Christmas Sermons

  • Beauty and You

    Text: Matthew 2:1-11

    Proposition:We are attracted to beauty in a way that goes beyond our understanding compelling us to look, to wonder, because its very origin is God.

    Introduction:This morning I want to talk with you about one thing, one thing so compelling, so familiar that we often miss its deeper intents. The one thing I want to draw your attention to is ‘Beauty’. It’s an appropriate subject when you think about Christmas. The images of beauty resonate in Christmas, the birth of child, the glory of angels, a star lit night, the purity of worship offered by poor shepherds in a humble stable. No human writer could have constructed a scene as beautiful as the birth of Jesus Christ. If you searched the pages of Scripture you’d see the way beauty is referred to again and again. It describes women like Bathsheba, Abagail, Tamar and Sarah. Beauty describes the infant Moses, beauty describes the sparkle in the eyes of David when he was a shepherd boy. Beautiful are the feet that bring the gospel. Beauty is attached to the Temple and even the entire city of Jerusalem. Things, creatures, places, people and even circumstances are beautiful. What is it that makes them all beautiful, perhaps even more importantly, why do we find ourselves noticing and being attracted to all beauty?  Let me share a beautiful story with you this morning that may begin to answer that for us because beauty is not just in the eye of the beholder, beauty calls you. All beauty beckons you to its origin. Turn to Matthew 2: 1-11 with me.

  • Beauty and You

    Text: Matthew 2:1-11

    Proposition:We are attracted to beauty in a way that goes beyond our understanding compelling us to look, to wonder, because its very origin is God.

    Introduction:This morning I want to talk with you about one thing, one thing so compelling, so familiar that we often miss its deeper intents. The one thing I want to draw your attention to is ‘Beauty’. It’s an appropriate subject when you think about Christmas. The images of beauty resonate in Christmas, the birth of child, the glory of angels, a star lit night, the purity of worship offered by poor shepherds in a humble stable. No human writer could have constructed a scene as beautiful as the birth of Jesus Christ. If you searched the pages of Scripture you’d see the way beauty is referred to again and again. It describes women like Bathsheba, Abagail, Tamar and Sarah. Beauty describes the infant Moses, beauty describes the sparkle in the eyes of David when he was a shepherd boy. Beautiful are the feet that bring the gospel. Beauty is attached to the Temple and even the entire city of Jerusalem. Things, creatures, places, people and even circumstances are beautiful. What is it that makes them all beautiful, perhaps even more importantly, why do we find ourselves noticing and being attracted to all beauty? Let me share a beautiful story with you this morning that may begin to answer that for us because beauty is not just in the eye of the beholder, beauty calls you. All beauty beckons you to its origin. Turn to Matthew 2: 1-11 with me.

  • Believing in the God of the Impossible

    Text: Luke 1:26-47

    Proposition:  God’s promises are outside the realm of human possibility, our only response is a faith that receives and then pursues them.

    Introduction: How many times have you run into the impossible in your life, into situations that were impossible,  relationship impasse,  financial encumbrance,  health endangerment? The scriptures are full of the accounts of  lives that were lived against all odds, lived in the face of the impossible.  Perhaps the Christmas story is the most well known of  all these.  It’s the story of  God entering humanity for the sole purpose of being able to die. Even more impossible is that the life and death of this God man, this Jesus, was for the express purpose of carrying away the most toxic substance known to mankind.  It’s the toxicity of sin and it outlasts the grave.  Jesus came to take away the sin of the world, that’s what John the Baptist declared because he believed in the promises that God had made to us all, no matter how impossible they sounded.  Some of God’s promises we call prophecy as in Genesis 3 and Isaiah7. Some of His promises are more plainly spoken to us like John 10:9, “I am the door, if anyone enters through Me he shall be saved and shall go in and out and find pasture.” We need to recognize that the very details of God’s promises to us are outside the realm of human capability. In and of ourselves we could never make them come to be and in that sense they are impossible, but for God the impossible is impossible. Let’s take a look at that Christmas story again and see these promises that God made to Mary, watch to see what her response was. Read with me Luke 1:26 to 47.

    I. God Promised To Interrupt Mary’s Life… Because of Love.

    Would you call an unplanned pregnancy, an unsettled marriage and a transient lifestyle, interruptions in Mary’s life? Absolutely!  Promises to conceive though yet a virgin; promises that her child would be the Son of God; promises that He would be a King; promises that His kingdom would never end; these are the impossible promises of God made to Mary. Perhaps the most difficult to believe is the promise, “Hail favored one, the Lord is with you.” It’s hard to see how all this interruption, all this crisis and uncertainty could possibly be interpreted as God’s favor and yet there it is.  God interrupted Mary’s life because He ‘favored her’, He loved her and had chosen her specifically to be a key part in the plan of redemption. Mary’s life really was interrupted, changed to never be the same again, and the prime motivation for God choosing Mary in this way was… it pleased Him to do so.  That’s why He favored her.

    It’s really the same greeting that God has said to you and I who are Christians, isn’t it. It’s because we are favored in His sight that we have received His grace, that we have been given a gift of faith to receive and believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior . And it’s just as humanly impossible a work that He does in you and I as He did in Mary. The Holy Spirit has been sent to now take up residence in you, to indwell you!  And He does it for the same reason. Your salvation brings pleasure to the heart of God. Through every person’s life that is transformed by Christ , great joy comes to the heart of God. In Luke 15:10 Jesus said, “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”  It is against all odds, against  all probability and yet it brings pleasure to the heart of God to bring faith in Christ alive in you… and it will interrupt your life… gloriously.  So how did Mary respond to such an interruption in her life?

    II. The Right Response to God’s  Impossible Promises:   Go and See;  Go and Receive; Go and Proclaim.

    1. Go and See -  A. W. Tozer once said, “The Bible recognizes no faith that does not lead to obedience, nor does it recognize any obedience that does not spring from faith. The two are opposite sides of the same coin.” We know that when the angel had finished talking with Mary her response was that she believed. In verse 38 she declares, “Behold the bond slave of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word.” That was faith, but look what happens next. She immediately leaves Nazareth and journeys to the hill country of Judea. The route she took was probably exactly the same route Joseph would take with her just nine months later. In fact she would have traveled right through Bethlehem to get to Hebron, the Levite city given to the priestly families such as Zacharias and Elizabeth. This was no small journey, it represented a very rugged walk of about 80 miles. When God makes an impossible promise to us, one that is against all odds, faith will not let you sit still. It’s like suddenly having a realization that you are incredibly thirsty and that you’ve been thirsty all along but just now are aware of it and you need to go and drink. The first response to God’s incredible promise is to go and see.

    2. Go and Receive -  Mary comes to the house of Zacharias and Elizabeth and calls out a greeting. Instantly Elizabeth and her unborn son John are filled with the Holy Spirit as they hear Mary’s voice.  Elizabeth, in the Spirit, proclaims to Mary that she is indeed to be the mother of the Christ. Some commentators believe that it was actually in Hebron, in Elizabeth’s home that the Spirit came upon Mary and she conceived Jesus. It’s entirely possible as this was very sacred place throughout the Old Testament. Abraham and Sarah were buried here as well as Isaac and Rebecca and Jacob and Leah. It was here that David was first anointed king and it was here that circumcision was first instituted as a covenant sign. Perhaps it is here that Mary also conceives and carries the Son of God, Christ the Savior. The response to go and see is always followed by the response to go and receive. Faith will be used to direct Mary as to what is about to occur, but to receive… this was dependent upon her going.  What did Mary receive that day at Elizabeth’s home?  Was it further understanding, confirmation and encouragement?  Was it the very person of Christ? What you and I receive because we go will be more than we expected, it will be the outworking of an impossible promise to us and through us by the Spirit in us.

    3. Go and Proclaim -  Look at the first words that come from Mary in verse 46, 47. “My soul exalts (magnifies) the Lord and my spirit has rejoiced greatly in God my Savior.” When an impossible promise of God has been given to you and faith is awakened in you, you go and see.  It will lead to the next step of  go and receive  what the Holy Spirit at the direction of Jesus Christ intends for you. It’s when you receive that then the desire to go and proclaim manifests itself. Go and proclaim what you might ask? You proclaim that which you hadn’t seen before. You proclaim that which you didn’t have before but now have received as a gift. It’s like any gift that you’ve received that you weren’t expecting and the greatness of the gift was way more than what you could have hoped for, you proclaim to others this gift. When God is the gift, the Son of God given to you for the purpose of taking the most toxic thing to you out of the way, your sin… it’s the gift of eternal life in Christ! And the amazing thing is that the gift isn’t just for you, it can be for any who will stop and bend low to receive it, who will repent and believe.

    When you put something under a microscope you don’t change the size of it, you just become aware of it in greater detail. ‘My soul magnifies the Lord’, Mary said. Her spirit rejoiced greatly in God. Charles Spurgeon put it like this… “Prayer is the stalk of the wheat, but praise is the ear of the wheat: it is the harvest itself. When God is praised, we have come to the ultimate. This is the thing for which all other things are designed.”

    Has God interrupted your life, do you see that He has done so because of His great love for you, because it brings Him great pleasure. Has God made these kind of humanly impossible promises to you, has He said He would come and live in you, has He said He would wash you in the grace of His gift of Christ, has he called you His child? Let your soul magnify the Lord, let your spirit rejoice greatly in the God of your salvation. Let your praise of God magnify the Lord.

  • Discovering Jesus
    Text: Luke 2: 21-38
    Proposition: When we discover Jesus it’s often when and where we would least expect yet when we do, He’s always more than we could ever expect.
    Introduction: Did you get what you expected for Christmas? Were there socks and oranges or E Readers and Blue rays? There’s a new tradition going about many households that is meant to take the crazy busy shopping aspect of Christmas down a notch or two. People give each other lists of what they would like for Christmas. I understand that but it’s the unexpected that makes Christmas gifts even more special to me. Telling someone what exactly you’d like to receive as a gift seems to me to take away the mystery that is so much a part of Christmas. I mean Jesus was not what everybody was expecting. Nobody expected a baby in a manager, nobody expected a virgin to give birth or angels to appear before shepherds or wise men called Magi to suddenly show up in Bethlehem with extravagant gifts for the Christ Child. Nobody expected Herod to try to kill the Child with a mass genocide campaign, certainly nobody expected the Messiah to come as a helpless baby born to young couple so poor they could barely make ends meet. And if you compare the list of what we didn’t expect regarding His birth the list is even greater when you consider what we didn’t expect regarding His death and resurrection. Which really begs the question, what do you expect about Jesus, because the story isn’t over. He’s coming again. As much as people were taken flat footed in the first coming of Christ they will likely be taken by surprise as much and even more at His Second Coming. It’s just six days since Christmas, I’d like to look at an account in Scripture that happened just eight days after Jesus was born and as we do I hope that your expectations of Who Jesus is grow more focused, more defined and more filled with hope. Have a look at Luke 2:21-38 .
    I. When You First Discover Jesus He Doesn’t Look Like What You’d Expect.
    Seven days had passed since that night in the manger, on the eighth day Joseph names the Child, ‘Jesus’, as both he and Mary were instructed to do by the angel Gabriel. In the Law of Moses in Leviticus 12 it said that a woman who gave birth to a male child would be considered unclean for seven days after which the young male child would be circumcised and then named. It was meant to be a way of teaching the people about how they were all born in sin and all born under the Law of Moses. Once the Child was named the woman then had another 33 days to pass through before she would be allowed to go to the Temple, forty days to be considered ceremonially clean. These details are strange to us, if we have a son circumcised it’s because of personal preference. If we name a child it’s when and what we feel is right. The idea of a woman being considered unclean because of having given birth is likely an offensive thought at best, one that speaks more against her dignity than as a symbol of the transmission of a sin nature. Traditions have a different value for us today because we are not like the Jewish people of the first century. Yet all these peculiar traditions of ceremonial uncleanness and circumcision and naming the child and going to the Temple are what Joseph and Mary did because of this Child Jesus. The peculiar part is that these traditions didn’t fit Jesus. There was no sin transmitted to Him by His mother. Though Jesus was circumcised as a sign of being under the Law of Moses yet He was sinless and was above the Law. In all the peculiar traditions that Joseph and Mary faithfully observed what was being communicated to us was that Jesus doesn’t look like what you’d first expect. In fact He looks a lot like us. You could say that Jesus used all the powers in heaven and earth to be just like us. We never expected that Jesus would want to do that. In modern day terms it would be like an All Powerful and All Majestic Jesus choosing to have a mortgage just like us, choosing poverty. It would be like Jesus choosing to be in a place of being laid off because of cut backs, He chose the experience of rejection. In all these ways and at much greater depth, Jesus has become like us, identifying with us, among us so that not only would He know our state but that being in our state since birth He would one day pay out our debt of sin completely. When you first discover Jesus He doesn’t look like what you’d expect because what He came to do wasn’t what we expected. He came to die not to succeed. He came to set free not to acquire. He came to bring life not solve life. Perhaps the very reason they went up to Jerusalem from Bethlehem after those forty days was a hint, there for all to see. It says that, “they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the LORD’…”. The first born child who is a male of every Israelite family was called ‘holy to the Lord’. What this phrase points back to is the times of Moses when all the first born of Egypt died as the final act to convince the Pharaoh to let the nation of Israel be set free. From that night, called the Passover night, all the first born males were to be considered set apart for God’s call upon their lives. Now Joseph and Mary take this infant Jesus to Jerusalem, the first born of God, the One who would set all people free from the penalty of sin and He would do that by His death in our place. When you first meet Jesus He doesn’t look like you thought He would because what He does is much greater than just making our lives better. He came as Savior!
    II. When You First Meet Jesus God Makes Sure You’re In the Right Place.
    It says that Simeon had heard about the Messiah, in fact he had prayed and searched and sought to know who this Messiah was. He is called a just and devout man, one who believed that the Messiah would be the Consolation, the Comforter, the Living Hope for the nation of Israel. In God’s special providence He had made it known to Simeon that soon he would see this Messiah. It was a promise from God to Simeon just like the way God sends His promise from the hand of Jesus to you and I. This is what that promise sounds like, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jer.29:12-14) That’s the promise that Simeon lived for, it’s the same promise that God offers to you here this morning, that if you’ll seek Him with all your heart you will find Him. Perhaps more accurately we could say that God will make sure you are in the right place at the right time to meet Jesus. Simeon was. It was a perfect intersect, he comes walking into the Temple, the Spirit of God prompting him as to place and time and at just that very moment Joseph and Mary with the infant Jesus are coming into the Temple. Simeon had likely imagined the Messiah as a general on a great white horse or a statesman who spoke with grand and wise words but suddenly here in front of him was an infant and it was unmistakably Jesus. God has a way of seeing right through us, past our fears and pretenses, past our own sense of unworthiness right to the heart. If your heart is saying, ‘I just want to see Jesus, to know His consolation, His forgiveness of my sin, to give Him my life to do what He wills…God makes sure that that you are in the right place and at the right time for that to happen. And not only does Simeon get to see the Messiah he actually takes the infant Jesus into his arms, he for a moment, holds the Savior of the world in his arms. These words pour out of his heart, “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of Your people Israel.” Simeon gets it, what God said He would do, He does. God’s salvation is prepared and presented before the face of all peoples. That because all people need Someone to stand between their sin and a holy God in order to take the hit for us. And it’s for all peoples, Gentiles and Jews.  He’s like the light of God shining on a path way in the pitch black night, giving you enough light to see where the rocks are, where the branches that would trip you up are, where the cliff edge is as you walk within feet of it. He is the light that enables you to see the way. Then Simeon says this to Mary and to all of us, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." There will be many who will only know Jesus as a curse word and there will also be many who bow their hearts before Him and are lifted up to Him. The anguish of Christ’s death on the cross will be like a sword going through Mary’s heart and yet this is the way that God has established for us to be reconciled to Him. Where you stand at the cross, as a mocker or as one who receives the gift of Christ’s death and resurrection is a heart that will be revealed. These somber words are like Easter resting against Christmas. It’s the perfect place to be, seeing a Jesus that is more than we ever expected. It’s Discovering Jesus.

