Christmas

SERMON LEFTOVERS 12.26.16

The Christmas Story Ends with a King     

Matthew 2:1-12

 

The Wise Men were late comers to Jesus’ birth

Some think v16 indicates this scene was two years after Jesus birth

The time could certainly have been far shorter; however, it is later, and Jesus’ family is now in a “house” (v11)

Perhaps they needed to stay away from Nazareth, due to family tensions caused by Mary’s pregnancy

Who are these visitors who set a vivid contrast to the shepherds?

The Wise Men or Magi were likely priestly advisors

They are from the “east”, probably Persia or Babylonia (which was a 750-1000 mile journey)

Either location had a long history of influence from Judea

Roman historians indicate that Jewish Messianic hopes were widely known

Their trip was clearly a work of God to them, and in them

The “star” which led them was clearly not a natural phenomenon

Somehow, they connected its appearance to the Jewish Messiah    

They were motivated to travel a great distance at significant cost

The Magi arrived in Jerusalem asking what they thought would be known:  

“Where is he who was born king of the Jews?”

No one was aware that the Messiah had been born

Yet, the religious leaders had no problem identifying where that would take place (vs 5-6)

This news “troubled” Herod and the city

Herod was troubled because he was king, but not by right (Herod was not of David’s line or fully Jewish)

Herod was also very paranoid (he killed two of his sons)

The religious and political leaders were troubled, because a Messiah showing up would take from their influence

When Herod got his information, he “secretly” met with the Wise Men

He doesn’t want his real plan, to get rid of the Messiah, to become known

The Wise Men now know to look in Bethlehem – only 6 miles away

Then the star also appeared again – and led them to the exact location

The emotions of the Magi in this moment are striking (v10)

It had been a long trip, but this is more than relief from travel fatigue

What the Magi saw when they arrived, was not impressive (v11)

Yet, they humbled themselves, and “fell down and worshiped”

They also gave generous “gifts”; such as would be given if visiting a ruler

Imagine the drama of the spectacle of the Magi’s arrival

Arriving at Joseph and Mary’s front door is an entourage from a distant land

They are eager to see the child, and upon seeing him, fall to ground

 

How can we use this story of the Magi?

Christ is to be worshiped!

The angels worshiped, the shepherds worshiped and the Magi worshiped

Any response to Christ that doesn’t include worship is simply wretched

There are two groups that stand in stark contrast to all the worshipers in the Christmas Story

(1) Those who simply ignored Jesus

The people in Jerusalem heard the Messiah may have been born, but they couldn’t be bothered to go and see

What of Christians who know Jesus lives! Yet to read his Word, to regularly pray, or to serve him – are considered too much trouble

If you call Jesus King, will you not bow or give him the treasure of your life?

(2) Herod who tried to get rid of Jesus

Herod is an example of all who are desperate to hold onto the throne of their lives

We all start there, we all begin life desperate to be king over it  

Christ cannot be gotten rid of, pushed aside, or overthrown (Psalm 2)

And in the end neither can he be ignored! (Romans 14:11-12)

The Christmas Story ends with a King and this King will reign!

 

CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS FOCUSED ON CHRIST

by Debbie Huber

When Kyle and I began raising our family we both brought Christmas traditions from our childhood together to make our own family traditions. Some of my traditions revolved around baking Christmas cookies and decorating the house. Kyle brought the traditions of creating a Christmas countdown calendar for the children and allowing the children to open their stockings in their beds when they woke up early on Christmas morning. The memories of these traditions are priceless for our family.

Another tradition that we started as a family was to read the biblical account of the birth of Christ together before any presents were opened. This kept the focus on what was most important.

In her book, “Treasuring God in Our Traditions”, Noel Piper emphasizes the importance of our traditions to demonstrate that God is at the center of all of our lives.  

“God is the reason that we have anything to celebrate.  He is the ultimate source of our celebrations. As we read in James 1:17, ‘Every good gift and every gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.'”

How would your favorite Christmas tradition change if you looked at the people you are sharing it with and thanked God that He created them, that He chose this day for them to share it with you?  We might want to plan a time to pray specifically for those people.

