Sunday, November 27, 2011


 The Christmas message is a story of the Maker of the all there is sending His only Son to earth. The Incarnation.  God with us. Emmanuel.  God becoming flesh and lived among us.  In the fullness of time. It kind of goes with that fullness of time principle the Bible talks about when it refers to the coming of Christ in these words: "And in the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son" (Galatians 4:7). That little phrase explains so many of the waiting periods of our life. "In the fullness of time, God..."

  The verses we looked at this morning and those we will be talking about these next few weeks will direct our hearts toward something way bigger than what we have right now.  God is allowing us to see part of His Grand Plan for mankind in the birth of His dear Son, the Lord Jesus.
  There was a great darkness. Two weeks ago, Daniel Beck shared about this in the opening verses of John’s Gospel.  The darkness did not understand the Light that came and who/what was this light? The Word of God…in the flesh.  Isaiah 9:2 states: The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” 
John states (John 1:4-5) In Him was life, and that life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

  Truth is, there were many, many years had gone by since the Promise was made.  It is very hard to understand the delay of His coming.  In many things, God’s timing is different than our as is His accounting: Feeding 5,000 with only two fish and five small loaves of bread…  
It, at times seems that God’s time clock is certainly out of sync with ours…as with a little boy who was looking up into the sky and asked God a question:
"God? Are you really there?" To his astonishment a voice came from the clouds. "Yes, Jimmy? What can I do for you?"
Seizing the opportunity, Jimmy asked, "God? What is a million years like to You?"
Knowing that Jimmy could not understand the concept of infinity, God responded in a manner to which Jimmy could relate. "A million years to me, Jimmy, is like a minute."
"Oh," said Jimmy. "Well, then, what's a million dollars like to you?" "A million dollars to me, Jimmy, is like a penny."
"Wow!" remarked Jimmy, getting an idea. "You're so generous... can I have one of your pennies?"
God replied, "Sure thing, Jimmy! Just a minute."

   Not really what Jimmy wanted to hear, was it? Well, our text today seems an unlikely passage for the first week in Advent and it might not be what you want to hear either.  It has nothing at all to do with the manger, Mary, Joseph, wise men or shepherds watching their smelly sheep.  It has to do with Grace.

And a Grace that was showed to a lady without a name.
READ Luke 13:10-17.

   Here we have a story about a spirit that caused a physical disability.  Jesus was teaching at a local synagogue. He saw a nameless lady. She had been bent over for 18 years! As Jesus noticed her, He knew that she had a spiritual problem.  For many there, the people only saw her as a bent over lady, but Jesus could see that her condition was that way because Satan had had his way with her.  It was time for a change of association
   First, The Lady In Question.
   People pass us as we walk toward the train station. As we sit on the trains, many people stand and move by us. When we get to our destination, more people. Last week, I joined my daughter and Andy at Disney Sea.  One line we stood in for over 110 mins. So many people! Each had a story. Each had their pain, their joys. I knew of none of them. I was with the ones I loved and they did not effect or affect me in any way—except those in front of me prevented me to get on the ride faster!

   I did not know of what kinds of personal baggage they carried.  Most seemed happy. One or two children cried but for the most part, a happy group of total strangers.

   Here in this room, we have people.  Some we know very well. Others, we have not made ourselves know to them. We don’t know of their pain, their story. Sometimes we are aware of some from our group who are hurting as they ask for prayer. A few times in the past 21 years, some have come bandaged up, or walking with a cane.

   In this passage, Jesus just knew! He knew of this lady’s condition. It seemed that she was certainly not a new comer to the synagogue.  She had this condition for the past 18 years.  You’d think some would have noticed! Someone would have helped her but she seemingly went unnoticed—unhealed. And the surprising fact is, none seemed to be aware of this evil spirit she had within her.  Right there: Demonic possession. This evil spirit had doubled her up physically for the past 18 years. She had been bond in a deformed body. She could not stand straight because she was made deformed by the demon within her.

   She was disabled. It took the touch and Words of Jesus to set her free. She had not asked to be set free.  She was just there.  (This was all in the plan of God [in His time], but she did not seek anything from Jesus.)