  •    

    First Immanuel, Then Jesus

    Text: Matthew 1:18-25

    Proposition: The virgin birth of Jesus Christ brought man and God together in essence and then in relationship, eternally.

    Introduction: There’s a great quote of Matthew Henry that goes like this: “By the light of nature, we see God as a God above us; by the light of the law, we see him as a God against us; but by the light of the gospel, we see him as Immanuel, God with us, in our own nature, and (which is more) in our interest.” When people see sunsets and majestic mountains and the beauty of all kinds on animals, birds, fish and even reptiles… that’s the light of nature and we conclude there is an intelligent designer, there is a great God above. When people consider the 10 commandments, the Law that Scripture reveals, we see how far short of it we are in our everyday lives. The Law is like a dentist’s light, it can’t take away the decay it can only expose it. The light of the Law exposes sin and declares that sin and holiness are at opposite ends and we see God as being against us. Ahhh, but by the light of the gospel we read of a virgin birth, we read of the Holy Spirit bringing about conception in a young woman named Mary. We read about God entering into humanity, we call that Immanuel, With Us, God. In our nature refers to the human nature, the condition of mortality, a place of dependence on water, food and sleep and the needs of hope and community. In our interest refers to the very purpose of God on our behalf. If the virgin birth is too amazing for you, the idea of God being willing to take on death, the consequence or wages of sin, to die on our behalf that in our interest we would be reconciled to Him eternally, that is more amazing than all. Jesus, His name means Jehovah is Salvation, came close in order to take our place. Immanuel, God with us, was so that Jesus, God is our Salvation, could occur... first Immanuel, then Jesus. Turn with me to Matthew 1:18-25.

    I. Immanuel, A Plan That God Wants You To Know About.

    Have you ever had your plans interrupted, maybe a trip you were planning that can’t happen because the car left you a message on the garage floor. Maybe it was a plan for fun and work interrupted it. I’m thinking that Joseph had a plan to love a young woman, to marry her, to have a family and to live a simple life in Nazareth. He’d proposed marriage, she’d accepted. Soon they would formerly wed, but right now, even in the engagement, they were husband and wife. He hadn’t seen Mary for about three months since she was visiting her cousin Elizabeth near a little village called Bethlehem. When he next meets her Mary tells Joseph that she is pregnant. Have you ever had your plans interrupted? Joseph did. Though the penalty for adultery was death by stoning, Joseph seeks to quietly divorce Mary, quietly let her go, quietly explode inside. Though the virgin birth and incarnation of Christ are what causes us Christmas joy, they came about by interrupted plans, interrupted lives. Then, just as Joseph begins to put in place another plan, a painful plan to divorce, God interrupts again. It seems when God interrupts our lives it’s because He has a plan we haven’t heard of, He has a plan that’s greater than we could ever imagine and even in the pain and inconvenience it brings to us, that plan includes us in what He wants to do. Here’s the amazing part, God wants you to know what that plan is. This is true in our account with Joseph but it’s also true in your life here today. Look what He tells Joseph: 1. You are a son of David… that’s the family that you belong to, the Promises I’ve made to this family belong to you; 2. Don’t be afraid… Mary is still your wife, she has not betrayed you, I have not betrayed you, trust Me and take her as your wife; 3. The child she carries is of Me, the Holy Spirit, call His name Jesus; 4. He will save His people from their sins… His people have a problem that they are helpless to overcome, He will save them from their sins.

    It’s here that the gospel writer Matthew inserts an editorial note. Inspired by the Holy Spirit Matthew says that all this happened according to what was prophesied 700 years earlier by the prophet Isaiah, “Behold the virgin shall be with child and bear a Son and they shall call His name Immanuel.” God has interrupted Joseph’s life and He has interrupted your life by telling you His plan, Immanuel, God with us. It’s not God above you, it’s not God against you, it’s God with you! The virgin birth was so that deity, the very reality of Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, the One who was in beginning with God and was God, was now entering into humanity as the incarnated Son of God. Does God know what the warmth of the sun feels like, does He know what it means to sweat, to ache, to be hungry? Does God know how to laugh, how to hold little children, how to touch a lepers face? Does He know what it feels like to be alone, does He know how to pray and is He aware of what it feels like to die? Immanuel…Immanuel... Immanuel!

    The purpose of God with us is that He would be like us, our representative. The purpose of Immanuel is that He would be like us but with one great exception, He would not have a nature to sin and would not have done any sin. The virgin birth broke the cycle of generational transmission of a sin nature by only one half being human while the other half is divine. The God-man is who Immanuel is, like us as our representative head, unlike us as the only sinless man. Hebrews 4:15 puts it like this, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” First Immanuel, first God with us in every way the perfect man, without sin, like Adam, yet now perfectly obedient to God the Father. First Immanuel incarnate God with us, so that first hand we would know what God looks like it terms of character, in personality, in conduct, in command. Jesus said, “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.”(Jn. 14:9) Because of Immanuel we know the plan of God and even more we know God in a way we never could have else wise. Because of Immanuel we know He knows us, first Immanuel… then Jesus.

    II. Jesus, A Man In Which You Can Stand.

    Have you ever vouched for another person, that is, have you ever put your name on the line so that they can be excused some error or wrong action? Maybe it was for your kids, they broke your neighbors window, they trampled your neighbors rose bush and you vouched for your kids. You may have even paid the damages for the broken window because, after all, it was a triple pane picture window, eight feet wide and ten feet tall. It would have been impossible for your kids to pay for that, so you did. When the angel told Joseph, “…you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”, he was saying that Jesus would vouch for His people, he was saying it would be impossible for His people to pay, so Jesus would do what His people couldn’t do for themselves. He would save them from their sins. Jesus can do that because He is Immanuel, God with us. Jesus can do that because He is without sin and is a perfect sacrifice that takes away the sin of the world. Jesus in essence says to the Father, “These are My people, the Jews first but also the Gentiles. They know from the evidence of creation that there is a God and that they are under God, under His power, under His purposes and under His plan. They have heard of your Word, they know about the Bible and they have come to know your Law. It has exposed their sin and they know that sin is what puts them at odds with You Almighty and Holy God. They know that because of sin You are against them. Now these have come to know that You have sent Me, Immanuel and that you have made My name known to them, Jesus… God is Salvation. Father I give myself for them, put what is owed you from them because of sin, put that on Me. I will… to take their place. For this reason You sent Me. Father forgive them their sin eternally, draw them to this understanding and help them to take their stand in Me by faith. Cover them with Me.”

    The wonder of the virgin birth is amazing, but the purpose of Immanuel is breath taking and the act of Jesus…well it’s incomparable! We stand amazed. Now we choose by faith to take our stand in the sinless man Jesus, in the Lord God Jesus, in our High Priest Jesus, in our King Jesus. Help us to remember 2 Corinthians 5:20, 21, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us, we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

  • For Unto Us the Prince of Peace

    Text: Isaiah 9:6

    Proposition: Peace is the aching longing of every soul because it is absent in a sinful world, it is a longing designed to point us to the Prince of Peace, Jesus.

  • God’s Birth Announcement
    Text: Isaiah 7
    Proposition: God’s birth announcement has the facts but it is dressed in hope and filled with the miracle of new life in Christ.
    Introduction: Everyone has seen the pictures of the haggard father who has spent a night in the Operating Room with his wife. Perhaps they went in at 2 in the morning at now at 6am the baby has been born. The haggard father leans against the wall by the pay phone in the lobby of the hospital.  He calls family members to let them know the amazing news, a child has been born, the miracle of birth has happened here. Certainly it is the father’s duty to get the facts out there, boy or girl, how much they weighed, how the mom is and how long the labour went, what their name is. It’s the first hurried birth announcement and it flies from person to person, each eager to tell the others.
    I wonder if that is exactly what God was doing throughout the Old Testament as time and again He gave the details of the birth that would be remembered and celebrated for all time. He gave the place of the birth in Micah 5:2, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for Me One who will be Ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” In the Book of Danial He gave the time when these things would take place. God even told them that Jesus the Messiah would be born out of the tribe of Judah (Micah 5:2) out of the family of Jesse (Isa. 11:1) and out of the house of David (Jer. 23:5,6). In the Psalms (72:9,10) God tells them about shepherds and kings coming to witness the birth of this amazing Child. All these were like the phone call you get from your child saying, “Dad, Mom, we’re expecting!” There are two high points that people still point to as the time when God spoke so clearly about the coming birth of His Son, Jesus Christ. The first  came in a most unexpected setting. Let me give you the context, the back story. After the death of King Solomon the nation of Israel had split into two states. The one in the north was called Ephraim or Israel and the one in the south where the capital city of Jerusalem lay was called Judah. The setting before us is that the king of Ephraim or Israel was creating an alliance with the king of Syria and together they were going to attack the smaller southern state of Judah. The king of Judah was Ahaz, a cowardly, superstitious king, one who had little use for God and even less of a desire to trust in His power. God uses a prophet, a man called Isaiah to tell Ahaz that things are not as they seem. Turn with me to Isaiah 7.
    I. When the Roof Is Caving In, God Gives a Sign That All Is Not Lost.
    When the people of Judah hear that this coalition army is just a few miles to the north they are flooded with fears of chaos and loss. It says that the kings heart and the hearts of his people were “moved as the trees of the woods are moved with the wind.” They were overcome, pushed here and there by an invisible fear. It’s that kind of fear that whispers in your ear, ‘Things are not going to end well.’ We’ve known that fear ourselves and it cripples kings and servants alike. God sends Isaiah to speak against this fear, “Go forth now to meet Ahaz, you, and Shear-jashub your son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller's field.” The place was by the conduit that channeled water into the city, a life line if there were to be a siege. The conduit was likely falling apart from neglect and Ahaz was there to try to come up with some kind plan to keep things together. It’s into this place that Isaiah comes, not because Ahaz was seeking the Lord, he wasn’t. Not because Ahaz was a good man and deserved the help, he didn’t. God sends Isaiah here because Ahaz was of the line of David, because the people were of the tribe of Judah,  they are still what God will use to bring life. So the Lord tells Isaiah to bring with him his young son, Shear-jashub. As Isaiah stands before Ahaz, likely holding the hand of his son, there is a sign that God intends for Ahaz in this small child. Shear-jashub means, “a remnant shall return”. It was a sign for any who would see it that God will prevail, that they would survive. The roof was caving in, literally, and into this place God sends a sign that all is not lost. It’s a sign that says it won’t be easy, there will be loss, there will be struggle and trial but I will bring you through it. Shear-jashub, a remnant will return.
    II. God Knows Every Plan of Man,  So Listen To God’s Plan For Man.      
    It seems that God’s plans for us are always counter intuitive. If your enemy hits you on one cheek offer him the other, if you’re asked to carry a load one mile, carry it two. Those responses are not typical of us, they go against what we would intuitively do. So look at what Isaiah says to Ahaz as an invasion force amasses on his border. Take heed or guard yourself. In this case guard yourself against your own thinking. Be on guard against your fleshly responses. Be quiet, be still and stop being restless. Do not fear and don’t see yourself as weak, incapable, don’t be faint hearted. It’s a rallying cry that a General would give to the army, settle down, don’t let panic and fear trample on you, they do not have power over you but you have power over them. Let what you feel be determined by what is true and this is what is true. It’s how God sees things, it’s His estimation of them, that is what is true. So how does God see Ephraim and Syria’s alliance? He sees them as two tiny smoldering stubs about to be extinguished. For all their roar and fiery talk, their threat level in God’s eyes is like that of a wick about to fizzle out. He knows the conversations the enemy kings have been having and He wants Ahaz to see what He sees. The invasion will fail. Ephraim, or the northern state called Israel, would soon be a captive people in Assyria. The key challenge here for Ahaz is not how to defeat the enemy, it’s how to believe in what God sees. If you won’t believe you won’t be established. God will still prevent the invasion, He will still do what He chooses to do, but you will not be found faithful, you will miss this opportunity of faith and the eternal promises in it. So God invites Ahaz to ask for a sign. He even says that the sign can be anything, from clouds in the sky to the depths of the earth. God’s plan for man is that faith is the way in which he should walk. His plan for man is that they would believe in what God sees and not in what they see, that His will is sovereign over us and over those who oppose us. The tragic response here is that Ahaz tries to fool God, he tries to appear godly while at the same time not being willing to believe. He refuses to ask for a sign, so God gives him a sign that is meant to rebuke all unbelief. It’s a sign as high as the heavens and it goes to depths of the earth.
    “Behold the virgin shall conceive and shall bear a Son and shall call His name Immanuel.” What’s God’s response to people who won’t believe? It’s a birth announcement. It’s a phone call that says, “Look everyone, we’re going to have a baby.” It’s the impossible becoming fact, that’s why it begins with the word, ‘Behold’. God takes that which is already amazing to us and then makes it incredibly amazing. A virgin will conceive. That surely would be a sign, a sign when God takes an everyday miracle called conception and turns it into a once in an eternity sign called Incarnation. It’s a sign that says ‘Here is the place, here is the Way, here is the One.’ The young mother who will bear this Son through nine months of pregnancy and then through the multiplied pain of child birth, this young mother will name her Son, Immanuel. What this sign asks of us is to see what God sees. What God sees is that before we were ever created we would use our free will to turn against Him. What God sees is that as good as innocent man was in Adam, redeemed man in Christ is what He ultimately seeks. What God sees is the need to give of Himself in the person of His Son if the cost of sin is ever to be paid in full. What God sees is that mankind has the capability to believe and by the gift of faith that capability is awakened. What God sees is that which is counter intuitive to man, He sees that man should live by faith, not by sight. He sees a virgin as the one whom He will use to bring a sinless man and a perfect God into one person. He sees the vulnerability of an embryo as being the way the Omnipotent One should begin His experience of learning obedience in humanity. He sees what we would call weak, foolish and ineffective as being the exact, precise, perfect ones through which He speaks life into being.
    It was in the midst of an attack upon a king who didn’t seek for God nor was willing to trust in God that God pulls back the curtain to reveal the birth announcement of His Son. He used a tiny child standing right in front of the king to say that a remnant would indeed one day return from seventy years of captivity. The sign of Immanuel is one that carries the message, ‘Be on guard against the way of sin within you, don’t be afraid, be quiet before Him. Don’t be fainthearted, that would be to miss the truth of Immanuel, God with us. By faith, trust in Him.” It’s written right there in the birth announcement!

  • God’s Birth Announcement

    Text: Isaiah 7:1-14

    Proposition:God’s birth announcement has the facts but it is dressed in hope and filled with the miracle of new life in Christ.

    Introduction: You’ve seen the pictures of the haggard father who has spent a night in the Operating Room with his wife awaiting the birth of their child. Perhaps they went in at 2 in the morning at now at 6am the baby has been born. The father calls family members to let them know the amazing news, a child has been born, the miracle of birth has happened here. Certainly it is the father’s duty to get the facts out there, boy or girl, how much they weighed, how the mom is and how long the labour went, what their name is. It’s the first hurried birth announcement and it flies from person to person, each eager to tell the others.