How would the focus of our traditions change if we looked at them to strengthen our ultimate hope in Jesus?  Do others see our joy we have because of Christ’s birth?

Let us pray that our traditions will reflect Christ and increase our delight in God.

SERMON LEFTOVERS 12.19.16

 Jesus’ Life Began Before Bethlehem

 

by Eric Huber

The Apostle John writes his gospel to combat growing heresies in the early church. 

Some denied the full deity of Christ; saying he was simply a good man and a moral teacher. 

Others denied the humanity of Christ. 

They thought, “How could God suffer and die?”  They believed Jesus only appeared as a man.  He did not enter our world and suffer in the flesh.  John writes, “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and believing you may have life in His name (Jn 20:31).” 

John wants us to understand who Jesus is and what he has done for us.

John 1:1 states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” 

At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus, but the person of Christ did not begin in the manger in Bethlehem.

Jesus eternal being who is at the heart of God’s redeeming purposes in all of Scripture – both NT and the OT.  Paul tells us in 1Tim 2:5, “there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”.  When we see God in the OT moving on behalf of His people, we see the pre-existent Christ, the second person of the Trinity.

Jude 5 tells us that in fact it was Jesus who delivered Israel from the land of Egypt.

It was Jesus who led them in the wilderness and gave them manna from heaven. 

It was Jesus who spoke from the holy mountain and gave them the Law. 

It is Jesus who mediates between God and humanity.

It is the eternal Word who became flesh and dwelt among us. 

He entered our world.  He took upon himself our nature and our obligation to obey God in everything, so that He could be our high priest who took our punishment upon himself – dying in our place, so that we could have a restored relationship with God. 

He became one of us so that we might become children of God.

He is the one who is full of grace & truth. 

In fact, if we reject Christ, then we cannot know truth. 

He is the creator God and so he makes reality what it is.  We can, therefore, not make sense of the world without him. 

Out of his common grace, he will allow us to function in his world, but we will always feel disconnected from reality because we have rejected the one who can make sense of the world and give us fulfillment in it. 

But if we will turn to Christ, then out of his fullness he gives to us grace upon grace.  It is an ever sufficient grace if we will turn from our sin and turn to Christ.

AVOID THE AFTER-CHRISTMAS-LETDOWN

 

by Debbie Huber

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Green Monday…I had my shopping plans for these special shopping days.  I bookmarked the special Black Friday Deals website to know where all the BEST deals were to be found.  I kept all of my coupons and found all of my Promo codes.  I was ready to have a successful and bargain-filled Christmas shopping season!

Unfortunately, things like this can dominate our lives from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve.  Gift lists are made, shopping days are planned, Christmas parties and concerts are put on the calendar. Somehow we have to wrap the gifts, make the cookies, send in the teacher’s gifts, and find a way to have everyone dressed nicely for a family Christmas picture.  

Our lives are hectic right up until Christmas Day and then on December 26 we have the “Day-after-Christmas-letdown” where we are surrounded by tired and cranky family members, empty boxes, and bags of torn wrapping paper. 

It is easy to allow the hectic schedule and the “planning” to dominate your families’ lives at Christmas.  The buildup and expectation of Christmas and family is a wonderful blessing from God, but without the celebration and thankfulness for what it meant for Jesus to be born, there will be a letdown until next year. 

Jesus is Emmanuel, God With Us!  Our God was born as a baby so He could live on this Earth like us and experience the trials and temptations as we do and yet without sin so He could be sacrificed in our place for our sins. 

Jesus should be the foundation of our plans, our expectation, our celebration, and our joy of Christmas. 

Make it a priority to have Jesus and the celebration of what He accomplished as a result of being born as “God With Us” be the foundation of your family’s Christmas season.  Read about it in the Bible, sing about it at home and in your car, thank God together through prayer, and celebrate with each other about the amazing reality of what Jesus has done for us. 

Do not let a day go by without rejoicing in your heart and thanking God for the wonder of the incarnation of Christ.  Share with the unsaved people in your life about it the glory of Christmas and invite them to church! 