   Once Jesus healed her—set her free, her response was one of immediately straightening up and praising God. After 18 years of being bent—she stood straight!

   That is what happens when Jesus touches us. He makes us straight.  Even when we are not asking for it. Seeing the lady bent moved Jesus to action. He moved so she could be unbound. 

   This lady is a great example of us today. Are we bound up inside with things that tend to bend us out of line? Are there things in our life that are not straight? Things out of line with His Plans for us? Are there strained relationships? Distorted feelings or issues? Warped or bend and out of being straight?  We need His touch on us EVEN if we didn’t ask Him. His Glory is made right when He touches us and makes our ways straight. That is the Gospel: Good News!

That is what that Lady without a name teaches us.

2. What Do We See? 
   When you have the chance to teach or speak for God, do you see individuals or crowds? Jesus saw an individual who was in trouble.  He knew her pain and He knew He could change her life.  He saw her as one of the people His Father had made but she had become bound up and could not function as she was made to function.  He healed her by casting the evil spirit out of her that kept her bend for 18 years! That woman did not go to Jesus.  She did not ask for forgiveness or for healing! She did not fall on her knees and confess her sins nor did she beg for healing. YET, Jesus was there to set her free.  And she was made free by the clearest example of unmerited Grace.  Totally unsolicited Grace.  It pleased God to do this. He sets people free.

   Because we tend to be bound up tight people, 3. How To Get Un-tied? 
   Up north…From our friend, Dean, working in Shintate, Ishinomaki: Volunteers Needed!! we approach December (and into winter!) the number of families asking for help is INCREASING! At the (music) Concert on Saturday, four more families asked for help in cleaning and restoring their homes! Pray with us for an increase in volunteers. We need volunteers to help with mudding out houses...(which means, removing sheet rock from walls, then cleaning and removing dried mud from inside the walls, followed by removing the floors and dried mud/debris from under the floors and finally washing and that carpenters can rebuild...   
   Samaritan's Purse needs skilled carpenters who can volunteer for one month or longer! Very rewarding work! Neighbors are telling us..."As long as volunteers are here we have hope! Please continue to help us!"

   Very different view from the leader of the Synagogue: The leader of the synagogue was put out by Jesus’ action—on the Sabbath!  See verse 14.                                    
    Jesus responds in the next verse-15:

   Jesus did more than give water to a thirsty donkey. He did more than untie an ox.  Jesus touched a human’s life.  Which is more important, an animal or a human?  Those critics did not answer Him but slipped away ashamed; they were humiliated! But the others there “were delighted with all the wonderful things He was doing.”

   As many physicians will tell you, a majority of illnesses result from mental, emotional, or spiritual conditions. Many need to seek out prayer rather than a physician. People need to know that a bad spirit can cause a bad physical condition. The Holy Spirit results in health of body and mind. In today's gospel lesson, a woman was bent over for 18 years until Jesus drove out the spirit of Satan to soundness.

   It was a miracle of pure grace: An unknown, nameless woman is freed from her handicap. She did not ask for help. She expressed no faith in Jesus' ability to heal her. When cured, she gave all the credit to God. Today many people are in need of healing not only of body and mind, but also of spirit. If we are going to be helped, it will be a miracle of grace.

   Because of Grace, Jesus saw her condition.  Because of Grace, Jesus called her to Him.  Because of Grace, Jesus laid His healing hands on her and because of HIS Grace, the woman and others praised God.

   Consider Again Christmas
   When Pope Julius I authorized December 25 to be celebrated as the birthday of Jesus in A.D. 353, who would have ever thought that it would become what it is today.
   When a Professor Charles Follen lit candles on the first Christmas tree in America in 1832, who would have ever thought that the decorations would become as elaborate as they are today?

   It is a long time since 1832, longer still from 353, but a way longer time still from that dark night brightened by a special star shone over that village manger in which Jesus the king was born. Yet, as we approach December 25 again, it gives us yet another opportunity to pause, and in the midst of all the excitement and elaborate decorations and expensive commercialization, which surround Christmas today, to consider again the event of Christmas and the Person whose birth, we celebrate. 
In the fullness of Grace.