    I wonder if that is exactly what God was doing throughout the Old Testament as time and again He gave the details of the birth that would be remembered and celebrated for all time. He gave the place of the birth in Micah 5:2, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for Me One who will be Ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” In the Book of Danial He gave the time when these things would take place. God even told them that Jesus the Messiah would be born out of the tribe of Judah out of the family of Jesse (Isa. 11:1) and out of the house of David (Jer. 23:5,6). All these were like the phone call you get from your child saying, “Dad, Mom, we’re expecting!”                                                               Perhaps one of the most well known announcements came in a most unexpected setting. Let me give you the context, the back story. It was about 900 years before the birth of Christ, King Solomon had just died, the nation of Israel soon experienced civil war and split into two states. The one in the north was called Ephraim or Israel and the one in the south where the capital city of Jerusalem lay was called Judah. Years passed and the then king of the northern state calling themselves Israel created an alliance with the king of Syria. Together they were going to attack the smaller southern state of Judah. The king of Judah was Ahaz, a cowardly, superstitious king, one who had little use for God and even less of a desire to trust in His power. So God uses a prophet, a man called Isaiah, to tell Ahaz that things are not as they seem. Turn with me to Isaiah 7:1-14.

    I. When the Roof Is Caving In, God Gives a Sign That All Is Not Lost.

    When the people of Judah hear that this coalition army is just a few miles to the north they are flooded with fears of chaos and loss. It says that the kings heart and the hearts of his people were “moved as the trees of the woods are moved with the wind.” They were overcome, pushed here and there by an invisible fear. It’s that kind of fear that whispers in your ear, ‘Things are not going to end well.’ We’ve known that fear ourselves and it cripples kings and servants alike. God sends Isaiah to speak against this fear, verse 3, “Go forth now to meet Ahaz, you, and Shear-jashub your son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller's field.” The place was by the conduit that channeled water into the city, a life line if there were to be a siege. The conduit was likely falling apart from neglect and Ahaz was there to try to come up with some kind plan to keep things together. It’s into this place that Isaiah comes, not because Ahaz was seeking the Lord, he wasn’t. Not because Ahaz was a good man and deserved the help, he didn’t. God sends Isaiah here because Ahaz was of the line of David, because the people were of the tribe of Judah, they are still what God will use to bring life. So the Lord tells Isaiah to bring with him his young son, Shear-jashub. As Isaiah stands before Ahaz, likely holding the hand of his son, there is a sign that God intends for Ahaz in this small child. Shear-jashub means, “a remnant shall return”. It was a sign for any who would see it that God will prevail, that they would survive. The roof was caving in, literally, and into this place God sends a sign that all is not lost. It’s a sign that says it won’t be easy, there will be struggle and trial but I will bring you through. Shear-jashub, a remnant will return.

    II. Since God Knows Our Plans, Listen Now To His Plan For You.    

    It seems that God’s plans for us are always counter intuitive. If your enemy hits you on one cheek offer him the other, if you’re asked to carry a load one mile, carry it two. Those responses are not typical of us, they go against what we would intuitively do. So look at what Isaiah says in verse 4 to Ahaz as an invasion force amasses on his border. Take heed or guard yourself. In this case guard yourself against your own thinking. Be on guard against your fleshly responses. Be quiet, be still and stop being restless. Do not fear and don’t see yourself as weak, incapable, don’t be faint hearted. It’s a rallying cry that a General would give to the army, settle down, don’t let panic, don’t let fear trample you. Let what you feel be determined by what is true and this is what is true. It’s how God sees things, it’s His estimation of them, that is what is true. So how does God see Ephraim and Syria’s alliance? He sees them as two tiny smoldering stubs about to be extinguished. For all their roar and fiery talk, their threat level in God’s eyes is like that of a wick about to fizzle out. He knows the conversations the enemy kings have been having and He wants Ahaz to see what He sees. The invasion will fail. The northern state called Israel would soon be themselves invaded and taken captive by Assyria. The key challenge here for Ahaz is not how to defeat the enemy, it’s how to believe in what God sees because if you won’t believe you can’t see. So God invites Ahaz to ask for a sign. He even says that the sign can be anything, from clouds in the sky to the depths of the earth. God’s plan for man is that faith is the way in which he should walk. The tragic response here is that Ahaz tries to fool God, he tries to appear godly while at the same time not being willing to believe. He refuses to ask for a sign, so God gives him a sign that is meant to rebuke all unbelief. It’s a sign as high as the heavens and it goes to the depths of the earth. Look at verse 14…

    “Behold the virgin shall conceive and shall bear a Son and shall call His name Immanuel.” What’s God’s response to people who won’t believe? It’s a birth announcement. It’s a phone call that says, “Look everyone, we’re going to have a baby.” It’s the impossible becoming fact, that’s why it begins with the word, ‘Behold’. God takes that which is already amazing to us and then makes it incredibly amazing. A virgin will conceive. That surely would be a sign, a sign when God takes an everyday miracle called conception and turns it into a once in an eternity sign called Incarnation. It’s a sign that says ‘Here is the place, here is the Way, here is the One.’ The young mother who will bear this Son through nine months of pregnancy and then through the multiplied pain of child birth, this young mother will name her Son, Immanuel, literally it translates as ‘With Us, God. What this sign asks of us is to see what God sees. What God sees is that before we were ever created we would use our free will to turn against Him. What God sees is that as good as man was in the innocent Adam, redeemed man in Christ is what He ultimately seeks. What God sees is the need to give of Himself in the person of His Son if the cost of sin is ever to be paid in full. What God sees is that mankind has the capability to believe and by the gift of faith that capability is awakened. What God sees is that which is counter intuitive to man, He sees that man should live by faith, not by sight. He sees a virgin as the one whom He will use to bring a sinless man and a perfect God into one person. He sees the vulnerability of an embryo as being the way the Omnipotent One should begin His experience of learning obedience in humanity. He sees what we would call weak, foolish and ineffective as being the exact, precise and perfect Way through which He speaks life into our lives.

    It was in the midst of an attack upon a king who didn’t seek for God nor was willing to trust in Him that God pulls back the curtain to reveal the birth announcement of His Son. He used a tiny child standing right in front of the king to say that a remnant would indeed one day return from seventy years of captivity. The sign of Immanuel is one that carries the message, ‘Be on guard against the way of sin within you, don’t be afraid, be quiet before Him. Don’t be fainthearted, that would be to miss the truth of Immanuel, With us, God. By faith, trust in Him.” It’s written right there in the birth announcement!      

  • In the Fullness of Time

    Text: Galatians 4:4; Luke 1: 31-33

    Proposition: The design of Christ’s First Coming when compared with  His Second Coming, shows the perfect plan of a perfect God.

    Introduction:  There’s an old saying that says , “You can never put your foot into the same river twice.” The water that once was there is gone, new water replaces it, it is never the same twice. The word of God is like that, ever fresh, ever seeking to take the blindfold from your eyes making your steps  sure. Let’s test that, let’s ask if it’s really true that Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Christ, could be full of discovery for us here this morning. Consider one passage of Scripture found far away from the Christmas story in Galatians 4:4 , “But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law…”. That phrase, ‘When the fullness of time came’, cues us to the fact that an all powerful, all present, all knowing and never changing God… waited… waited for something and then when it came He moved in ways we still can’t explain. This is what that fullness of time looked like, Luke 1:31-33.

    I. In the Fullness of Time… Christ Is Born.

    The fullness of time referred to the account of Gabriel informing Mary of what was soon to be. The fullness of time would be from the creation of the world right up to the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. Exactly how long was the fullness of time? When you consider King David lived at about 1000 BC, Abraham at about 2000 BC, the Flood took place about 2400 BC and Adam was born about 1600 years before that, then the fullness of time took about 4000 years to come about. But the fullness of time has other aspects to it. It was the fullness of what had been spoken about in prophecy, more than 300 references to when and where Jesus would come, who He would be and what He would do and why. The fullness of time also referred to the preparation of the world to receive Him, to a global government that would pave the way literally for the gospel. Rome would develop roads, create a world peace, establishing an infrastructure that the gospel would travel on. Rome also brought people to a very low place of depravity and slavery and brutality. People were made ready to hear the voice of the Savior. The fullness of time also referred to what would happen afterwards as much as it referred to what led up to the birth of Jesus. Born under the law referred to the Law of Moses, the Law that proclaimed the existence of sin, it locked up all mankind in sin because none was without sin. Christ was born of a woman, but not of a man. It refers to the virgin birth of Jesus when deity entered into humanity, eternal perfection into sinful mortality. It’s like that old game called Limbo that tried everyone to see who could bend over backwards enough to get under the stick, shuffling forward, leaning backward, balancing to try to get under the stick. The Law was like that stick except that instead of being held at a certain height that demanded self efforts to righteousness the Law stick was laid right on the ground. No one could go under it unless they went into the earth and then came back up out of the earth. In the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law and all its demands that He would perfectly satisfy those demands by going under the stick, into the earth, entering death and then rising back to life. In the fullness of time God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law. Why? The next verse is clear, “to redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” In the fullness of time, we were adopted by God through faith in the atoning blood of Christ on the cross of Christ. Christmas is about the fullness of time that points to the birth of Jesus but it doesn’t stop there. Look again at Gabriel said to Mary in Luke 1.

    II. In the Fullness of Time… Christ is Coming Again.

    Listen to what it says again,  “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Verses 31 and 32 describe His First Coming and they were perfectly fulfilled. But verse 33 describes His Second Coming.  The house of Jacob refers to Jacob and his 12 sons from which the nation of Israel begins. The Jewish people right now do not recognize Christ as their King much less their Messiah. Yet at the Second Advent all Israel will be saved. The kingdom of Jesus Christ has begun now. Just after His baptism by John, Jesus says this in Mark 1:15,“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”  In the fullness of time the kingdom of God was at hand, was made near, right in front of them. “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” , is a prayer for the development eternally of the kingdom of God. In the fullness of time, specifically at the second coming of Christ, that reality will occur. The words of Gabriel that foretold the first coming of the Christ and then immediately the second coming of the Christ, will be fulfilled, “and of His kingdom there will be no end.” . Christmas is not a ‘stand alone’ event, it is the beginning that looks to its end, in the fullness of time.

    The Christmas carol, ‘What Child Is This?’ asks the question, “Why lies He here in such mean estate where ox and ass are feeding?”  The answer is:

    1.  His birth in the stable was a picture of the depths of the incarnation. The incarnation of Almighty God into humanity was the rough equivalent of a child being born in a stable.

    2. His birth in a manger underlined that this world was not His home, the  inn was for those who were passing through, this place was not His home.

    3. His birth in this rough shelter made Him accessible to those who were about to find Him. Shepherds and Wisemen could both come to Him.

    4. His birth in such a place was that He would be safe, there is anonymity in poverty. He had been born to bring an end to sin, to destroy the devil and His works. The manger, the lowliest of places in the most royal of cities, was the perfect place for the fragile Christ child to come.

    5. His birth in such a place was a mirror of the same humility that would mark His death. The cradle reflects the cross, its rough wood beneath Him in the cradle would one day hold Him up on the cross for all to see.

    At the second Coming of Christ each of these will be reversed.

    1. Now His coming in the clouds will be with great majesty, not the poverty of a stable,  no longer mounted on a donkeys colt but now a white stallion.

    2. Now He comes to earth as His home to bring about ‘Thy will be done on earth.’

    3. Now those who accompany Him at the Second Advent are sinless as Christ is sinless. The Church, the company of redeemed humanity is with Him.

    4. Then He was born in anonymity, now He comes openly, publicly, in glory, in the same way that lightning is seen as it flashes across the sky from east to west proclaiming it’s power and presence.

    5. Then He came as the Servant, now He comes as King. Then he was wrapped in swaddling cloths, now He is clothed in the white robe of a victorious King. Listen to these words from Revelation 19:11-16:

    “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:
    “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”

    This, this is Christ our King!  This is Christmas… this is the fullness of time.

  •        The Miracle of the Ages

    Text: Luke 1; John 1

    Proposition: The miracle of all ages was the incarnation of God, for from this comes all the possibility of redemption. Discovering this miracle leads the discovery of eternal life.

    Introduction: The Christmas decorations are up and one of the most popular of them all is the manger scene. It’s on cards, on lawns, on coffee tables and in church foyers. The scene it depicts is the humble circumstances in the birth of Jesus yet what can escape our notice is that this event is the greatest miracle of all ages. Upon it every major doctrine in the Christian faith hangs. Without the intent and existence of the incarnation there is no justification, redemption, salvation, adoption, sanctification nor even election. In light of this, how strange it is for us that prophecy has been so silent about the incarnation. There is the veiled reference in Genesis 3:15 of how the seed of the woman would crush the head of Satan. There is the difficult reference in Isaiah 7 of a virgin giving birth to son, and the son’s name to be called Immanuel. But even here there was no direct revealing of the idea of God taking on humanity. Then we look at the actual records of the Gospels, the accounts of the birth of Christ, and even here we see a great mystery. Consider the following comparisons in the Gospels:    

                                                                                    Matthew                Mark                      Luke                       John

                   

    Genealogy of Jesus                                             1:1-17                       X                          3:23-38                 X  

    Gabriel announces John's birth                              X                             X                          1: 1-25                  X

    Gabriel visits Mary                                                  X                            X                          1: 26-38                 X

    Mary visits Elizabeth                                               X                            X                          1: 39-56                X

    Birth of John the Baptist                                         X                            X                          1: 57-80                X

    Angel appears to Joseph in a dream                1:18-25                       X                               X                       X

    Birth of Jesus in Bethlehem                              1: 25                            X                          2: 1-7                    X

    Shepherds visit Jesus                                           X                              X                          2: 8-20                 X

    There seems to be a great silence in all the gospel writers except Luke. Mark and John don’t record a single historic event regarding the details of His birth. The greatest miracle of all ages, the incarnation of God, seems to be like the writer of the carol suggests, “Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see”. Let’s take a closer look at the wonder of the incarnation through words that don’t refer to mangers, shepherds or heralding angels. J. .I. Packer in his book, “Knowing God”, spent a whole chapter on this subject, I’m going to borrow from his headings but the content will be my own. Consider now the immensity of the incarnation: Turn with me to John 1: 1- 4, 14.

    I. The Eternity of Christ Is Encapsulated Into Humanity.                                                  

    “In the beginning was the Word…”, the term ‘Word’ refers to Jesus, but why does John use this term? Well let’s think for a moment about how we use it. Do you remember when you had infants in your home, as they became toddlers you eagerly looked to the day when they would say their first word. It would be the first time they were communicating to us in a way we understand. It would be the first time they would be reflecting to us what their thoughts were. William Hendriksen, in his commentary on John, suggests that the term ‘word’ refers to these two distinct purposes: 1. It gives expression to inner thought; 2. It reveals this thought to others. This is what Jesus, The Word, did in giving expression to the inner thoughts of the Father and then revealing those thoughts to mankind. There’s a passage in Proverbs that personifies wisdom, but it’s also a close portrayal of what John 1:1 looked like. Proverbs 8:27-30 says, “When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth, when he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him”. It was this eternity of the Word that created and considered Mary, agreed with the Father’s will, and in the movement of the Holy Spirit upon Mary, encapsulated Jesus Christ into humanity in her womb.

    II. The Personhood of Jesus Is Embodied in Humanity.  

    “In the beginning was the Word… and the Word was with God…”. What does it mean, “the Word was with God”? I like how the American Standard Revised version translates this: “and the Word was face to face with God”. This speaks of the closest possible fellowship that God could ever have with another. The person of Jesus is distinguished from the person of the Father in this verse. It is this person of Christ, pre-existent before creation, Who had a depth of relationship with the Father that exceeds our understanding. Do you remember the words of Jesus in His priestly prayer of John 17:5, 24, “And now glorify Thou Me together with Thyself Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was”…and “…for Thou didst love Me before the foundation of the world”. The Word was with the Father in a depth of relationship that was so close they functioned as One God. And yet, in the miracle of the ages, the Word, the person of Jesus, left this proximity of fellowship to be embodied in humanity.

