Friday, December 15, 2006

Christmas Is NOW! His Heart Gift.

Read Luke 2:1~20

Are you impatient? Last week, my brother told me of an incident at his doctor's office. It seemed that he needed to go into the building a different way because the 'old way' was under construction. A patient drove his car thru the door and into a doctor's office. A lot of damage. I guess either he could not find a parking spot or he was running late for the appointment.

Sometimes, our impatience runs amuck and results in many problems. Impatience causes anxiety and anxiety causes sickness and in some cases, sickness causes death. Other emotions also run the risk of hurting us. Unfortunately the list is long: Anxiousness, anger, depression, discouragement, fear, frustration, guilt, insecurity, jealousy, low self esteem, temptations, stress and worry. There are verses all through the Bible that help us deal with these emotions that plague our souls and our lives.

Some have said that they want patience and they want it right now! Some things, you have to wait for things. You need to wait for them! It would not be healthy any other way. The birth of a baby. It will NEED to take about 9 months for that to happen in a healthy way. Sometimes they come early and sometimes that come 'late.' It will take time.To get a degree, you need to study and take test and write papers and study and take test. It takes time.During Christmas, there is something that took time. In the real sense of the term, Christmas came just at the RIGHT time. Many people were waiting for this event!

Titus 1: 1-3 “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness- a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and at His appointed season He brought His Word to light through … our Savior,”

2 Timothy 1:10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.

Galatians 4:4 But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law,

As it was with the Savior's Birth, it was now time. When you look at Scripture, many times, time is a factor. Such is the case in today's passage. Verse 2…in those days; v6…while they were there; v11…today; 12…you will find; v21…when it was time; v22…when the time.

It was time for this to happen. In the past, we have spoken about how the world was really set for this Message of God's Son to arrive. One language, one set peace plan in place, roads were well organized, education was extensive (many could read), and travel was common. The world was set to also hear of this Message. The Angels called it Great News. The Message was one of Grace and Mercy. It was one of Hope.

People at this time were prone to despair. Advice was to go and die for there was no real hope! That is one of the reasons this message in actuality took off. It gave people Hope.

You could almost read the newspaper headlines!

Hope Has Come!

Christmas Is Now!

Angels Proclaim Great News!

God's Son Is Born!

Few people were unmoved with that news. The shepherds were excited and told everyone. The Wise Men came and were moved to proclaim Him worthy of bringing Godly gifts of Gold; for a King, frankincense; for perfuming a body for the grave, and myrrh; assists in the healing process. An old man in the Temple later said to God that NOW he was ready to die because he had seen the Hope of Israel. Old lady Anna was waiting for this to come and praised God. King Herod ordered his men to kill all the babies in the area of Bethlehem because he felt this boy child a threat to his throne. And since that time, men and women, boys and girls-all-when they hear the Message of God's Great Gift to us, once they hear it with open ears, they too will say that it is indeed good news.

God came to earth in the flesh-the incarnation of God-to bring us salvation and forgiveness of our sins. To set us free.

Luke 13:12 When Jesus saw her (the woman who had been crippled for 18 years), He called her forward and said to her, "Woman, you are set free from your infirmity."
John 8:32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
Romans 6:18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
Romans 6:22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal.
Romans 8:2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.
Galatians 5:1 [Freedom in Christ] It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Hebrews 9:15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance-now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

Now is the time for Salvation. For Decision, for New Life, Change, and an awareness of the needs of our hearts.So, here we have the report coming in that the Baby was to be born. Many post cards and Christmas art shows Joseph leading Mary, heavy with child, through the crowed village streets looking for a place-any place to have a baby. Someone 'let's' them use the stable because Joseph was not smart enough to make reservations ahead of time. But that is not how it is written.

Luke 2: 3~ And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,”

The words to look at are: “While they were there…” Hate to wipe out images of a frantic new Dad, not knowing what to do! Joseph had a lot more going for him than most have given him. If an angel could tell him that his young wife was going to have a baby while she was still a virgin, he would have enough sense to prepare for the birth of that child. The inns at that time were used as a clinic as well as lodging. Take the story of the Good Samaritan. Where did he leave the injured Hebrew? In an inn. (From Luke 10:25-37)

This Birth was so very special. It had been spoken about for many hundreds of years. Not in the “wouldn't it be nice if…” sort of a story. It had been foretold to the finest details as to when and where. And in the fullness of time, He was born.

In the title of today's sermon, I used the words “His Heart Gift”. That is exactly what I mean. It came from His Heart and this birth was a gift. Let me explain.

John 3:16 is most likely the most known verse in the Bible outside of “Eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Shall we look at that verse in light of Christmas being NOW? First, from the Old Testament book of Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 36:25-28 “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws. You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be My people, and I will be your God.”