There may be some tiredness after Christmas, but there is no after Christmas letdown because the gospel is a reality in our lives for eternity!

SERMON LEFTOVERS 12.12.16

Joseph’s Hard News

 

Matthew 1:18-25

 

The Angel Gabriel visited Mary to announce her pregnancy, now Joseph finds out

 

Being chosen as Jesus’ parents, was a difficult honor

Joseph is a deeply hurt man; his fiancé was “found to be with child”

We don’t know how Joseph found out, or if he spoke to Mary

He knows his betrothed is pregnant, and he thinks she betrayed him

The pain and “dishonor” goes beyond Joseph and Mary

Both sets of parents, their extended families and friends were all impacted

Then there was the question who is the father?  Whose life was affected by suspicion?

Joseph was a ‘just’ (righteous) man who wants to do the right thing (v19)

He realizes he cannot marry a woman who is unfaithful and “unrepentant”

But he will show mercy and divorce her ‘quietly’; which means he will not bring charges (she could have been stoned)

Joseph is righteous and Mary is favored by God, but their lives are unraveling

God’s favor doesn’t ensure an easier life, but it will unquestionably bring a fuller life

Even though the angelic visits brought truth, the complications remained

Being in the center of God’s grace doesn’t mean all will be clear to us, or that people will be supportive

Yet, every moment of God’s purposes is gloriously worth it

 

An angel is sent to intervene (vs 20-21)

God knew Joseph couldn’t be expected to accept Mary’s testimony

God provided what Joseph needed, to follow the path given

The statement, ‘Do not fear’ was an assurance that even this will be okay: you will not be a fool, and you will not regret it, for the Lord is fully in it

The angel brought 3 affirmations to Joseph

1.  The child in Mary’s womb was conceived by the Holy Spirit

2.  The name of this child is to be “Jesus”

3.  This child is the Messiah (the “anointed one”)

Anticipation of a Messiah came from Old Testament prophets, who often described a coming deliverer who would bring unparalleled blessing

This Messiah would come from the line of David, the great king of Israel

Messianic fulfillment was clearly in the angel’s words and in the circumstances

Joseph’s response, like Mary’s, revealed his character

They both accepted what God had ordained for them

Joseph obeyed, he “did” what God commanded (vs 24-25)

Joseph will soon fade from the biblical record; and none of his words are recorded

We don’t know much about Joseph, but we know what matters – he was faithful in his part

 

Matthew adds commentary on Jesus’ birth (vs 22-23)

Jesus’ birth fulfilled many Old Testament prophecies: Matthew gives one from Isaiah 7:14

God “with us” is a key theme of the Bible – from the Garden of Eden onward, God is with his people

Jesus transcends all previous expressions of God’s presence (John 1:14 & 18)

Jesus is not only the Messiah, he is Messiah beyond expectations

God himself is our Messiah!  There could be no greater deliverer (Romans 8:31-38)

The deliverance Jesus brings is also beyond what was looked for

Jesus doesn’t simply save us from current problems, he saves us to the uttermost! (Hebrews 7:25)

He saves us as far and as wondrously as is possible to be saved!

 

Matthew gives context for Jesus’ birth (vs 1-17)

The announcement of Jesus’ birth is preceded by his genealogy

Jesus fits the biblical promise that the Messiah be from the line of David

This genealogy shows Jesus’ coming is part of a huge sweeping plan (vs 17-18)

Centuries of events and lifetimes culminate in Jesus’ arrival

No one was more aware of being predestined than Jesus. He often spoke of “my time” and “my hour”

Christ is at the center of God’s plan, but his genealogy shows God uses messy people along the way

Jesus’ genealogy contains as many skeletons as anyone’s closet

The Bible doesn’t hide the mess of these lives, Jesus saves them!

SERMON LEFTOVERS 12.05.16

 Mary Receives Impossible News

 

Luke 1:26-38

 

Mary is visited by the angel Gabriel (vs 26-30)

What do we know about this woman Mary?