    III. The Deity of Jesus Entered Into the Limits of Humanity.                                        

    “And the Word was God.” Literally it reads, “And God was the Word”, emphasizing the deity of the Word, Jesus Christ. Jesus existed separate from the Father, had close communion with Him and yet was fully God Himself. This truth is foundational for what is about to be said. Consider verses 3,4. “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. Because Jesus is fully God He has the capability of creation, all things are created by Him and thus are owned by Him. Note that this also infers that Jesus is not created, but exists apart from creation. It is the deity of Jesus, Who He is as God, that enables Him to give life. At least three times in the scriptures Jesus raised people from the dead. And each time it was but a sign that He is the great giver of life, not just physical life but also eternal spiritual life. Previously Jesus painted the truth of Who God is through the panorama of creation and with the broad brushes of prophetic revelation. By the incarnation into humanity He would do the same thing, except now He was the paint. The fullness of all Who God is entered into the limits of humanity.

    IV. The Sonship of Jesus Entered Into Flesh, Bringing Sonship.              

    “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us”, John 1:14. All the images of the baby in the manger are sourced in this statement. But as great a mystery as God entering into humanity is, the purpose of it is even greater. There’s an intriguing title that was given to describe Jesus, it’s become so well known we hardly think of it. The title is ‘The Son of God’, but what does it mean, what does it refer to? It can’t refer to the fact of creation in that the Father created the Son, because Jesus is God and is not created. It can’t refer to the fact of the incarnation, because Jesus was the Son of God before the incarnation (Hebrews 1). Jesus is the Son of God in the way that He shares in the full essence of the Father and then reflects that full essence in  righteousness, love, wisdom and, in the words of John 1:14, “full of grace and truth.” “He isthe image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” (Col. 1: 15)    

    The incarnation was the Triune God sending Himself in the person of His Son to step into the hurtling path of Adam, to be struck down by the curse of death that was upon Adam and to be the new Adam. Romans 5:19; “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One, the many will be made righteous.” Add this to John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” That’s the great wonder of the incarnation, the Sonship which Christ has brought to us and caused to exist in us. “And I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them. (Jn 17:26)

    Let us sum up the wonder of the Incarnation with these words written in about 400AD, the Athanasian Creed : “Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man…perfect God, and perfect man…who although he be God and man ; yet he is not two, but one Christ; one not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh; but by taking of the manhood into God.”    

  • The Birth of Jesus Framed In Manger Wood
    Text: Luke 2: 1- 20
    Proposition: The timing, place and way that Jesus was born has the roughness of manger wood and yet the precision of a divine surgeon.
    Introduction: There are many times through out Scripture when it seems that God has acted in a completely random kind of way and yet as we watch the outcome we see a surgical precision in what He does. Take for instance the example of Moses. Because the Hebrew population was rapidly increasing Pharaoh sends out an edict that all the male children should be put to death. In an act of extreme desperation Moses’ mother puts her child in a basket and sends him adrift in Nile River. You know how the story turns out, Moses is rescued by of all people, Pharaoh’s daughter. He receives the education and military training that would eventually be needed to lead over two million people on a campaign through the desert that would last for forty years. Out of what seems chaos and haphazard circumstance God accomplishes His will with surgical precision. Many have looked at the account of Moses being put adrift in a basket as a type or picture of what the birth of Jesus would one day be like. The national saviour of Israel becomes a shadow of the global Saviour of the world with those same characteristics of a chaotic beginning that has a perfect design inherent in it. Have a look again at the account of Christ’s birth, see the random become precision in the Christmas narrative. Turn with me to Luke 2: 1-20.
    I. One of the Hardest Things When Trying to Understand God Is His Timing.  
    It says in verse 1 that, “a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.” When we recount the birth of Christ we rarely mention this person called Caesar Augustus. He was born with the name Octavian and his grandmother was the sister of Julius Caesar. In 45 BC Julius Caesar adopted Octavian. Within a year Caesar was assassinated and Octavian, Mark Antony and Lepidus took over the empire. Lepidus was soon removed with force. In 31 BC Octavian and Antony had their final battle. With the help of Cleopatra, Mark Antony gathered a force of over 100,000 infantry, 500 ships and 12,000 cavalry. Octavian’s forces were slightly smaller yet he defeated Mark Antony and took control of the entire Roman empire. It’s now 27 BC, Octavian arranged for the Roman Senate to grant him the title of ‘Augustus’ Caesar, ‘Exalted’ Caesar. For the next thirty years Augustus Caesar, a talented administrator, built up the Roman empire. In about 4AD he established a census and a decree was sent out to have all the males return to their home towns to register and pay homage to Augustus Caesar. That simple edict by Octavian created chaos all over the empire, including Judea. It meant that Joseph the carpenter had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be enumerated. The now obvious pregnancy of Mary, a betrothed woman pregnant with a child that wasn’t her husbands, meant that Joseph would take Mary with him on this 80 mile journey. God’s timing is so hard to understand because we can’t see what He sees. Christ would be born in Bethlehem, just as predicted in Micah 5:2, but it would mean the upheaval and chaos for the entire Roman world.  God would move heaven and earth to bring Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem!  
    II. The Place That God Chooses Is Always Significant To What He Does.
    We know this is true throughout Scripture, from Abraham taking his son Isaac up to Mount Moriah as a sacrifice, the place that we would one day call the Temple Mount to the very place of Israel itself. This tiny piece of land called Israel is about 40 miles wide and 120 miles long,  1/19th the size of California, it’s surrounded by 22 hostile Arab/Islamic dictatorships 640 times her size, with 60 times greater population. In the peculiarity of Israel God chooses Bethlehem to be the place that the Messiah of all mankind should be born. He was Incarnated or conceived in Nazareth, a place even the Jews treated with considerable contempt. Now He is to be born in Bethlehem, the ‘City of Bread’ is what the name means. Jesus Christ, the ‘Bread of Life’ is born in Bethlehem, in a town flooded with homecoming sons for the census. We don’t know if Mary and Joseph arrived at night or day, we don’t know if they travelled by donkey or walked, we don’t know if Joseph had help in delivering the child from one of the women in the village but we do know that the Child once born was placed in a feeding trough as the only safe place to nestle Him. Mary had been visited by the angel Gabriel and was told this Child would be called the Son of the Most High. Joseph was also visited by an angel in a dream and told that the Child that Mary carried was ‘a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins." My point is that both Joseph and Mary knew that God was doing something wonderful but where He was doing it seemed to be haphazard, chaotic and even random, a stable near an inn in a crowed town and the only place to lay the Child…a manger. Sometimes when we think of the Christmas story we can forget that our lives are not that different. His timing in our lives can sometimes seem so off, the place where we are can seem so confused, unexpected, frustrating and even at times dangerous. But if I am seeking the Lord, if I walk in the understanding of Scripture, if I live by faith in the person of Jesus Christ and in the perfect work He accomplished for us at the cross of Calvary, then His timing is never late, His place never without purpose. The place that God chooses to do what He does is always significant because His plan is not a partial plan, it’s an encompassing plan that considers birth and death, home and highway, head and heart.
    III. The Way of God Draws Those Who Are Outside, Inside.
    God seems to love using irony. The shepherds just outside of Bethlehem were likely raising lambs for the Temple sacrifice and yet soon they would be standing before the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Shepherds were outcasts and generally distrusted and yet into their hands God first entrusts the great news of Christ’s birth. The very sign that was meant to shock and confirm the angels message was something that even shepherds wouldn’t have ever done, put a new born into a feeding trough. The Child was wrapped in swaddling cloths, His little arms bound close to His side, it was as though the swaddling cloths were like His humanity trying to contain His deity, Omnipotent God wrapped in ragged strips of cloth.
    The Christmas story is made up of two key pieces, the wonder of the Incarnation of Christ now born into the poorest of settings and the people that are yet to discover Him. The birth of Christ is not to be done in an anonymity, it was for the people of all the world that He came. The representatives of all those people, even you and I, are this rag tag group we call the Shepherds. They were doing what they always did, they took care of what they owned. They were on the night shift, not really expecting much but being there because they had to. Into that dark night comes brilliance, it’s called the glory of the Lord. This angel had just come from the very presence of God and his appearance was both compelling and terrifying. “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” So many times it’s exactly like that, God interrupting the night shift with good tidings of great joy. That’s probably the simplest definition of what the gospel is, “good tidings of great joy”. The great, great, news is that a Savior has been born for us. Did those Shepherds somehow deserve that Savior, not at all. Did they need to get cleaned up before they came to Him, maybe change their clothes, put on a little after shave to cover up that ‘eau du Sheep’ fragrance that permeated all of who they were? No, you don’t need to get cleaned up to go and see Christ, you go because it’s the greatest thing that you’ve always been hoping for, Someone who loves you enough to die for you! The angel even gives them a sign, this is how you will know this is for real, you’ll find something where it shouldn’t be, you’ll see Someone who will be your Shepherd, in a manger, in swaddling cloths…a baby, Christ the Lord! Was it that the poverty of the manger perfectly matched the poverty of the Incarnation, was it that this was the perfect group to receive this message because they didn’t debate it, they didn’t wait till morning, they received what was said with faith and then went and received what was promised. Perhaps all heaven watched and held their breath to see how this would go and then they could contain themselves no more. Suddenly there was a multitude of angels, an even more blinding brilliance and all saying and yet singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” We don’t know if that lasted for 2 minutes or 20 but when the angels had disappeared the shepherds did what we are meant to do. Those who are outside heard the good news and came and searched and found and were now inside. That’s the gospel, the peace that God brings to the outside, to be inside in Christ.
  • The Grand Entrance

    Text: Luke 2:1-20

    Proposition: Everything in the details of Christ’s birth were exactly how God desired it to be for each detail shouted to the heavens Who He is.

    Introduction: We used to have these two golden retrievers that would come racing down the stairs into the basement family room. Their nails would slip on the laminate floor and they’d crash into each other and whatever was in their way. It was an unrestrained excitement and joy that made me laugh every time. There’re things you hear, taste, see, smell and do that you never tire of because of the joy and love in them. What about you, what is it you never tire of?   What about the story of the birth of Jesus, do you ever get tired of it? Does it still fill you with a sense of awe, a quiet beauty? When God pondered the entrance of His Son into the world, what do you suppose were some of the things that He considered? Was it how to present to the world the One who created it? Was it how best to care for the soon to be humanity of Jesus? Would the grand entrance describe in some way the personhood of God, His character, His nature, His identity? Let’s read again the details of the Grand Entrance, Luke 2:1-20.

    I.The Chaos of Sovereignty Reveals God Perfectly.

    You know what I mean by sovereignty, the ability to not only rule over all things but to set things in place exactly as you choose. So consider for a moment what we know to be true about the details of the grand entrance of Jesus Christ into an eternity of being human. The virgin birth was set to occur with a young woman of great faith and great poverty. Though she is engaged this unexpected pregnancy becomes grounds for divorce. The recovery of the marriage occurs as God directs Joseph to trust and  believe but as soon as this stability is in place a census is announced and Mary, nine months pregnant, journeys 100 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Because they move so slowly by the time the time they arrive all available beds are taken and a manger is the only place of shelter. Sovereignty is the ability to set things into place exactly as you choose. God is absolutely sovereign so the chaotic details of this grand entrance are perfect for what He intends to declare about Himself. What do you suppose it was that God wanted to declare by such an entrance? Let’s consider two possibilities:

    1. God is Infinitely Different from Man. Isaiah 55:9,For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” All you have to do is ask yourself if this was how you would have done it. How high are the heavens above the earth anyway? The distance, and we have to use the phrase, ‘known universe’, because we haven’t found the edge yet, seems to indicate immense distance, immeasurable distance. So the ways of God are higher, immeasurably, than our ways. His thoughts are immeasurably higher than our thoughts. God is infinitely different from man yet God entered into humanity eternally when Jesus Christ was conceived and then born. Which means that Jesus is infinitely different from any other person, perfect, sinless and righteous. Yet at the same time He was made in His humanity just like us. The very terms we use to describe Jesus declare how wonderfully different He is: He is Prophet – God speaking to man; Priest -man speaking to God; King -man speaking to man. From the details of His incarnation God introduces us to this truth.                                                     .                                      
    2. God’s Timing Is Perfectly Different From Ours. 2 Peter 3:8. “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” What Peter is saying is that God moves in time as though it was a liquid rather than a linear concept. There is no time line to Him, it is all one fluid moment. C. S. Lewis once wrote, “If God foresaw our acts, it would be very hard to understand how we could be free not to do them. But suppose God is outside and above the Time-line. In that case, what we call "tomorrow" is visible to Him in just the same way as what we call "today." All the days are "Now" for Him. He does not remember you doing things yesterday; He simply sees you doing them, because, though you have lost yesterday. He has not. He does not "foresee" you doing things tomorrow; He simply sees you doing them: because, though tomorrow is not yet there for you, it is for Him.”Omnipresence, the trait that proclaims God is everywhere at once, has everything to do with time and distance. Add to this the Omniscient all knowing mind of God and we glimpse how a day can be like a thousand years to God.                                                                    
    3. From the moment Joseph and Mary left Nazareth, God was timing their arrival with a precision that would make NASA seem primitive. Every detail in the chaotic grand entrance of Jesus had a timing to it. All of prophesy has a timing to it, from Isaiah to David, to Moses to Abraham to Noah to Adam. All the prophecy that came to us down through the ages resonated the truth of Who Jesus is.  Since the creation of the world, well actually before the world was created, God was timing the arrival of His Son into the world. Do you remember that passage in Rev. 13:8 that says, “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”   Or Matthew 13:34,35, “All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: "I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world." Or Ephesians 1:4, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love”.                               

    Do you get that phrase, ‘before the foundation of the world’? Do you see the timing inherent in it? Perfect timing, not only as regards the birth of Jesus, but also your very birth,and even your second birth being born again in Christ Jesus by faith. All this is included in the perfect timing of God and God’s timing is perfectly different from ours!                                                                                                                 

    God’s sovereignty can appear to us to be chaotic, we see that in this passage, yet it is perfect in what it achieves and it what it declares about Who God is.

    II.The Design of Grace Reveals God Perfectly.

    The word ‘grace’ has a number of meanings. It can describe elegance or beauty, it can refer to undeserved favor, it can even refer to an extension of time after a debt is actually due. Grace is the word that often comes to mind when we describe God. When we think about the Grand Entrance of Jesus Christ at His birth there is a design of grace that perfectly reveals God. There’s design in all the humble or lowly setting of Christ’s birth…the lack of a warm house and a soft bed, the lack of close friends and family, alone in the manger, the only privileged guests…shepherds. Everything that seems out of place for the birth of this King of kings is there by design, a design that pictures the contrast between heaven and earth, holiness and sin, deity and humanity. It is a design of grace in that it pictures the humility of Christ, it pictures a poverty of spirit and a purity of heart in Him that by grace He draws us to. Thirty years after Bethlehem Jesus would say, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God…blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” (Matt.5). Who is it that first sees Jesus, first sees God? It’s Joseph and Mary, holding in their arms the promise of nine months ago. Who is the first to visit? It’s the shepherds who believed enough in what the angel said that they would leave their sheep to see this sign, a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths laying in a manger, a baby that the angel said would be good news, a great joy for all the people. They believed, with a pure heart and they saw God. The design of grace is that we too would be pure in heart, we too would see God for all of Who He is and all He intends to do. I say that because that is what it means to glorify God, it’s an eternal pursuit.

    It’s kind of like a father who gets down on one knee to talk to his child. It’s an act of grace that tells the child the father cares, it’s a way getting down to their eye level so they can see you, so they know you see them, hear them. It’s a way of speaking to the child in terms they can understand.

    The design of grace has God’s highest creatures, the angels, the ones who were before the world was created, the ones who know what man is and have watched him since the beginning of time, the ones who know the blazing presence of God, these angels now see the Son of God incarnated into humanity and they cry out to the shepherds the deep, deep truth of what the shepherds cannot yet see: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

    Jesus, our peace, is now among men. Jesus, the one with whom God the Father is pleased has come to us that we might come to God, that we might receive the right and the power to become children of God.  Had mankind somehow pleased God enough that He then sent Jesus? In NO way! It was grace and the design of grace was that we by faith in Jesus as our Savior would become Jesus-like in His righteousness. The design of grace is that as Jesus was born in humble settings, God coming to man… even so we are born again by grace through faith and yet again God comes to us.

