When the Angels appear to the shepherds in the fields outside Bethlehem they declare “peace on earth, goodwill toward men.” Later, when Jesus has risen from the dead, he repeatedly declares peace to his disciples. Peace be with you! Peace be with you, Jesus repeats to his stunned disciples in the upper room. Later when Peter is preaching in Acts, he preaches peace through Jesus Christ. And Paul quotes the prophets saying, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, the glad tidings of good things!’ The gospel is fundamentally a declaration of peace. And that is what we have just done together. The Passing of the Peace is not an intermission, it is not half time, it is not a bathroom break, or a chance to check the scores. Greeting one another in the Peace of the Lord is a declaration of the gospel. We are the angels telling one another that Christ has been born, we are Christ to one another saying, Christ is risen from the dead. We are apostles and prophets declaring the good news of peace between God and man. And we do this in response to the preached Word. When the gospel has been declared to us, when the peace of the Lord has been declared to us, we cannot help but get up and talk about it. In the sermon, the Lord declares his peace to us, in the Passing of the Peace, we declare that peace to one another in faith, believing what we’ve heard. And then we sit down at this table together to feast on peace. In the Old Covenant, it was the Peace Offering, which was principally a feast in the presence of God, and Paul says that we have been brought near to the Holy Place through the blood and Christ, for he himself is our peace. So we have heard the Peace of the Lord, we have declared the Peace of the Lord, and now we will together consume the Peace of the Lord. I would remind you as you pass the elements to one another, remember to speak to each other as you pass them. Don’t worry about losing your place in the psalm or the hymn. Look your brother or sister in the eye, look your mom, your dad, your son, your daughter and tell them this is the body of the Lord for you, this is the blood of the Lord for you, this is the peace of the Lord for you. And receive the bread and wine with thankfulness, declaring thanks be to God. This is peace, this is Christmas, this is Easter, this is the gospel. Believe and rejoice.
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