What follows in this book is what is called The Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones in which God's restoration of the people is described as bringing the dead men back to life (Ezekiel 37). What was needed back then was a new heart and a new life; that is, the Spirit must give birth to spirit (Jn 3:7). Only those alive in the kingdom of the Spirit by the Spirit will be able to recognize and enter that Kingdom. That same true truth is accurate for today!

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

For God --The Greatest All:

So loved--The Greatest emotion: Motivates His actions

The world --the greatest community

That He gave --The greatest sacrifice: He gave His ALL

His only Son --The greatest relationship: the Savior

That whoever --the greatest number: Open to all who believe.

Believes --the greatest adventure: based on Faith

In Him --the greatest Person

Shall not perish --the greatest separation

But have --the greatest opportunity

Eternal life --the greatest gift: the reward is Great!

One of the greatest gifts you can give to God is your attention. While you are giving Him your attention, you can ask Him any question you want. No matter how wild or forceful or even rude! If your questions are driven by open honesty, God is good to hear them. He is not afraid nor is He offended when we ask. That is how we learn. It is not just blind faith, but a series of questions that are answered to the point of satisfying our heart's need of answers. As we see from the poetry of King David in the Psalms and the wise sayings of his son Solomon in Proverbs, God is looking for people who are open. Open and honest. Open, honest and full of passion.

When was the last time you were passionate with God? When did you cry out to Him with your open hurt and express to Him your need for Him to know your heart? It is ALWAYS good to express your heart to Him IF it is from a position of openness. Blind anger has its place but few get answers going along in that vain.

Maybe the time of your encounter with the God of Christmas is NOW. Realize His Heart Gift for you is His Own Son and that He cares for you. The time for this is NOW!
All Scripture is from the NIV Bible.

Merry Christmas to all of you!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Christmas is Unique: We are His Workmanship

Ephesians 2:8-10
8 For it is by Grace you have been saved, through Faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

There is a new movie out in the States this month called “The Nativity.” It is supposed to be a rival to the Mel Gibson's film, “The Passion.” Your guess is as good as mine but the timing of the film is important as it gives 'the other part of the questions' “The Passion” made. That being:
Why did Jesus get in trouble and had to be arrested?
Why did Jesus get beaten up so badly?
Why did the Jewish leaders hate Him so much?
Why did He 'have to' die?
What was His crime?

I have not seen this new movie, of course, but I visited the movie's web site. You can guess the storyline. That can't be too hard for anyone! “The Nativity Story chronicles the arduous journey of two people, Mary and Joseph, a miraculous pregnancy, and the history-defining birth of Jesus.” -from the movies' web site:

First of all, you will need to ask what does 'nativity' mean? na·tiv·i·ty noun, meaning…
1. birth or origin, especially the place, process, or circumstances of being born
2. a horoscope based on the time of somebody's birth
Encarta® World English Dictionary © 1999 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Developed for Microsoft by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

The word also means delivery, labor, or even confinement. But the most important meaning comes at the very birth of the Son of God. How can this be? Is this the Uniqueness of this Christmas story?

Michael Card, a Christian songwriter sang a song as Joseph and asks, “How can I be the father to the Son of God?” What could Joseph teach his new son? How will this Son of God show Himself to the family? How do you correct Him? Would He need correcting? Will it be through His words, actions, and attitude?

The BIG story here is that God became a MAN!

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In Him was life, and that life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. 6 There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that Light, so that through Him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the Light; he came only as a witness to the Light. 9 The True Light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him.

The Word became Flesh! THIS UNIQUE visitation of God into His creation has been the focal point of most of history from that point until now. I believe it is the most important event that ever happened in Human History.

As we think of the situation here, it almost becomes mind blowing! The Lord of ALL creation left that powerful seat next to the Creator and entered into the form of a baby-of an infant-of a human child. The concept of the Divine becoming human is not that uncommon among the world religions, but what is UNIQUE is of the kind of involvement that Divine One has with the creation.

Unlike Greek, so-called-gods, this God/Man is not prone to fits of anger or jealousy. He is not some one who is looking for a fight or revenge. He is concerned for the well-being of the creatures He helped to create. He LOVES the creation and has found the way to bring creation back to Himself.

As in Philippians 2:5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the Name that is above every name, 10 that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

This attitude of the appeal is to 'set your minds on the same thing' as in Romans 8:5-7. As someone well said: "Love begins when someone else's needs are more important than my own," which is precisely what Paul will urge in the explanation that follows. That is the reason for the Cross. God's love for the creation-you and I-was much more important to the whole plan of God than the comfort of His Son. Mankind needed a Savior and Jesus-His son, was the one and only way to get the wayward creation back to the Father. Not selfish ambition nor envy and rivalry that characterized those who were attacking Paul while he was in jail. But that He would make Himself nothing…for the good pleasure of His Father.