    This grand entrance of our Savior Jesus Christ, perfectly planned that we would see and know the love of God, has brought good news of a great joy for all the people.

  •    

    The Grand Entrance

    Text: Luke 2:1-20

    Proposition: Everything in the details of Christ’s birth were exactly how God desired it to be for each detail shouted to the heavens Who He is.

    Introduction: Do you remember a show called Seinfeld that was popular through the 1990’s? There was a character in that series called Kramer and the most memorable thing about Kramer were these unexpected door bursting open, skidding in entrances he made. They were like a signature that described the chaotic personality of Kramer. Every time our Golden retrievers are allowed into the house, and especially allowed downstairs to where the family room is, they come sliding into the room on the laminate floors, toe nails searching for something to grip. It’s a Kramer entrance every time and I never get tired of it. There are many things that you never get tired of.  What about the story of the birth of Jesus, do you ever get tired of it? When God pondered the entrance of His Son into the world, what do you suppose were some of things He considered? Was it how to present to the world the One who created it? Was it how best to care for the soon to be humanity of Jesus? Would the grand entrance describe in some way the personhood of God, His character, His nature, His identity? Let’s read again the details of the Grand Entrance, Luke 2:1-20.

    I. The Chaos of Sovereignty Reveals God Perfectly.

    You know what I mean by sovereignty, the ability to not only rule over all things but to set things in place exactly as you choose. So consider for a moment what we know to be true about the details of the grand entrance of Jesus Christ into an eternity of being human. The virgin birth was set to occur with a young woman of great faith and great poverty. Though she is engaged this unexpected pregnancy becomes grounds for divorce. The recovery of the marriage occurs as God directs Joseph to believe but as soon as this stability is in place a census is announced and Mary nine months pregnant journeys 100 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Because they move so slowly by the time the time they arrive all available beds are taken and a manger is the only place of shelter. Sovereignty is the ability to set things into place exactly as you choose, God is absolutely sovereign so the chaotic details of this grand entrance are perfect for what He intends to declare about Himself. What do you suppose it was that God wanted to declare by such an entrance? Let’s consider several possibilities:

    1. God is Infinitely Different from Man.  Isaiah 55:9, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” All you have to do is ask yourself if this was how you would have done it. How high are the heavens above the earth anyway? The distance, and we have to use the phrase, ‘known universe’, because we haven’t found the edge yet, seems to indicate immense distance, immeasurable distance. So the ways of God are higher, immeasurably, than our ways. His thoughts are immeasurably higher than our thoughts. God is infinitely different from man yet God entered into humanity eternally when Jesus Christ was conceived and then born. What an end that puts to thoughts that would seek to make God in man’s image.                                      2. God’s Timing Is Perfectly Different From Ours.  2 Peter 3:8. “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” What Peter is saying is that God moves in time as though it was a liquid rather than a linearconcept. There is no time line to Him, it is all one fluid moment. C. S. Lewis once wrote, “If God foresaw our acts, it would be very hard to understand how we could be free not to do them. But suppose God is outside and above the Time-line. In that case, what we call "tomorrow" is visible to Him in just the same way as what we call "today." All the days are "Now" for Him. He does not remember you doing things yesterday; He simply sees you doing them, because, though you have lost yesterday. He has not. He does not "foresee" you doing things tomorrow; He simply sees you doing them: because, though tomorrow is not yet there for you, it is for Him.”  Omnipresence, the trait that proclaims God is everywhere at once, has everything to do with time and distance. Add to this the Omniscient all knowing mind of God and we glimpse how a day can be like a thousand years to God.From the moment Joseph and Mary left Nazareth God was timing their arrival with a precision that would make NASA seem primitive. Every detail in the chaotic grand entrance of Jesus had a timing to it that would stick out and resonate prophetically the truth of Who Jesus is for the next four thousand years and then onwards after that. Since the creation of the world, well actually before the world was created, God was timing the arrival of His Son into the world. Do you remember that passage in Rev. 13:8 that says, “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Or Matthew 13:34,35, “All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: "I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world." Or Ephesians 1:4, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love”. Do you get that phrase, ‘before the foundation of the world’? Do you see the timing inherent in it? Perfect timing, not only as regards the birth of Jesus, but alsoyour very birth,even your second birth or being born again in Christ Jesus by faith in Him, this too is included in the perfect timing of God. God’s timing is perfectly different from ours, thankfully!II. The Design of Grace Reveals God Perfectly.

    The word ‘grace’ has a number of meanings. It can describe elegance or beauty, it can refer to undeserved favor, it can even refer to an extension of time after a debt is actually due. Grace is the word that often comes to mind when we describe God. When we think about the Grand Entrance of Jesus Christ at His birth there is a design of grace that perfectly reveals God. There’s design in all the humble or lowly setting of Christ’s birth…the lack of a warm house and a soft bed, the lack of close friends and family, alone in the manger, the only privileged guests…shepherds. Everything that seems out of place for the birth of this King of kings is there by design, a design that pictures the contrast between heaven and earth, holiness and sin, deity and humanity. It is a design of grace in that it pictures the humility of Christ, it pictures a poverty of spirit and a purity of heart in Him that by grace He draws us to do as well. Thirty years after Bethlehem Jesus would say these words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God…blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” Matt.5. Who is it that first sees Jesus, first sees God? It’s Joseph and Mary, holding in their arms the promise of nine months ago. Who is the first to visit? It’s the shepherds who believed enough in what the angel said so that they would leave their sheep to see this sign, a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths laying in a manger, a baby that the angel said would be good news, a great joy for all the people. They believed, with a pure heart they saw God. The design of grace is that we too would be pure in heart, we too would see God for all of who He is and all He intends to do.

    It’s kind of like a father who gets down on one knee to talk to his child. Why does he do that? It’s an act of grace that tells the child the father cares, it’s a way getting down to their eye level so they can see you, so they know you do hear them. It’s a way of speaking to the child in way that they can understand.

    The design of grace has God’s highest creatures, the angels, the ones who were before the world was created, the ones who know what man is and have watched him since the beginning of time, the ones who know the blazing presence of God, these angels now see the Son of God incarnated into humanity and they cry out to the shepherds the deep, deep truth of what the shepherds cannot yet see: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” Jesus, our peace, is now among men. Jesus, the one with whom He is pleased has come that we would become co heirs with Christ. Had mankind somehow pleased God enough that He then sent Jesus? In NO way! It was grace and the design of grace was that we by faith in Jesus as our Savior would become Jesus-like. The design of grace is that as Jesus was born in humble settings, God coming to man… even so we are born again by faith when we come humbly to Him by faith, confessing our sin, turning from it, entering into new life, man coming to God.

    This is the grand entrance of our Saviour Jesus Christ, perfectly planned that we would see the love of God, the good news of a great joy for all the people.

  • The Great Messianic Psalm
    Text: Psalm 22
    Proposition: If Psalm 22 was what Christ was cried out as He hung on the cross it becomes for the church a bracing against suffering and a lifting up to see His glory.
    Introduction: This morning we are going to look at one of the most extraordinary passages of Scripture in the entire Bible. It’s extraordinary because of the historical context, it’s unique because of the insight it gives and it’s profound because of the implication woven into every phrase. Here’s where we first recognize this passage, have a look at this… http://youtu.be/oWK4N5LIUWk. It’s been thought that some of what Christ struggled to speak as He died on the cross was the reciting of  Psalm 22, a Psalm written by King David about 1000 years before the event of Jesus crucifixion. It’s called a Messianic Psalm because its content can only refer to the Messiah that Israel looked for and hoped in even though the fulfillment of it happened a thousand years later. Turn with me to Psalm 22 as we listen to the words of David speak of what he was experiencing and yet at the same time are the words of a prophet pointing to the greatest event in the history of all mankind.
    I. Forsaken, Perfectly.
    We know from the context of David’s life that Saul’s pursuit of him was relentless and that many times it seemed like death was imminent. Many times David must have remembered how Samuel had anointed him with oil signifying that David was God’s choice to be the next king of Israel and yet here he was hanging onto life by a thread. Look at these first three verses. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me and from the words of My groaning?  O My God, I cry in the daytime but You do not hear and in the night season and am not silent. But You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel.” Notice that there is complaint but that there is also confidence. Despite the fact that God does not do what I think He should do yet He is perfect or holy in what He does. For David that meant anguish of soul as he wondered how this would end, it meant feeling forsaken because of the circumstances and yet by faith being confident that God had all things perfectly in His control. We can understand what was happening in David’s life, but what of Jesus as hung on the cross? Was He indeed in some way forsaken by the Father? To answer this we have to remember that Jesus was both completely human and completely divine. In His divinity with the Father He is the Second Person of the Trinity, meaning that God is One God made up of three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. On Christmas Eve I shared with you a symbol that is a good picture of what this means.    We worship One God, a God that Communicates, that values Community and cherishes Communion. That’s the essence of John 1:1. The theologians call the connection between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit a ‘hypostatic union’, meaning a union that cannot be broken if God is to be God as we know Him. So how was Jesus ‘forsaken’ if that union could not be broken? The answer is that when the Father pushed all the debt of mankind’s sin upon Jesus, a term that is called ‘imputing’, that sin was imputed to the perfect humanity of Jesus, to His sinless human nature. It was at that moment that the Father, as the song says, ‘turned His face away’ from the Son’s sin filled humanity. It’s why Paul wrote what he did in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  In His humanity He was forsaken but in His deity He remained as God in union with the Father. He was forsaken, perfectly. Some think that Jesus cried out the words of Psalm 22 in the way that people cry out Psalm 23 as death comes near. Some think that He continued to recite the whole Psalm not as complaint but as a voice of confidence in His Father… “but You are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.”
    II. Ridiculed, Wondrously.
    Look at verses 6,7,8, “But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised by the people. All those who see Me ridicule Me; They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, "He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!"” It’s strange that the word for ‘worm’ is often translated, ‘scarlet’. Perhaps it’s because the female "coccus ilicis" worm, common to this area, when ready to give birth would attach her body to the trunk of a tree, fixing herself so firmly and permanently that she would never leave again. The eggs deposited beneath her body were thus protected until the larvae were hatched and able to enter their own life cycle. As the mother died, the crimson fluid stained her body and the surrounding wood. From the dead bodies of such female scarlet worms, the commercial scarlet dyes of antiquity were extracted. Was Jesus thinking of how He was about to give His life for all those who would by faith trust in Him for eternal life, His scarlet blood upon the tree of the cross? The ridicule wondrously spoke past the evident circumstances to the greater reality of what was taking place right before their eyes. The rescue they thought that Jesus needed would have become for them a great loss. Had Christ not died on the cross for our sins we would be yet trapped in them. Because Jesus trusted in the Father, the Father would deliver Him, not from death but through death. They never saw the resurrection coming because they didn’t realize what it would cost for their resurrection. The Son delighted in the Father and even more in doing the Father’s will. His will was that the Son would be ridiculed, wondrously.
    III. Humanity, Divinely Given.
    Consider verses 9,10,11. “But You are He who took Me out of the womb; You made Me trust while on My mother's breasts. I was cast upon You from birth. From My mother's womb You have been My God. Be not far from Me, for trouble is near for there is none to help.” In the very midst of the intensity of the crucifixion Jesus remembers the Fathers’ care from the beginnings of birth to the present moments. Is there any point in your life when it was just you who made things happen? If you are tempted to say yes then think again, you are and always have been a dependent. For some of you that will be an irritating statement because we strive for independence yet from the womb God has been in your life and trouble has not been far behind you. The humanity of Jesus was divinely given for us that we would see a Savior who knows what trouble is, what hunger and poverty are, what being betrayed and rejected are all about. This is our Jesus and as He called upon the Father, trusted in Him and cast Himself upon the Father’s care, we too are to follow in those steps. His humanity was divinely given that we would see God and see how to live by faith.
    IV. Life Saving, Crucifixion.
    Consider verses 14 to 18… “I am poured out like water and all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It has melted within Me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd and My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death for dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.” What David describes in Psalm 22 was not used until 1000 years later when the Romans refined the practice of crucifixion. It was state sanctioned torture, a tool meant to bring a person to the edge of death and then keep them there, a primitive deterrent to all who would defy Roman law. But it was not only state sanctioned torture, it was public humiliation, tearing down the soul and spirit even as it ripped and tore the body. The point is simply this, Jesus alone bore the agonies of the cross. Neither the Romans nor the Jews were responsible for His death. Our sin is why He chose to endure the unspeakable agony of crucifixion. In Matt. 27:51 it says that when Jesus died the veil in the Temple separating the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom. The Son of God was torn from the realms of heaven to the blood soaked earth signifying a new way to God through that torn body. It was life saving crucifixion, by His stripes we are healed.
    V. It Is Finished Is a New Beginning.
    When Christ uttered the phrase, “It is finished” what He referred to was the last part of this Psalm from verses 22 to 31. There is now an assembly all over the world down through every age of people that have been bought by the blood of Christ. There is now a glory given to God the Father by that church. There is now deep satisfaction to be had by those in Christ. There is now a kingdom of God on earth growing and reaching out to people from nation and language. This church will continue to the end of the times of the Gentiles and then on forever into eternity. There is an end to the works and eventually to the person of Satan, his deception is now undone by the cross of Christ. It is finished is a new beginning!

  • The Impossible Promises of God    

    Text: Luke 1:26-47

    Proposition: The very nature of God’s promises are outside the realm of human possibility, the only response to them is a faith that receives and pursues.

  •   The Miracle of the Ages

    Text: Luke 1; John 1

    Proposition: The miracle of all ages was the incarnation of God, for from this comes all the possibility of redemption. Discovering this miracle leads the discovery of eternal life.

    Introduction: The manger scene depicts the humble circumstances in the birth of Jesus. Upon this birth every major doctrine in the Christian faith hangs. Without the intent and existence of the incarnation there is no justification, redemption, salvation, adoption, sanctification, nor even election. In light of this, how strange it is for us that prophecy has been so silent about the incarnation. There is the veiled reference in Genesis 3:15 of how the seed of the woman would crush the head of Satan. There is the difficult reference in Isaiah 7 of a virgin giving birth to a son, and the son’s name to be called Immanuel. But even here there was no direct revealing of the idea of God taking on humanity. Then we look at the actual records of the Gospels, the accounts of the birth of Christ, and even here we see a great mystery. There seems to be a great silence in all the gospel writers except Luke. Mark and John don’t record a single historic event regarding the details of His birth. The greatest miracle of all ages, the incarnation of God, seems to be like the writer of the carol suggests, “Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see”. Let’s take a closer look at the wonder of the incarnation through words that don’t refer to mangers, shepherds or heralding angels. Turn with me to John 1:1- 4. 

    I. The Eternity of Christ Enters Into Humanity.

    “In the beginning was the Word…”, the term ‘Word’ refers to Jesus, but why does John use this term? Is it that a spoken word gives expression to inner thought and then it reveals this thought to others? Jesus, The Word, gave expression to the inner thoughts of the Father and then revealed those thoughts to mankind. There’s a passage in Proverbs 8:27-30 that personifies wisdom as a companion of Jesus but it can also be a portrayal of the close relationship between the Son and the Father. “When He prepared the heavens, I was there: when He set a compass upon the face of the depth, when He established the clouds above: when He strengthened the fountains of the deep: When He gave to the sea His decree that the waters should not pass His commandment: when He appointed the foundations of the earth: Then I was by Him, as One brought up with Him: and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him”. It was this eternity of the Word that agreed with the Father’s will and in the movement of the Holy Spirit upon Mary, entered into humanity and was for the first time in eternity was named… Jesus.

