After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15).
Recently, one of our children sent me a video about a most incident of the First World War. We are far removed from the realities of World War I, but it was one of the most horrific wars in human history. It raged on from 1914 until 1918. For France, Germany, and England in particular, a generation of young people were killed, maimed, or otherwise impacted. By the end of the war, Russia had embraced Communism and the royal houses of Europe had forever lost their influence. The war saw the development and employment of new technologies, such as the submarine and the airplane, as well as terrible technologies that the world has tried to avoid since, like poisonous gas. By Christmas 1914, the war in France was bogged down to two opposing armies facing each other in trenches only yards apart.
In the days leading up to Christmas, soldiers began singing songs and exchanging gifts and pleasantries across the “no man’s land” that separated the opposing armies. On Christmas Eve, many units from both sides called an informal truce, crossed into no man’s land, roughhoused, exchanged small gifts, sang Christmas Carols, and returned to their own lines.  I believe that this incident illustrates the difference. Both sides, committed to a deadly war, believed they had a bond of love and membership in a kingdom that it some ways was bigger than the war they were fighting. In the midst of war, the Kingdom of God was present.
The Jewish Expectation
From the Babylonian Captivity until the coming of Christ, the Jewish people prayed for, hoped for, and often worked for the reestablishment of the kingdom of David. The prophets, including Isaiah, had visions of a time when God would restore the kingdom of David, place one of his descendants upon his throne, and institute a time of peace, justice, and plenty. Isaiah contains many prophecies that shaped the expectations of the Jews. This morning, we have already heard some of these expectations. The Messiah was to be a child king. He would lead the people of God. He would possess wisdom and be a wonderful counselor. He would be the Son of God, filled with the power of Jehovah God. He would live forever and be a father to his people. He would be a prince of peace, ushering in a world without war. He would be the true son of David. He would be just and righteous. 
In other passages, Isaiah predicts that the Messiah will be spirit-filled and have divine wisdom and understanding. He will respect and fear God without limitation. He will have a spirit of justice and see into the reality of things, not being misled by prejudice. He will care for the poor and needy as much as the rich and powerful. He will be faithful to God. He will conquer the world with his wisdom and teachings. He will institute a time of peace where the lions and the lambs will lay down together and the earth will be filled with the knowledge of God. He will not only gather the remnant of Israel, but will also assemble the ten lost tribes of Israel. His teachings and his justice will be so compelling that the entire Gentile world will rally to his side rest in his peace. 
In other words, the ancient prophet saw day when not only the hopes and dreams of Israel, but the world’s hopes and dreams, our hopes and dreams would come true. War, famine, poverty, disease, and injustice—all the enemies of human life would be defeated.
The Kingdom Christ Brought
One day, more than 500 years after Isaiah first spoke these prophesies, a young rabbi from Nazareth, historically part of the tribal territory of Zebulon, the land of darkness, who currently lived in Capernaum, in the Galilee, came preaching that the Kingdom of God was at hand. His name was Jesus bar Joseph. When he came, he showed unusual devotion to God, unusual wisdom in his teachings and parables, and unusual power in the way he healed the sick, the lame, and the mentally ill. He also periodically made unusual claims. He proclaimed that the Day of the Lord the prophets had foretold was here. He proclaimed that the Kingdom of God was at hand—and he was its king. He even claimed that, in some mysterious way, he was the Kingdom of God. In other words, in him, the Kingdom of God was present. Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:20-21). 
He also made the astounding claim that the Kingdom of God could not only be in him and created by him, but it could be within each one of us. “The Kingdom of God is within you,” he said (Luke 17:21). In other words, the wisdom, the love, the peace, the power, the eternal life, which is the essence of the Kingdom of God, can be felt in each of our lives if only we will respond to the gracious call of Jesus, which is the Good News of the Gospel. It can, in fact, be with us each and every day of our lives.
This kingdom Jesus brings is not like the kingdoms of this earth. It is not like the Babylonian Empire, the Persian Empire, the Greek Empire, the Roman Empire, the Napoleonic Empire, the British Empire, the Nazi Empire, the Russian Empire, even the Pax Americana the world has enjoyed since 1945. These kingdoms are doomed to rise and fall. Jesus’ kingdom will not end. It does not end with our death, for we will be with him in paradise (Luke 23:43). At the end of history, he promises to come in an unimaginable way and finally defeat the foes of God, of Truth, of Justice, of Righteousness, and establish a perfect kingdom that will last forever—a kingdom in which there will be no more death, or disease, or war, or pain. 