In fact, these free flowing words of Paul do indeed portray the deep caring mindset that is just the opposite of the world's. Jesus-in the form of God-very God-showed His Godlikeness in 'emptying Himself' so as to fulfill the Law in dying for the ungodly. He showed great HUMILITY.

Humility is not found often and is, in fact, uniquely found in Christian Virtue. This message of a Crucified Messiah stands in direct conflict with the teaching and practice of that day. As it is also found today. The Romans, the Greeks and modern man all found humility not to be a virtue but a gross shortcoming.

You will remember Jesus' teaching of being the one who turns His cheek when attacked.

Luke 6:28-30 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.

This is different from modern thought!

This is the goal Paul has been writing about here. That we would achieve that same mind-that same attitude-that was found in Jesus. Different from the world. Psalm 149:4 “For the LORD takes delight in His people; He crowns the humble with salvation.” And in Isaiah 66:2 “Has not My hand made all these things, and so they came into being?" declares the LORD. "This is the one I esteem: He who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at My Word.” And Matthew 11:29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 18:4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

HUMILITY is sometimes mistakenly linked to being a pushover or a milktoast. We hear it all the time: “I'm no good for anything.” You are a special creation of God made for His purposes-for His Glory. You are good to save! We can't steal that from God. You are precious to Him. Whenever we hear others call us good for nothing, we need to speak out and say that is NOT TRUE! We are loved by God! His Spirit supports us and He longs to have fellowship with us. That is you are a person of importance!

We would do better to understand our proper stance before the Creator-both in our weakness and in our strengths. We are to be utterly dependent upon Him and totally trusting Him for all things. At that place, you can find a good balance: we are made in His Image. That position makes neither too much nor too little of either. True Biblical humility is not self-focused at all but rather, as Paul describes it, as considering others better than oneself. That does not mean that others are better than us. It does mean that their needs should not surpass my own.

We are not to seek their own good, but the good of others (1Cor 10:24 Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.) That is necessary as a community; to cut out selfish ambitions or vain conceit that is often found in our… fellowships. To boldly go where few have gone before! We are human after all!

Here is the challenge and a unique opportunity for this Chapel. It maybe easy to live with one another when we only see each other for over one hour a week. The unique challenge set before us today is for us to live in community with one another as Christ lived in community with His Father outside these four walls. This Oneness is THE factor that makes us unique. And the uniqueness of Christmas is that this shows us how to do that very thing.

Again, look at John 1:10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. The world needs to see Him alive in us so that they can be alive in Him! In the larger Christian community, people can get along with others because they do not HAVE to live with one another. The problem becomes even more acute when it is found in the Christian home. It is there that things are worked out on a daily basis with those who are closest to us.

The solution or cure is the same for the home as it is in a bigger community: in humility before God, each of us putting other's interest ahead of our own. We cannot keep looking for our needs to be met. How can I meet the needs of the person next to me? To the person who is not here this week? To the person who I don't see each week because I am infrequent? It, the Christian Life, is not about me. It is, after all, about Christ Jesus who left His Divine Nature and became like one of us to show us the only way to Him.

God, in His unique creativeness, is showing us the worker's manual in the Person of Jesus, who is THE Emmanuel. This same mindset is the eternal goal of the Father as He is at work in us to reproduce His Will in His People. We are His Workmanship…to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

This most unique message of the Nativity is that God became a man. John tells us that God became flesh and lived with us. Eugene Peterson put it this way in “The Message,” “he moved into the neighborhood.” Paul does a good job at saying the same thing in Col 1: 19 “For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him…”

In a very good method of teaching, rather than having simple TELL us what He was like, God came to us personally. He showed Himself to us. A picture is worth 1,000 words. And in this case, the Word became flesh. The INCARNATION! He opened His Heart to us and gave us more than an eye full; He gave us His Heart-full of His love.

I wonder now, how can we live any other way but for His good? Just as we received salvation by Faith, so should we live by Faith. It was by Grace that we were saved-this gift of God was not only given to us on Christmas but so that this gift could be understood and embraced every day of the year.

I want to celebrate His Uniqueness in how I live. In how I think. In how I relate to people inside this community and to those outside it. I invite you all to celebrate His uniqueness of His Gift to us by thanking Him! Would you bow your head and heart before Him now and talk to Him?

__Ideas for this sermon are from Johannah Reardon's article 5 Big Messages of the Nativity,, and and IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
All Scripture used is the NIV unless stated.