    II. The Person of Jesus Is Embodied in Humanity.  

    “In the beginning was the Word… and the Word was with God…”. What does it mean, “the Word was with God”? I like how the American Standard Revised version translates this: “and the Word was face to face with God”. This speaks of the closest possible fellowship that God could ever have with another. The person of Jesus is distinguished from the person of the Father in this verse. It is this person of Christ, pre-existent before creation, Who had a depth of relationship with the Father that exceeds our understanding. Do you remember the words of Jesus in His priestly prayer of John 17? “And now glorify Thou Me together with Thyself Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was”…and “…for Thou didst love Me before the foundation of the world”. The Word was with the Father in a depth of relationship that was so close they functioned as One God. And yet, in the miracle of the ages, the Word added to this proximity of fellowship by being embodied in humanity.

    III. The Deity of Jesus Entered Into the Limits of Humanity. 

    “And the Word was God.” Literally it reads, “And God was the Word”, emphasizing the deity of the Word, Jesus Christ. Though both were spirit, Jesus existed separate from the Father, had close communion with Him and yet was fully God Himself. This truth is foundational for what is about to be said. Consider verses 3,4. Because Jesus is fully God He has the capability of creation, all things are created by Him and thus are owned by Him. Note that this also infers that Jesus is not created, but exists apart from creation. It is the deity of Jesus, Who He is as God, that enables Him to give life. Previously Jesus painted the truth of Who God is through the panorama of creation and with the broad brushes of prophetic revelation. By the incarnation He would do this same role except now He was the paint as well as the Painter as He entered visibly into the limits of humanity.

    IV. The Sonship of Jesus Brings Us Sonship With God.              

    In John 1:14 it says, “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us”, All the images of the baby in the manger are sourced in this statement. But as great a mystery as God taking on humanity is, the purpose of it is even greater. There’s an intriguing title that was given to describe Jesus, it’s become so well known we hardly think of it. The title is ‘The Son of God’, but what does it mean, what does it refer to? It can’t refer to an act of creation or that the Father created the Son, because Jesus is God and is not created. It can’t refer to the fact of the incarnation, because Jesus was the Son of God before the incarnation. Jesus is the Son of God in the way that He shares in the essence of the Father and reflects that essence, things such as righteousness, love, wisdom, full of grace and truth. He is the Son that looks just like His Father. Add to this John 1:12, “ But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” Jesus, Who is the Son of God, has brought that embracing son-ship to us through the incarnation. 

    The Athanasian Creed written in about 400AD concludes this: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man…perfect God, and perfect man…who although he be God and man ; yet he is not two, but one Christ; one not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh; but by the taking of mankind into God.” This is the Miracle of the ages, the incarnation of Jesus the Christ by which God now embraces mankind as never before.             

  • The Miracle of the Ages

    Text: Luke 1; John 1

    Proposition: The miracle of all ages was the incarnation of God, for from this comes all the possibility of redemption. Discovering this miracle leads the discovery of eternal life.

    Introduction: The Christmas decorations are up and one of the most popular of them all is the manger scene. It’s on cards, on lawns, on coffee tables and in church foyers. The scene it depicts is the humble circumstances in the birth of Jesus, yet what can escape our notice is that this event is the greatest miracle of all ages. Upon it every major doctrine in the Christian faith hangs. Without the intent and existence of the incarnation there is no justification, redemption, salvation, adoption, sanctification or election. In light of this, how strange it is for us that prophecy has been so silent about the incarnation. There is the veiled reference in Genesis 3:15 of how the seed of the woman would crush the head of Satan. There is the difficult reference in Isaiah 7 of a virgin giving birth to son, and the son’s name to be called Immanuel. But even here there was no direct revealing of the idea of God taking on humanity. Then we look at the actual records of the Gospels, the accounts of the birth of Christ, and even here we see a great mystery. Consider the following comparisons in the Gospels:    

                                                                                    Matthew                Mark                      Luke                       John

                   

    Geneology of Jesus                                             1:1-17                       X                          3:23-38                  X  

    Gabriel announces John's birth                               X                          X                         1: 1-25                   X

    Gabriel visits Mary                                                  X                           X                         1: 26-38                 X

    Mary visits Elizabeth                                               X                           X                         1: 39-56                 X

    Birth of John the Baptist                                         X                           X                          1: 57-80                 X

    Angel appears to Joseph in a dream                    1:18-25                     X                                  X                    X

    Birth of Jesus in Bethlehem                                 1: 25                        X                          2: 1-7                      X

    Shepherds visit Jesus                                               X                        X                          2: 8-20                    X

    There seems to be a great silence in all the gospel writers except Luke. Mark and John don’t record a single historic event regarding the details of His birth. The greatest miracle of all ages, the incarnation of God, seems to be like the writer of the carol suggests, “Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see”. Let’s take a closer look at the wonder of the incarnation through words that don’t refer to mangers, shepherds or heralding angels. Turn with me to John chapter 1, verses 1- 4, and 14 as we look at the miracle of the ages.

    I. The Eternity of Christ Is Encapsulated Into Humanity.

    “In the beginning was the Word…”, the term ‘Word’ refers to Jesus, but why does John use this term? Well let’s think for a moment about how we use it. Do you remember when you had infants in your home, as they became toddlers you eagerly looked to the day when they would say their first word. It would be the first time they were communicating to us in a way we could understand. It would be the first time they would be reflecting to us what their thoughts were. This is what Jesus, The Word, did in giving expression to the inner thoughts of the Father and then revealing those thoughts to mankind. There’s a passage in Proverbs that personifies wisdom, but it’s also a close portrayal of what John 1:1 looked like. Proverbs 8:27-30 says, “When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth, when he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him”. It was this eternity of the Word that created and considered Mary, agreed with the Father’s will, and in the movement of the Holy Spirit upon Mary, encapsulated Jesus Christ into humanity.

    II. The Personhood of Jesus Is Embodied in Humanity.  

    “In the beginning was the Word… and the Word was with God…”. What does it mean, “the Word was with God”? I like how the American Standard Revised version translates this: “and the Word was face to face with God”. This speaks of the closest possible fellowship that God could ever have with another. The person of Jesus is distinguished from the person of the Father in this verse. It is this person of Christ, pre-existent before creation, Who had a depth of relationship with the Father that exceeds our understanding. Do you remember the words of Jesus in His priestly prayer of John 17? Consider particularly the words of verses 5 and 24, “And now glorify Thou Me together with Thyself Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was”…and “…for Thou didst love Me before the foundation of the world”. The Word was with the Father in a depth of relationship that was so close they functioned as One God. And yet, in the miracle of the ages, the Word left this proximity of fellowship to be embodied in humanity.

    III. The Deity of Jesus Entered Into the Limits of Humanity.

    “And the Word was God.” Literally it reads, “And God was the Word”, emphasizing the deity of the Word, Jesus Christ. Jesus existed separate from the Father, had close communion with Him and yet was fully God Himself. This truth is foundational for what is about to be said. Consider verses 3,4, “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” Because Jesus is fully God He has the capability of creation, all things are created by Him and thus are owned by Him. This also infers that Jesus is not created, but exists apart from creation. It is the deity of Jesus, Who He is as God, that enables Him to give life. At least three times in the scriptures Jesus raised people from the dead. And each time it was but a sign that He is the great giver of life, not just physical life but also spiritual life. Previously Jesus painted the truth of Who God is through the panorama of creation and with the broad brushes of prophetic revelation. By the incarnation into humanity He would do the same role, except now He was the paint. This all capable Christ, entered into the limits of humanity.

    IV. The Sonship of Jesus Brings Sonship To Humanity.              

    “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us”, John 1:14. All the images of the baby in the manger are sourced in this statement. But as great a mystery as God taking on humanity is, the purpose of it is even greater. There’s an intriguing title that was given to describe Jesus, it’s become so well known we hardly think of it. The title is ‘The Son of God’, but what does it mean, what does it refer to? It can’t refer to the fact of creation in that the Father created the Son, because Jesus is God and is not created. It can’t refer to the fact of the incarnation, because Jesus was the Son of God before the incarnation, see Hebrews 1:5,6. Jesus is the Son of God in the way that He shares in the essence of the Father and reflects that essence, things such as righteousness, love, wisdom and, in the words of John 1:14, full of grace and truth. The incarnation of Jesus was God sending His Son to step into the hurtling path of Adam, to be struck down by the curse of death that was upon Adam and to be the new Adam. Romans 5 proclaims this truth, particularly verse 19; “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One, the many will be made righteous.” Add this to John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”, and you see the sonship which Christ has brought to us through the incarnation.  

    Let us sum up the wonder of the Incarnation with these words written in about 400AD, the Athanasian Creed : “Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man…perfect God, and perfect man…who although he be God and man ; yet he is not two, but one Christ; one not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh; but by taking of mankind into God.”    

    That’s the heart of the incarnation, it’s the heart of what it means to be in Christ, it’s the heart of a communion that glorifies Him.       

  •                                                                 The Misunderstood Gift

    Text: Luke 2: 7-20

    Proposition: The misunderstood gift of Christmas is that Christ has brought to us something more than sacrifice, something more than forgiveness, something more than grace, something more than even an awareness of God’s love for us... Christ has brought to us the gift of Righteousness.

  • Text: Luke 2: 6-20

    Proposition: The misunderstood gift of Christmas is that Christ has brought to us something more than sacrifice, something more than forgiveness, something more than grace, something more than even an awareness of God’s love for us. The misunderstood gift of Christmas is that Christ has brought to us the gift of Righteousness.

    Introduction:  This year our family decided to just buy stocking stuffers for each other. So to help do that each person emailed a list of what they would like for small gifts in their Christmas stocking, which really is not a stocking but is meant to restrict the size of gifts that you buy. For instance one of the requests was for handle bars for a racing bike, another for a shirt and another for a large hard cover book on knitting patterns from the early 16th century. As many of the gifts were purchased on line they began to arrive in the mail and you had to go back through your lists to see who gets the Jojoba oil, who gets the gummy bears and who gets the loofa soap. These were things I’d never buy and they looked strange taking them out of the boxes. I wondered at what they were, why they were even wanted. The birth of Christ was a gift that was ‘unwrapped’ and wondered at by all those who were present. It was a gift that seemed obscure, a gift uniquely suited to those whom it was intended for. Let’s read Luke2:6-20 .

    When you read this account ask yourself what the gift of the baby in the manger was really all about? Is the greatest gift an awareness of God… no. Is the greatest gift a willingness to be our sacrifice? No. Is the gift of forgiveness of sins the greatest gift? No. Is it the grace of God that is the greatest gift, is it the love of God that’s the greatest gift?  Again no, for although these are indeed great gifts to us in Christ, they are only parts of the most misunderstood gift of Christmas. I don’t think the shepherds understood it, I don’t think Joseph understood it, I don’t think that even Mary understood what the greatest gift was. I would suspect that there was only one group that really knew or understood what the greatest gift was.  Let’s look at what was actually recorded about that night.

    Fact #1 A baby was born to a young inexperienced couple. Though his entry into the world was very plain, He was still a vulnerable infant that needed warmth and food and rest. The two that were entrusted with this child were poor and powerless, the mother just a teenager, the father a simple carpenter.

    Fact #2 A group of men called shepherds were watching over a flock of sheep. By profession they were loners, socially speaking they were low in status. It was at night when they experienced what people are still singing carols about today, they saw and heard an angel of the Lord.

    Fact #3 The angel spoke to them both an announcement and a directive. The announcement was that he was bringing them good news and a great joy for all the people. Specifically, this great joy was the birth announcement of a person who had three titles: He is Savior; He is Christ; He is Lord.

    Savior – the greek word ‘Sotare’ meaning “Deliverer”.

    Christ -  the greek word ‘ Khristos’ meaning “Annointed One, Messiah”

    Lord -    the greek word ‘ Kurios’ meaning “Supreme in Authority”  The directive was to go and find this baby in a nearby manger.

    Fact #4The shepherds went and found the manger, something they were very familiar with. In the manger they found the young couple and this precious infant who was the Deliverer, the Annointed One, Messiah, the Supreme Authority. The evident contrast was overwhelming, yet they were compelled to believe it, something miraculous was happening here.

    Fact #5 The shepherds went out from there telling others what they had seen. Perhaps Mary and Joseph had many other visitors that night. Perhaps they were quickly moved into an inn or someone’s house, but what we do know is that they all wondered at what this gift was. Even Mary, filled with a deeper understanding of what was happening than all the others, even she didn’t understand what this gift was as she pondered these things.

     My point is simply this, the persons directly involved in the birth event of Jesus didn’t understand what God’s greatest gift to them was going to be. Good news, yes, a great joy for all the peoples, yes, but it was still obscure to them. So enough suspense, what is the greatest gift that Christ’s birth was bringing?

    I was visiting a person a short while ago who resolutely believed that there are many paths to God. At the same time they deeply believed that they were a Christian themselves, yet allowed that a Muslim or Mormon or Hindu or Buddhist viewpoint was equally valid as a truth about who God is and how we are to approach Him. In every other religion EXCEPT Christianity our conduct and attitude are the means to a right relationship with God. The Christian viewpoint alone states that righteousness comes from outside of us.  It comes as a gift to us, not only are we incapable of generating it, it is essential for being right with God. When a person makes the statement that there are many paths to God, they are missing the essential need of man for righteousness which he needs to possess in order to arrive and remain before God.   

    The most misunderstood gift of Christmas is the gift of Righteousness that we received through the person of Jesus Christ. I believe that the only group that really understood that truth were the angels. In fact they allude to it as they spontaneously declare, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased”.(NASB)  Why is God pleased, or satisfied, as one translation would put it? The answer lies in the fact that God has supplied a way for the unrighteousness of man to be redirected to another.

    The way it works is like this:

    1. We have a sin nature that is not only self focused it therefore is rebellious against God in it’s independent beliefs.
    2. The effect of this sin nature is that it condemns us before God. There is a sentence of death on our heads because of sin.
    3. There is no way past unrighteousness, it can’t be masked with good behavior of generous acts. It would be like putting a tuxedo on a pig and expecting it to appreciate opera now that it’s wearing a tuxedo.
    4. The only solution to unrighteousness is to transfer it to another who will pay the penalty it demands, death. But it doesn’t stop there. Righteousness in turn needs to be transferred to us.
    5. The transferal of righteousness to us is a positional action much like the way a person would experience adoption or citizenship. Who you are as a person remains much as you experienced it yesterday, but who you are in terms of how others of great authority relate to you has been radically changed. The transferring or imputing of righteousness to us radically changes the way God relates to us.
    6. It is forgiveness of sin that removes or cleanses us from all unrighteousness, it is grace that motivates this and it is love that accomplishes it, but righteousness is the net gain.

    Let me suggest some implications that this righteousness has for us.

    1. It is how God now sees us irrespective of how we see ourselves.
    2. It is secured by God, He is the one who has imputed it to us.
    3. It becomes the basis of how God relates us, judgement has happened already as far as God is concerned towards us.
    4. It is the first step in every Christians life as they move towards eternity. All eternity shall be experienced in righteous attitude and action with God. If there is no righteousness, there is no being with God through eternity (sin and holiness cannot co-exist). Our positional righteousness in Christ is the first step of eternity. It will call us to now live accordingly.

    The misunderstood gift of Christmas is that the Christ child in the manger has brought to us something more than sacrifice, or forgiveness, or even grace.

    The misunderstood gift of Christmas is that Christ has brought to us the gift of Righteousness.

     

    Consider these Scriptures:

    Psa 24:5  He shall receive blessing from Jehovah, and righteousness     from the God of his salvation.

    Isa 61:10  I will greatly rejoice in Jehovah, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness,

    Jer 23:6  In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell in safety; and this is his name whereby he shall be called, Jehovah our Righteousness.