A couple of times in our marriage, Kathy and I have gone to look at timeshare units. Often, the people who develop them offer free weekends, where you can come and live in a timeshare in, say, Destin, Florida for a few days, spend some time at the beach, and dream about what life would be like if you owned a timeshare. God is a bit like a Timeshare developer. We do not have to wait until heaven to have a kind of foretaste of the kingdom and experience for just a little while what God’s kingdom is like. Paul tells us that we Christians are already citizens of God’s kingdom, which is the Church of Jesus Christ (Col. 1:21). When we accept Christ as the king of our hearts, become a part of the Body of Christ, and begin to behave as Jesus behaved, we experience in a small way what heaven is like and what the Kingdom will be like when it comes.
The Kingdom Comes to Us
So, how can we become a part of God’s kingdom of wisdom, love, and peace? In today’s text, Jesus says, “The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15). To be a part of God’s kingdom, the kingdom of Jesus, we have to repent. We must turn around, look at ourselves, recognize how far we really are from God, and then turn from the kingdoms of this world to his kingdom. We will never repent unless we believe, and so we must believe to enter the kingdom of God. In other words we must believe and put our trust in the gospel that Christ proclaimed: that God loves us, sent his son to die for us, wants us to be his children, part of his family, members of his kingdom (John 3:16). Once we have that kind of faith, we must listen to God in our hearts and his word, Holy Scripture—because God’s children listen and hear his voice (John 10:27). Finally, having become hearers of the word of God, we must also become doers of the word of God (Mark 3:35, James 1:22-27; Romans 2:13). If we repent, believe, listen, and obey, we will be a part of the body of Christ and experience with other believers a foretaste of what heaven will be like right here on this earth.
Why He Came.
When I fist saw the film clip about the Christmas Armistice of 1914 and read about it, my thought was simple: This is why Christ came and this is the difference Christ makes. Even in the midst of war, the combatants of the First World War living at the very end of Christendom (there would be no more Christmas armistices in a world committed to total war) knew there was something more important than the petty battles of earthly kingdoms. They loved their countries. The French loved France. The Germans loved Germany. The British loved Britain. Nevertheless, the doughboys of World War I believed that there was another kingdom to which they all belonged, an eternal kingdom of peace where men and women would beat their swords into ploughshares and the human race would make war no more (Isaiah 2:4). They knew in their hearts that their own kingdoms, as much as they loved them, were not the final kingdom. The final kingdom, the Kingdom of God, was greater than their worldly kingdoms.
This Christmas, all over the world there will be battlefields. Their will be wars and rumors of wars between Jews and Muslims, between Kurds, Arabs, and Persians, between Sunni’s and Shiites, between Muslims and Hindu’s, between Israel and Palestine, between Russia and the Ukraine, between Conservative Republicans and Liberal Democrats, but there will be no Christmas truce. In some cases, it will because the combatants live in lands that have forgotten the Good News of the Kingdom of God, though they once knew it. In some cases, there will be no truce because the Good News of the Kingdom of Heaven has never entered the culture. So, this why he came—and this is why it matters that he came: He came that we might dwell in his kingdom of wisdom, love, and peace.
Copyright 2014, G. Christopher Scruggs, All Rights Reserved
 A link to a video can be found at http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/nov/13/sainsburys-christmas-advert-recreates-first-world-war-truceThere are many articles on the Internet about this incident. Sadly, the commanding generals of both sides discouraged this kind of behavior, and as the war grinded on the use of mustard gas and the bitter battles of the war the practice was largely discontinued.
 Isaiah 9:6-7.
 Isaiah 11:1-12.
 Jesus’ exact claim can be looked at in two different ways, both of which are a part of this sermon. The claim can be and seems to be both that Kingdom of God is in Him and can be within each of us. See, William Barclay, “The Gospel of Luke” in the Daily Bible Study Series rev. ed. (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1975), 220.
 See Revelation 21:1-6.