Lenny Bruce died of what was believed to be an overdose of narcotics.
Bruce was 42 years old.
Dr. Martin Luther King says he does not intend to cancel plans for an open housing march Sunday into the Chicago suburb of Cicero.
Cook County Sheriff Richard Ogleby asked King to call off the march and the police in Cicero said they would ask the National Guard to be called out if it is held.
King, now in Atlanta, Georgia, plans to return to Chicago Tuesday.
In Chicago Richard Speck, accused murderer of nine student nurses, was brought before a grand jury today for indictment.
The nurses were found stabbed and strangled in their Chicago apartment.
In Washington the atmosphere was tense today as a special subcommittee of the House Committee on Un-American activities continued its probe into anti-Vietnam war protests.
Demonstrators were forcibly evicted from the hearings when they began chanting anti-war slogans.
Former Vice-President Richard Nixon says that unless there is a substantial increase in the present war effort in Vietnam, the U.S. should look forward to five more years of war.
In a speech before the Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in New York, Nixon also said opposition to the war in this country is the greatest single weapon working against the U.S.
That’s the 7 o’clock edition of the news,

The song ends with the haunting voices of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel: [sung] Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.

The great 19th century American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is perhaps best known for his poem “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”, but he also wrote religious poetry.  At least one of his poems was set to music. When I was young I heard it every Christmas, but not so much these days.  Do you know it?

[sung]         I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old, familiar carols play, 
    And wild and sweet 
    The words repeat 
Of peace on earth, good-will to men! 
I thought how, as the day had come, 
The belfries of all Christendom 
    Had rolled along 
    The unbroken song 
Of peace on earth, good-will to men! 
And in despair I bowed my head; 
“There is no peace on earth," I said; 
    “For hate is strong, 
    And mocks the song 
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!” 
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: 
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; 
    The Wrong shall fail, 
    The Right prevail, 
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”
The wrong shall fail; the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.
Similar words made famous by Dr. King come to mind: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Ultimately, the wrong shall fail; the right prevail.  And peace on earth will happen.  It will happen in God’s time (not our time) and in God’s way (not our way), but it will happen.  In the interim, we are called to hold on to hope and to work for justice.
As the old saying goes, if you want peace, then work for justice. And always keep in mind the three messages of the angels:
Do not be afraid.
There is, in fact, very good news - good news has come for everyone.
Our Savior has arrived.
Don’t lose hope.  Do work for justice.  Do your part.  And leave the rest in God’s hands.  Then, 
[sung] Sleep in heavenly peace, 
           Sleep in heavenly peace.


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