    Isa 54:17  No weapon that is prepared against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that riseth against thee in judgment, thou shalt condemn. This is the inheritance of the servants of Jehovah; and their righteousness is of me, saith Jehovah.

    1Co 1:30  But by Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption…

  • The Sign
    Text: Luke 2: 8-14
    Proposition: The sign given to the shepherds of the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes was meant not only to distinguish this baby from all others that night in Bethlehem, it was meant to distinguish Him for all people and for all time as the Son of God.
    Introduction:  Christopher Hitchens, perhaps one of the most well known atheists of our day, died recently at the age of 62 from a battle with esophageal cancer. His last book God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything,  was one that he toured the country with, debating various religious leaders until the cancer took away the very voice that he was so eloquent with. Before that happened, Hitchens was in Portland, Oregon being interviewed by a Unitarian minister, Marilyn Sewell. The following exchange took place near the start of the interview:
    Marilyn Sewell: The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds.  I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make any distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?
    Hitchens: I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that He rose again from the dead and by His sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.
    Hitchens knew that Christianity is founded on that core truth of the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But the death and resurrection of Jesus are only effective and powerful because of the Incarnation of Jesus, the virgin conception and birth of Jesus, for unless Jesus is more than just a man His death at best is only noble. It is the incarnation that distinguishes Jesus Christ from every other man, it is this that declares Him to be fully man and also fully God, even in the form of a helpless infant in a manger in Bethlehem.
    This is what the angels came to announce to the shepherds that night, that Jesus Christ, the Son of Man and Son of God, conceived 9 months earlier is now being born. This is where the Christmas story was often a puzzle to me, for the greatest thing that has ever happened to mankind has just occurred and the angels say that the shepherds can know this is true for a certainty because of this unmistakable sign:  “You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Was it just the paradox of child in a manger? Weren’t there any other children born in Bethlehem that night? Why was this such a sign, was the sign not only identifying his location but also saying something about Who this Child really is? Read the account of it with me in Luke 2:8-14.
    I. His Humanity—"You will find a baby”                                                                  This was a sign that was undeniable, this Jesus experienced all the transition and struggle and wonder of being born. He was in every sense fully man, yet who He was two years earlier, ten years earlier, 4000 years earlier, an eternity earlier, still remained. He was the Son of God, the Creator of all that has ever been created. “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign for you, you shall find a baby…”. Savior, Christ, the Lord… a baby. The sign was all about the humanity of Christ, the humanity of the Lord, a humanity that would have both body and blood and would give His life to prevent our death. You might say that the humanity of Jesus was very evident in the events of His birth but how do we know His deity, His identity as God, was just as fully present? The Gospels are a history of the life of Jesus, He does things only God can do, He creates food, eyes that see, bodies that work. He overrules death, He repels back demons, He has all authority in heaven and on earth. He forgives sin, He knows thoughts, He stills waves. From this baby would come forth the evidence that God and man were both fully present in Jesus Christ. This was essential not just so that we would know God as never before but so that we would know the intentions of God as never before. This baby would become a man and would perfectly do for us what we could never have done for ourselves, He would perfectly and completely pay for, the word is expiate, the penalty of death for sin in mankind. The sign, a baby who is Savior, Christ and Lord.    
    II. His Helplessness—"Wrapped in cloths”                                                                    But the sign didn’t end just yet, this baby was wrapped in swaddling cloths. That’s not extraordinary, mothers do that all the time to keep the child warm and to keep it from injuring itself. The arms are tucked tightly to the sides and cloths, like restraints, bind the arms to the body. The child is kept safe, he is able to be picked up more easily, snuggled and comforted by the parents. When the shepherds eventually saw the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling cloths this was nothing exceptional, not until you began to realize just Who it was that was bound up like this. Bound up to be kept safe, to be more easily picked up, to be comforted. Thirty years later Jesus would once again be bound up, once again lifted up and this time He would be the comforter for others. The wonder of the wisdom of God is seen in the way He makes the Son utterly helpless, wrapped in swaddling cloths, as the key point in creating the salvation from sin for all mankind.  

    III. His Humility—"Lying in a manger”                                                                          Perhaps it is this third part that makes the sign so unmistakable, the infant lying in a manger. Many creatures are born in mangers, but not children. In the first century, mangers were often nothing more than a hollowed-out cave in the side of a hill. There’s not a lot of status in the manure and urine soaked hay, in the musty smells of a dark manger. It is a picture of necessity, a picture of poverty. Years later Jesus would say to His disciples, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”  It is this sign that makes the baby conspicuous to the shepherds, the Baby isn’t where we would expect it to be. That’s because Christ came to do what we never expected to need, He came to save us. The saving isn’t done by armies or war horses or chests of gold or a life lived as a good person. It’s done by the blood of a Savior alone, there’s nothing else in which we are to place our trust. This baby wrapped in swaddling cloths lying in a manger is a sign because it pictures the humility of Jesus Christ. His humility directly contrasts and opposes the pride of man that is sin driven. Humility is what Jesus calls all His disciples to, because humility admits need and looks to the only place in which that need can be met. Neil Anderson once defined humility as “Confidence properly placed.” The sign given to the shepherds was pointing us to where our confidence needs to be placed.
    It’s Christmas morning, the sign has been clearly set within our reach, it’s within walking distance, it’s not behind closed doors, it’s where anyone can go at anytime, the Christ Child in the manger points us to grace and availability of God. His Humanity, His Helplessness, His Humility, these are the elements of the incarnation of Jesus Christ, an unmistakable sign in which we place our confidence.

  •                                                                 The Sign

    Text: Luke 2: 8-15

    Proposition: The sign given to the shepherds of the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes was meant not only to distinguish this baby from all others that night in Bethlehem, it was meant to distinguish Him for all people and for all time as the Son of God.

    Introduction: One of the common objections many people have is whether the Bible is trustworthy, can it truly be considered infallible and inspired? The issue is that human participation will always bring with it opinion and skewed understanding. Can anything that is both the exercise of human participation and divine direction still be without error? The answer comes down to two things: How important is the truth of Scripture to God and if it is extremely important is God able in to use extreme measures accomplish His will? In other words how big is your God, how potent is omnipotent, how knowledgeable is omniscience? My point is simply this, whatever your conclusions are about the written Word of God regarding it’s authority, inerrancy and collaboration of human authors inspired by the Holy Spirit to write it are, so too will be your view of the incarnate Word of God, Jesus Christ. Here too a collaboration of the divine and the human occur and here again it is because God sees a cause of the utmost importance and He uses all of His attributes to ensure His sovereign will.

    Christianity is founded on the core truth of the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But the death and resurrection of Jesus are only effective and powerful because of the Incarnation of Jesus, because of the virgin conception at Nazareth and birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. It is the Incarnation that distinguishes Jesus Christ from every other man, it is this that declares Him to be fully man and also fully God, even in the form of a helpless infant in a manger in Bethlehem.

    This is what the angels came to announce to the shepherds that night, that Jesus the Christ, the Son of Man and Son of God, conceived 9 months earlier is now being born. This is where the Christmas story was often a puzzle to me, for the greatest thing that has ever happened to mankind has just occurred and the angels say that the shepherds can know this is true for a certainty because of this unmistakable sign: “You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." Was it just the paradox of child in a manger? Weren’t there any other children born in Bethlehem that night? Why was this such a sign, was the sign not only identifying his location but also saying something about Who this Child really is?Read the account of it with me in Luke 2:8-15.

    I. His Humanity—"You will find a baby”                                                                

    This was a sign that was undeniable, this Jesus experienced all the transition and struggle and wonder of being born. He was in every sense fully man, yet who He was two years earlier, ten years earlier, 4000 years earlier, an eternity earlier, still remained. He was the Son of God, the Creator of all that has ever been created. “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.And this shall be a sign for you, you shall find a baby…”. Savior, Christ, the Lord… a baby. The sign was all about the humanity of Christ, the humanity of the Lord, a humanity that would have both body and blood and would give His life to prevent our death, our eternal separation from God in Hell. You might say that the humanity of Jesus was very evident in the events of His birth but how do we know His deity, His identity as God, was just as fully present? The Gospels are a history of the life of Jesus, He does things only God can do, He creates food, eyes that see, bodies that work. He overrules death, He repels back demons, He has all authority in heaven and on earth. He forgives sin, He knows thoughts, He stills waves. From this baby would come forth the evidence that God and man were both fully present in Jesus Christ. This was essential not just so that we would know God as never before but so that we would know the intentions of God as never before. This baby would become a man and would perfectly do for us what we could never have done for ourselves, He would perfectly and completely pay for, the word is expiate, the penalty of death for sin in mankind. The sign, a baby who is Savior, Christ and Lord.  

    II. His Helplessness—"Wrapped in cloths”                                                                  

    But the sign didn’t end just yet, this baby was wrapped in swaddling cloths. That’s not extraordinary, mothers do that all the time to keep the child warm and to keep it from injuring itself. The arms are tucked tightly to the sides and cloths, like restraints, bind the arms to the body. The child is kept safe, he is able to be picked up more easily, snuggled and comforted by the parents. When the shepherds eventually saw the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling cloths this was nothing exceptional, not until you began to realize just Who it was that was bound up like this. Bound up to be kept safe, to be more easily picked up, to be comforted. Thirty years later Jesus would once again be bound up, once again lifted up and this time He would be the comforter for others. The wonder of the wisdom of God is seen in the way He makes the Son utterly helpless, wrapped in swaddling cloths, the Deliverer delivered to man. The smell of the new born the perfume of creation on the Creator, now held in the arms of a young teenage mother.

    III. His Humility—"Lying in a manger”                                                                        

    Perhaps it is this third part that makes the sign so unmistakable, the infant lying in a manger. Many creatures are born in mangers, but not children. In the first century, mangers were often nothing more than a hollowed-out cave in the side of a hill. There’s not a lot of status in the manure and urine soaked hay, in the musty smells of a dark manger. It is a picture of necessity, a picture of poverty. Years later Jesus would say to His disciples, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” The intent was clear, this world was not His home, there is MORE. It is the sign of the manger that makes the baby conspicuous to the shepherds. The Baby isn’t where we would expect it to be. That’s because Christ came to do what we never expected to need, He came to save us. The saving isn’t done by armies or war horses or chests of gold or a life lived as a good person. It’s done by the blood of a Savior alone, there’s nothing else in which we are to place our trust. This baby wrapped in swaddling cloths lying in a manger is a sign because it pictures the absolute humility of Jesus Christ. His humility directly contrasts and opposes the pride of man that is sin driven. Humility is what Jesus calls all His disciples to, because humility admits need and looks to the only place in which that need can be met. Neil Anderson once defined humility as “Confidence properly placed.” The sign given to the shepherds was pointing us to where our confidence needs to be placed.

    It’s Christmas morning, the sign has been clearly set within our reach, it’s not behind closed doors, it’s where anyone can go at anytime, the Christ Child in the manger points us to the grace and availability of God. His Humanity, His Helplessness, His Humility, these are the elements of the incarnation of Jesus Christ, an unmistakable sign in which we place our confidence.

  • The Temple

    Text: Various

    Proposition: The location and timing and design of the Temple speaks of a God Who provides, He provides Himself for our salvation.

    He was an older man, not so old that he couldn’t work but too old to change, too old to begin again and certainly too old to ever have children. It’s not that he and his wife hadn’t wanted to have a family but now that time was behind them, life had other joys and mysteries to be discovered. In fact he had just won a lottery, a job lottery. Out of more than 20,000 priests he had been the one that was assigned to burn incense in the Temple this day. It was a once in a life time privilege, his duty to light the incense and to offer prayer for the entire nation of Israel. So things were looking up, his wife was as excited as he and today was the day. Zacharias went into the Temple early, at sun rise, two other priests went with him. One would set the coals on fire on the golden altar of incense, the other would ready the incense. Once done, they left and it was only Zacharias alone in the Holy place. To his left was the golden lampstand, the table for the shew bread was over on the right. In front of him was the veil, a curtain that went up 60 feet high, 30 feet wide and was layered so that it was four inches thick. As Zacharias’ eyes adjusted to the light he looked forwards at the curtain knowing behind it was the place called the Holy of Holies where only the high priest could go just once a year on the Day of Atonement. Zacharias knew that behind the curtain in the Holy of Holies was a completely empty room. Gone was the ark of the covenant, gone was the gold lid that covered it called the mercy seat, gone were the contents of manna, tablets of stone and the staff of Aaron. All that was in the Holy of Holies was an empty room that had been that way for more than 500 years ever since Zerubbabel rebuilt this second Temple. And Zacharias bowed his head and began to pray…

    This morning I’d like to talk with you about the Temple, I want to trace its location, its various designs and its eternal message. From the creation of Adam and Eve God has taught us about how to approach Him with sacrifice. When they chose to disobey Him sin and death entered into our being influencing the way of sacrifice. From Cain and Abel in 4000BC the importance of sacrifice began to be pictured but it wasn’t until about 1940BC that the location of the Temple was first unveiled. That was the approximate date when God tested Abraham, telling him to take his only son Isaac to a distant mountain called Moriah and offer him there. The account of this recorded in Genesis 22 tells us that the Angel of the Lord stopped Abraham at the last minute and provided a ram for the sacrifice. Abraham named that mountain Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord Will Provide. It was about 500 years later that Moses led the nation of Israel out of Egypt and God instructed Moses on how to make the Tabernacle, a place where He would meet with man. This large portable tent had the features of a Holy place and a Holy of Holies. The ark of the covenant was made and placed in the Tabernacle when they were at Sinai. The ark was a small wood chest overlaid with gold with a lid on it that had two gold angels arching over it. Inside it were three things that would seem strange to us, three things that would remind Israel of their sin. A jar of manna, the staff of Aaron and copies of the stone tablets with the ten commandments. Each of these were a response to some act of failure on Israels part, grumbling over food, grumbling over leadership or grumbling over God’s absence. Covering these was the lid of the ark, a place called the mercy seat, a place where the failures could not be seen because of the blood of a sacrifice. This was the ark of the covenant and it was kept in the holy of holies in the Tabernacle tent. For the next 500 years this would be their portable Temple. Then In 1010BC King David bought the rocky hill top where Abraham had brought his son, that hill top called Mount Moriah which Abraham renamed Jehovah-jireh. David intended to use it as the place to build the Temple but it would not be until 997BC that King Solomon his son would actually build it into one of the marvels of the world. All that Moses had instructed in how to build the Tabernacle was now used as a design in how to build the first Temple called Solomon’s Temple. Israel worshipped at this Temple for the next 400 years and then in things fell into chaos. Idolatry and schism tore Israel into a two state nation, civil war ravaged them and so did an increasing godlessness. In a series of prophecies God warned Israel to humble themselves, to return to Him or He would take away from them their land, their Temple and their freedom. The godlessness increased and God sent two waves of invasion to displace the people. It was with the Assyrian armies in 722BC that the northern half of Israel fell. Then 136 years later in 586BC Nebuchadnezzer took the southern portion of Israel and he destroyed Jerusalem and completely destroyed the Temple taking only the golden cups and candlesticks from it as trophies. He carried the nation away to Babylon as captives, just as Jeremiah had prophesied in Jer. 25:1-11. It has been asked, ‘What happened to the ark of the covenant?’, surely the Levicial priests knowing that an invasion was coming would not have let the Babylonians destroy it too? Some have conjectured that the ark was hidden underneath in tunnels below in the Temple mount. In fact two rabbis’, Rabbi Shlomo Goren and Rabbi Yehuda Getz, tried to excavate to the spot they thought it could be in 1982 but were halted by a Muslim riot over the dig which went under the Dome of the Rock. The tunnel was filled in and remains blocked to this day. Perhaps the words of Jeremiah 3:16, like the other 3:16 passages of Scripture leaves us the answer, take the time to read that for yourself. After the Babylonian captivity of Judah in 586BC the Temple was destroyed and Jerusalem was made into rubble. Then, seventy years later, just as Jeremiah had foretold and Daniel acknowledged in Daniel 9, the nation of Israel was released to return to their land, to rebuild the Temple and the city walls. In 520BC a governor of Israel named Zerubbabel under the protection of Cyrus the Persian king that had taken over Babylon rebuilt the Second Temple. It was but a shadow of what it had been but it was the Temple where God would meet with man. Some 350 years a Greek General known as Antiochus Ephiphanes would come into this Temple and desecrate it by putting a statue of Jupiter in it and sacrificing a pig there spreading its blood all around the Temple defiling it. It was referred to as the desolation of Israel, the abomination of desolation that sparked a rebellion of Jews led by Judas Maccabees. On December 25, 165BC they rededicated the Temple and it is remembered even today as the Feast of Lights or Hanukah. In approximately 146BC the Romans defeated the Greeks and in 63BC Rome occupied Jerusalem. They appointed a governor over the land, a man who proclaimed himself king of the Jews though he actually was an Edomite. His name was Herod and 18BC Herod renovated the Second Temple which Zerubbabel had built, a renovation that lasted for the next 46 years. It was in this Temple that Zacharias, the priest who had won the lottery now stood and with head bowed prayed for the nation.