Today, we would consider her more of a girl; the typical age of betrothal was 12-14, with the marriage following a year or more later

She was Galilean, raised far from the places of power and prestige

Gabriel tells Mary, she was ‘favored’ by God (vs 28 & 30)

This doesn’t mean she deserved what she was about to hear, but Mary was certainly a godly woman

So, we know she loved God and obeyed his word, Mary’s character was like that of the Son she would bear

How God uses us differs, but the character he looks for in us is the same

Gabriel adds in v28 the Lord is “with you”

Here was the great truth about Mary!

She had true faith which brings a true relationship with God

God been working in her beyond what she grasped, for the grand purpose he had for her life

God has “favor” and is “with” every person he saves

Gabriel’s statement describes the grace and joy God has for all his children

Yet this ‘favor’ didn’t keep hardship at bay; it brought difficulties she otherwise would not have endured

 

Mary is told the Impossible (vs 31, 34-37)

As a virgin, she will bear a son!

The virgin birth is essential to the hope and power of the gospel

If the virgin birth is not true, Jesus was just another man who cannot save us

If the virgin birth is not true, Jesus was simply a good man whose life ended early and tragically

If the virgin birth is not true, the Bible is one more book of myths which offers nothing eternal

But if the virgin birth is true, God has come!

God has not merely appeared, he has entered into humanity itself

The virgin birth is the first step of God overpowering the helplessness of our sinful brokenness

Gabriel gives a 3-fold answer to Mary’s question

(1) The Holy Spirit will cause your womb to conceive

(2) You have an example of God’s power in your relative Elizabeth (vs 5-25), whose dead womb is now 6 months pregnant

(3) The ultimate answer for Mary is declared in v37, “nothing will be impossible with God”

This means God’s only limitations are his perfections! God will perfectly perform what he says, as well as what we need

 

Mary is told the Unimaginable (vs 32-33)

v32 Your son will be “great” – he will be a man worth following, serving and obeying

v32 He will be “Son of the Most High” – he is the Son of God and so equal to God. His birth will mean that God walks among us, in a greater way than He did with Adam in the garden

v32 He will be given “David’s Throne” – he is the Messiah; and will fulfill a 900-year promise of deliverance and blessing

v33 He will “reign forever” – will be more than a great king, he will be an eternal king. And those who are citizens of his kingdom, will be eternal citizens

v31 You shall call him “Jesus” – this was a common name which means the ‘Lord saves’

Jesus is the name which should daily fill our mind and flow from our lips

Jesus is the one before whom we should humble ourselves – as he did, to reach us

 

Mary’s response is our example (v38)

Her initial response is “How will this be?”

Mary’s question flows out of perplexity rather than doubt

It is okay to be perplexed by what God is doing; but we shouldn’t doubt or blame God for what he is doing

Mary submits to what the Lord has ordained for her

She accepts what she cannot fully grasp, because she trusts her Heavenly Father

She is willing to follow and fulfill what God has planned for her

Mary had no preparation for a virgin birth, for being the mother of God in flesh, or for enduring the hardships these would bring to her

But God was “with her”, so Mary had all she needed for everything to come

 

Over the next few weeks we will celebrate a joyful holiday; consider what actions you (and your family) can take to exalt Jesus in it!

WHAT HAPPENED ON CHRISTMAS?

Christmas

Merry Christmas!

A CHRISTMAS LIFE

 

Christmas is magical, busy, fun, overwhelming, tradition, tiring, expensive, family, stressful, hectic and quickly gone.

But far above all these things Christmas is:

Christmas is God with us

Christmas is hope entering our world

Christmas is God’s promise fulfilled

Christmas is wow

Christmas is I am clean

Christmas is amazing

Christmas is transcendent

Christmas is God really does love us

Christmas is forever

When you wake up on Christmas morning, what will Christmas Day be to you?

Oh, not in theory; what will be your attitude, your actions and your interactions with God and the people around you?

Believer, we don’t celebrate a Christmas Day, we celebrate a Christmas Life!

 


CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS WITH ETERNITY IN MIND

 

by Debbie Huber

You shall teach (the Scriptures) to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise (Deuteronomy 11:19).