    We know that the Temple renovations by Herod were completed in about 28AD but the finishing work went on until about 63AD. Seven years later the Romans in response to a Jewish revolt completely destroyed the Temple in 70AD. In the ensuing resistance against the Romans the persecutions became more and more intense until in 135AD the Romans ploughed salt into the Temple mount and drove the Jews out of Israel and renamed the land Palestine. For the next 1813 years Israel would be a people without a land and without a temple and without the ark of the covenant, until 1948. Now they have a land and God is returning the Jewish people to that land in the thousands and millions. Yet still there is no Temple and no Ark of the Covenant.

    What does this have to do with Christmas? Just five miles from where the Temple stood a tiny baby was born. This child was the fulfillment of what Abraham had heard on Mount Moriah, God Himself will provide the sacrifice. Perhaps better put, God will provide Himself as the sacrifice. Jesus is that sacrifice. Everything that was pictured in the Ark of the Covenant Jesus responded to. The golden jar of manna that questioned if God could actually take care of them Jesus used to teach the people that He was the bread of life pictured in that manna. Everything in the budding staff of Aaron which was a testament to the superiority of Aaron as the priest to lead them Jesus fulfilled as our High Priest. Even the tablets of the Law Jesus fulfilled completely, perfectly, without sin proclaiming the perfect way to the Father through the Son.

    The Temple Jesus said could be torn down because in three days He would raise it again! The Temple now is His body given for us, now He is our meeting place, He is place where we like Zacharias did, offer prayers like fragrant incense to our holy heavenly Father.

    “This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing                          

    Haste, haste to bring him laud The Babe, the Son of Mary” …

  • What God Saw
    Text: Matthew 1:18-25; 2:13-15; 19-23.
    Proposition: The birth of Jesus cues us to the sovereign hand of the Father revealing the humility of the Son in the perfecting power of the Holy Spirit.
    Introduction: There are many references to the mother of Jesus in the New Testament, from the visit of Gabriel to Mary as a young virgin and even to her being present at the foot of the cross when Jesus died for our sin. Her significance is clearly seen. But what of the person of Joseph, did he really have a significant place in the Christmas story and in the life of Jesus? Sometimes Joseph can seem like a token presence and yet we know that when it comes to God there are no ‘hood ornaments’, no ‘window dressings’.  Each person, even us here this morning,  has a precious and particular purpose. Let’s take a closer look at this man as we ask ourselves, “What was it that God saw in this man that he would become the earthy father for Jesus Christ ?”  Let’s read  Matthew 1: 18- 25;  2:13-15; 19-23.  
    I.   God Saw in Joseph a Man of Deeply Rooted Faith.                                                        
    We need to remember that at this point in Israel’s history there had been no  inspired words from God to His people through any prophet for almost 400 years. Joseph’s faith was exceptional in that he, like the patriarch Abraham before him, believed in the Person and Promises of God. That belief, that faith, is what reckoned him a righteous man. What is it that Joseph believed? He believed that God would never desert Israel, that the descendents of Abraham, of which he was one, would be more numerous than the sands of the sea and through them the entire world would be blessed, both Jew and Gentile. He believed that God would be faithful to all His promises, even the one He made to have Israel receive a Messiah, one who would redeem Israel in many ways. Joseph also believed in the importance of the Law of God, the Ten Commandments, and the 630 other laws that were to be followed.  He believed that the inevitable failure to keep these laws perfectly would evidence sin in their hearts and that this sin would need to be covered over by a sacrifice. Joseph believed that the prescription for the atonement of sin as given to Moses (Leviticus 4) was one that needed to be observed to the detail in order that man’s sin would be placed upon the body and blood of an animal for it to die in their place. Joseph believed all this because he believed in the scriptures which are the written inspired words of God. In fact it was the words of scripture that Joseph was seeking to observe when he thought of divorcing Mary. She was legally united to Joseph through engagement and yet she was pregnant. The righteousness of Joseph sought to love Mary and yet obey God. The only solution he could see was to quietly divorce her, saving her from shame and possibly even death by stoning.
    God saw the exceptional faith of Joseph, it was part of the reason that He chose Joseph, for out of that faith would come obedience, out of that deeply rooted  faith would come godliness,  love and hope, out of that deeply rooted faith would come the perseverance  to keep the infant Jesus safe.
    II. God Saw in Joseph a Qualified Man.     
    Joseph’s background was really quite a mix. He was just a poor carpenter, a single man with nothing much to his name except his faith. The contrast is that this same Joseph was a great, great descendent of king David. Twenty six generations earlier, God had made a promise to king David that a descendent of his would sit on his throne forever. This king of Israel would also be king of all the nations of the world, even king of all creation. Joseph, as the father figure to the baby Jesus, would be able to pass down that lineage of David to Jesus by inheritance. It was these things that God saw in Joseph, the faith of the poor and the heritage of royalty qualified Joseph for the unique task set before him.
    III. God Saw in Joseph a Man Who Could Take Directions.
    It is no small thing to be directed as to who you should marry or not, as to when you should leave your country and become a refugee, as to when to return knowing if you are found out it will be death, as to how to begin again in the rough town of Nazareth. How would you handle these things, what would it take to move you to action? Would a dream be enough to convince you or would it take further direction? For Joseph it required action that needed to be taken immediately, in one case it was the middle of the night. God had chosen a man whose will was able to be impressed with the need for quick response and for a will that would patiently wait for the next instruction. For a Israelite to live in Egypt for two years for no other reason other than God had directed him requires an unusual will. As a result of the impressionable will of Joseph, God provided a man to be the family leader and human parent of Jesus, He provided an escape from certain death, He provided funds and a place to go for refuge for the Messiah, He provided the redirecting of the Messiah in all aspects to fulfill the prophetic claims made of Him that would credential Him as the Messiah to those of faith.

    That is what God saw in Joseph. So what do we learn about  God as we see His choice of this man? Let me suggest three things:
    1.    We see the Sovereign hand of the heavenly Father. God’s sovereignty is perfect in timing, both long term and short term. In Danial 9 God gave a detailed prophecy that said the Messiah would come 500 years after the decree to rebuild Jerusalem, and that’s what it was. When God directed Joseph it was in terms of hours and minutes, get up and leave now!  God fulfilled scripture, out maneuvered Herod and  outmaneuvered Satan. In His perfect timing He used a man of deeply rooted faith, perfectly positioned in time and genealogy that He would direct through the critical early days of the Messiah in the manger. He provided a Savior that was the most vulnerable of people, and yet He did all this perfectly.
    2.    We see humility of the Son. The very beginnings of Christ’s entry into humanity are shadowed over by crisis, the rumor of unfaithfulness,  a threatened divorce, parents who were young and poor. He was displaced like a refugee before and after His birth, He was the object of judicial wrath from a jealous king, He lived under the reputation of the town of Nazareth. Remember the words of 1 Cor. 1, “ But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;  And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are”. What He does in you and I, He first accomplished through the humble beginnings of Jesus.
    3.    We see the Perfecting power of the Holy Spirit.  In Matthew 1:18, 20 it says, “the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit”. The conception by the Holy Spirit had to literally be the intervening of the Spirit in the womb of Mary completing the conception process.  Were the very strands of DNA entwined with the radiant glory of Christ, the Creator of the Universe compressed into space and time and now resident in the womb of a virgin named Mary? However the power of the Most High overshadowed her, however the  Holy Spirit was used to bring about this divine conception, He perfectly accomplishes every detail of the Father’s will.                                                               What God saw in Joseph was a faithful man ready to follow His will. What we see in God is a Sovereign, Humble, Precise God whose holy nature and infinite glory have been revealed to the whole world through the incarnation of Jesus Christ.

  • What You Need To Know If You’re Going To Grow Past Boho
    Text: Colossians 1:21-29
    Proposition: If we are Christians then we need to grow as Christians, that means knowing Jesus more than I did before is true for every day.                                 

    Introduction: Our daughters were home for Christmas and we shared a great time together. I think it was on the second day I was introduced to a word that I hadn’t heard before, though I could guess the roots of it. They were talking about how the clothes and culture of Calgary were so Boho. I grabbed the opportunity to play the hobo to their Boho, I asked what Boho clothes were, what Boho culture is. Boho is really just recent slang for Bohemian, which is described as the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often seen as free spirited, creative and artistic. It’s been described as “… a light and graceful philosophy, it is the Gospel of the Moment, this esoteric phase of the Bohemian ‘religion’…  one must choose and find one’s own path, be one’s own self, live one’s own life.”                                                                                        

    The challenge is how to sift the good out of a cultural trend without being lulled into all of its philosophical bait. The reason for doing so is not just so that we wouldn’t get sucked in, it’s so that we would grow. When Paul was writing to the Colossians that’s what he particularly had in mind. They were getting sucked in to Gnosticism and Judaism as they tried to blend it with their Christian faith. The result was that not only were they not discerning the danger in that, their growth or maturity as Christians was impaired. They were like babies crawling along on the floor putting anything that came to hand into their mouths. Their lack of discernment blocked their ability to grow. So let’s call this sermon, “What you Need To Know In Order Grow Past Boho.” Have a look at Colossians 1:21-29.
    I. Know That Your Thoughts Are As Important to God As Your Actions.                  

    What you think matters. JFK once said,  “Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”  Dallas Willard took that a step further,
    “You can live opposite of what you profess, but you cannot live opposite of what you believe.”  
    What you think matters to the people whose lives you touch but it matters even more to God. Look at what Paul says in Colossians 1:21, “And you who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled.” We are so Boho in our sin nature that we think in ways that are against God, we think about what benefits us, about what we see as beauty and wisdom.
    God thinks, He knows we think, and He knows that what we think leads to the way we live. It’s no different with God, Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” That’s why your thoughts are as important to God as your actions, they have everything to do with your future and the hope within it. If you are going to grow as a Christian know that your thoughts are the first place that you need to exercise supervision. 2 Corinthians 10:4,5 say, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” It seems the devil also is concerned with how we think and uses that to create areas of defeat and captivity in our lives. If you going to grow, think what you think about.
    II. Know That God Is More Invested In Your Well Being Than You Are.        

    You know what it means to invest, it means to purchase something with the hope that it will increase in value, quality or capability. So how is God more invested in you than what you are, what did He purchase, how’s that investment appreciated? The word reconciled is a book keeping term that refers to restoring a balance of accounts or debt. So in essence what God purchased was my debt, He paid my bill and He did so as an investment. The bill He paid was the debt of my sin. The way that He paid that was to have the righteous flesh of Jesus Christ die in the place of my sinful flesh. He was so invested in me that He was willing to die for me. Are you that invested in anybody, in God? Know that God is more invested in your well being than you are. So what is His hope for that investment, it’s that Jesus would be able to present you before God on the Day of Judgment as being holy, blameless and above reproach in His sight. If we are to grow as Christians we need know that the investment God has made in us is one which calls for us to appreciate. How do you appreciate or grow in quality or capability? Verse 23 touches on it. It’s by continuing in the faith, being grounded, steadfast, not moved away. When the Boho philosophy comes calling for you how grounded are you to resist it? God has not only invested in your salvation, He’s also invested in your sanctification. To persevere as a Christian is something He has equipped you to do. He’s opened up the eyes of your understanding, He’s placed the Scripture right in front of you, He even has people like me preach to you regarding the person of Jesus Christ and the degree of His investment in you. Know that God is deeply invested in you, grow.
    III. Know That As God Is Not Ashamed of Us, We Shouldn’t Be Of Him.  

    This next verse can seem very peculiar. “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, the church.” Certainly this can’t mean that Paul in some way adds to the effectiveness of the death of Christ for us. There was nothing lacking in the atonement of the suffering and death of Jesus so what can he possibly be referring to? The church is referred to as the body of Christ, it is the way Jesus manifests Himself here and now. The sufferings Paul is referring to are those appointed for this body of Christ, the church. Does it seem strange that God would intend struggle and pain for those He is so invested in?  1 Peter 4:16 puts it like this, “But if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.” In Philippians 1:29 Paul says, “For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” To suffer for Christ’s sake, to “fill up in the flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ”, can look like many things. It can mean being beaten physically because of Jesus, it can be being mocked, spat upon or treated with contempt or even ostracized or shut out of something because of Jesus. Paul seemed to be thinking that there was a considerable amount of suffering appointed for the church and he wanted to bear as much of that as he could for the church to the glory of God. The idea of suffering for Christ is not self abasement or masochistic, it’s focus is for others, for the church and ultimately for the glory of Jesus Christ. Don’t take my word for it, just look at what Paul gives as the reason at the end of verse 24, “for the sake of His body, the church.” When I take a hit it because of Jesus name it strengthens the body of Christ about me, confirming their faith, encouraging their walk. If we are going to grow past Boho then we need to see what God intends as far as suffering, as far as not being ashamed of Him which is the first line of response to suffering.
    IV. Know That God’s Purposes For You Are Greater Than You Imagine.   

    Paul talks about being given a stewardship. A steward cares for the property or purposes of the owner, in this case the ‘owner’ is Jesus Christ. So what has been entrusted to him? It turns out it’s the same thing that has been entrusted to you and I. We have been entrusted with “the mystery which has been hidden from ages and generations but now has been revealed to His saints.” (v26). What’s this mystery, Paul spells it out in the next verse (27), it is the wonder of God uniting all people as one, Gentile and Jew and then giving to that one body something they could never have imagined, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” If you were lost by some country road and desperately needed to get to your destination and a person comes along and tells you just go right, then right again, take the third left and at the tall tree go right again. The directions would seem overwhelming, but if they said, ‘hey, just follow me and I’ll take you there’, then in that moment they became the way for you to get to your destination. Jesus once said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by Me.” Christ in you is the way, the hope of glory is the destination. That is the stewardship we have been entrusted with, it is the purpose that is greater than could ever have imagined. If we will grow past Boho, it will be because our purpose has suddenly become much greater than just ourselves.  Look at how this passage ends, it describes how we all grow, “To this end I also labor, serving according to His working which works in me mightily.” When I choose to be a disciple of Jesus Christ it is not some fledgling philosophy that I have put my hope in, it is the hope of glory and to see me through to that end Christ works in me mightily, with great power, overruling the impossible, making me more than a conqueror, for Christ has taken up residence in me.

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Our worship service begins at 10:30. We offer an area for children to have a break  during the service and have a time of refreshment after the end of every service. It's a chance to get to know people and connect.  Take a moment to look through our web site and see what the other ministries of the church are. We'll see you at door...