Recently I asked my daughter, Elyse, what is the most memorable part of Christmas for her. She responded that it is the traditions that are the most memorable and meaningful. From decorating the tree together, the visits with family and friends, the Christmas Eve service at church, to the family reading of the Biblical account of Christmas on Christmas morning, the traditions stand out more than the presents.

In her book, “Treasuring God in our Traditions”, Noel Piper emphasizes that our traditions should reflect our hearts’ delight in God. These traditions don’t just happen; they happen because we live our lives everyday dependent on God and His Word. And then we plan to include our children in this lifestyle of dependency on God.

When we read and meditate on the Nativity, we cannot help but to be overcome with joy knowing that God Himself chose to be born as one of us…To live as one of us, yet without sin…and to die in our place for our sins. As this Gospel impacts us it overflows into the big and small moments of our lives.

There are many and varied traditions for our families at Christmas time. Some are more meaningful to us, drawing us to contemplate Jesus’ incarnation. Sometimes we have certain traditions because we have always done them that way or because everyone else seems to be doing it.

But in all of our traditions, do we reflect a gratitude to God for His amazing gift of His Son to us at Christmas? That because of Christ’s incarnation we have more than the fun of the moment, we have an incomparable hope! Jesus has rescued us from the punishment we deserve for our sins.

Do we delight in this, enthusiastically demonstrating it as we sit with our family in our houses, when we walk by the way, when we lie down, and when we rise up? This is teaching God’s word to our families through the impact that His word has on our lives. And this is what our children will remember about Christmas.

Noel Piper says it so well: “How will our home look if our celebration is a picture of anticipation and waiting for God’s plan to be completed, a picture of our joy, in the salvation he has begun for us? What visible things will fill our house as we celebrate what God has done through Jesus?”

 

WHY DON’T ATHEISTS HATE SANTA?

AmericanAtheistChristmasBillboard2014

 

Tis the season to be jolly, or to complain about Christmas displays that have any hint of religious character.

Each year there are people who are indignant over public nativity scenes as if Christmas never originated as a religious celebration.

Others who deny God’s existence compare the Christmas Story to the myth of Santa Claus.

What I find interesting is that people don’t get mad over Santa displays, or his appearing in public places. Yet, they become ferocious in attacking nativity scenes. If as they say, God and Santa are both myths, why are they angry at the myth of God, but not at the myth of Santa?

The reason is simple, people are not in rebellion against Santa or the Easter Bunny, but they are in full force rebellion against the rule of God over their lives.

Most atheists don’t recognize that the heart of their anti-God anger is their own heart condition, but their actions reveal it.

People who are angry at the mention of God in society are angry that God claims to be Lord over all things – including their own lives. Our sinful nature has rejected the rule of God, because we want self-rule. For some people it just becomes easier to convince themselves God doesn’t exist. Problem solved!

However, because God does exist and He is Lord over everything – the problem remains. Romans 1:19 tells us God has placed the knowledge of His existence within all humanity.

This means that while the mind and mouths of atheists declare God doesn’t exist, their souls realize that He does. A downtown nativity scene or a prayer during a high school graduation are unwanted reminders of a reality that don’t want to face.

But atheists are not the only ones who squirm under the rule of God. Even Christians find themselves struggling with God’s claim to have absolute rule over our lives. We see this in a variety of ways:

we don’t like being told that your fantasy life really is a “big deal”

we get angry that another believer has pointed out a sinful attitude in us

we are bothered that God’s Word says He predestines us

we are offended that our pastor challenges the music we listen to, or the shows we watch

we leave our church when leaders tell us we must reconcile a damaged relationship with other church members

we think it is unfair that “good” people are condemned to hell

we complain about decisions our church makes when we are asked to give sacrificially

we stiffen up when we hear a teaching that mentions submission to our spouse, to the church, or to one another

The question of God’s rule is not just for God-deniers, it is also relevant for God-followers.

Next time you see a nativity scene, be reminded that the child born in Bethlehem came to destroy the power of rebellion and establish himself as Ruler over every detail of our life