I’m Dreaming Of A White Christmas…(presented a week before Christmas)
The title of this sermon may be quite strange for a sermon in South Florida. More than likely, those of us beyond a certain age can hear in our heads the voice of Bing Crosby who originally recorded that song back in 1942, and it became so popular that he had to re-record it in 1947 because the master became worn out from use. And we envision tree tops that are glistening and everything covered with a blanket of snow.. (I say BRRRRRR.. no thank you!) I can remember growing up with snow still on the ground at Easter and the snow man had not yet melted.
We are bombarded by every type of Christmas song on the radio…. “Grandma got run over by a reindeer,” and the ever popular “Chipmunks’ Christmas Song” is returning….reminding us that Alvin is still pining away for a Hula Hoop fifty six years later. And yes, it has been that long since we first heard “I saw Momma kissing Santa Clause”… Maybe your favorite is “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.” Or perhaps you are fond of: “Santa Baby” or “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth”, or even “Silent Night”….someone has listed that one as the favorite of all parents on Christmas Eve, who are hoping for a silent night.
To light a fireplace, here in the Keys, we would have to first crank the AC to the max in hopes of producing an inside chill…Or like me, you could have a fake fireplace, that sets the mood without the heat! We could even have fake snow and flakes here on the floor to give the illusion of what we all escaped from in the first place. We could do these things and more, in an attempt to recreate a nostalgic Christmas experience. Personally, I’ll just watch a video on YouTube for that experience.
Perhaps you haven’t heard, but Schools in Texas have banned “The Charlie Brown Christmas” because it has a line that says… “Unto us is born this day a savior, which is Christ the Lord”! The White Christmas I’m talking about today, is not about some nostalgic Christmas of days gone by. It is about the birth of Jesus and the righteousness which He offers to all who will receive Him.
Mrs. Oppenheimer decided to get away from the cold winter weather of Munich Germany, and spend Christmas in the Hot Springs resort of Vies-badan. Being unfamiliar with that part of the world she wandered into a 'restricted' hotel and said 'Hi. I'm Mrs Oppenheimer and I'd like a room for the next week.' 'I'm very sorry,' said the manager, but all our rooms are taken. Just as he said that a customer came to the desk and checked out. 'How lucky' responded Mrs Oppenheimer, 'Now you have a room for me.' 'Look, I'm very sorry' said the manager, but this is a restricted hotel. Jews are not allowed here. 'Jewish! Whaddya mean, Jewish. I happen to be a Catholic.' 'That takes some believing' said the manager. Tell me, who was the Son of God?' 'Jesus.' she replied 'Where was he born?' 'In a stable in Bethlehem, simply because some Schmuck like you wouldn't rent a room to a Jew.'
Most of us have at least one or two absolute favorite Christmas carols which have found a home deep in our hearts, almost always including “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”. Whatever song you sing and hum through the season, Today I am reflecting on the songs that were sung at the very first Christmas that came to men as revelations from heaven. The Christmas story, as told by Luke’s gospel, has five songs which were brought by the Holy Spirit, which is interesting since, five is the biblical number of redemption. The song we most remember is the song of the angels to Shepherds on the hillside, keeping watch over their sheep. It is called “The Annunciation”. These words are in several of our best known Christmas carols. It seems to be the essence of the meaning of Christmas. So, think of this as a song being sung…. (OK, you are the angle choir, so join your voices and read these words together today as our first song of Christmas)
Luke 2:10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. v11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. v12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. v13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, v14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Luke also records that Zechariah, is given a song at the birth of his son, John the Baptist, who was the cousin of Jesus…It is a song that breaks the silence that was put upon Him as a sign from God…..(oh, that more folks would have this sign placed upon them, and I include myself in that… Someone has said that silence is a language of it’s own) But the song of Zechariah evokes the prophetic hope of a national liberation from the oppression of Israel’s enemies and lets him see John’s roll as the forerunner of Jesus. These songs were sung like a free style canticle, filled with prophetic passion and delivered with emotions birthed by the Holy Spirit…..
Luke 1:67 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, v68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, v69 And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; v70 As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: v71 That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; v72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant. v73 The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, v74 That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, v75 In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life. v76 And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; v77 To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, v78 Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, v79 To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace”.
Zacharias’ wife Elizabeth, the mother of John was visited by Mary and was also given a prophetic song that she sang and as she was listening to Mary, the baby leaped within her womb and was filled with the Holy Spirit and she was filled as well…..
Luke 1:41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: v42 And she spoke out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. v43 And how is this happened, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? v44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of your salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. v45 And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord”.
For our fourth song, The old man Simeon is given a prophetic song when Jesus is presented in the temple for the ritual of naming and circumcision. That song is the expression of great anticipation, for God had told Simeon that he would not die until He saw the Messiah.
Luke 2:28 Then he took him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, v29 Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to thy word: v30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, v31 Which you have prepared before the face of all people; v32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. v34 Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; v35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through your own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
But the most important is Mary’s song….the song that Luke shares about the one who is the most intimately associated with the birth of Jesus…his mother. It comes forth as she is visiting with Elizabeth, and It is, at least at the beginning, a song of praise and thanksgiving for the little miracle that she has felt squirming in her belly. Those first signs of life stir almost every expectant mother…and fathers too….to a moment of awe that this is really happening. Mary sings about the blessing of the life that is taking shape within her and about the sacredness of it all. If she had stopped there we could be satisfied with a young teen-age mother -to-be singing a lullaby to her unborn baby.
But She isn’t just singing a lullaby. She’s singing about the changes that need to happen for the world, to come into alignment with God’s vision. On the lips of Mary, is a song, about how when God comes into our midst it is to upset the status quo and establish a new paradigm. In other words, Mary is singing the song of a warrior mother, who is about to release a son into the battle of the ages.It is a song that gives us permission to once again hope for more than we have ever experienced.
Her song is called “The Magnificat” and it comes forth to present to the world, a God who cares….who is, even now, at work to bring justice to the oppressed, to fill the hungry, to topple tyrants and re-position the channels of power so that it works for everyone and not just a few. She sings of Emmanuel…who is re-aligning all things, so that a heavenly kingdom is now being brought into parallel with the earthly kingdoms. It’s about God with us in covenant relationship to build the future that He has promised.
Luke shares this song of Mary so that we might always remember that Christ came to lead us into a new and better way. To break us out of the same old same old and to bring us into His abundant life. The essence of the message is of a new order breaking into history, changing everything about the world, including ourselves.
Luke 1:46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, v47 And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. v48 For he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. v49 For he that is mighty has done unto me great things; and holy is his name. v50 And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. v51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. v52 He has put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted those of low degree. v53 He has filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he has sent away empty. v54 He has helped his servant Israel, for He has remembered his mercy; v55 which he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever”.
The popularity of the Irving Berlin’s song “White Christmas” had a lot to do with the fact that America had just gone to war. People found themselves in a confusing and unstable world - loved ones were shipped off to the battlefront, not knowing if they would ever see their families again. So this song had a powerful impact on American soldiers and their families. They dreamed of a white Christmas when they could come home again. And WHEN that “white Christmas” came, all would be merry and bright.
For centuries, the Jews had dreamed of their own type of “White Christmas”. It’s called the “Hatikvah” or “The Hope”.. For hundreds of years, they had been given promises that predicted the coming of a Messiah. And that messiah would bring salvation to His people, there would be forgiveness for their sins and light and peace to those who were receptive. The Jewish people were looking forward to a time when life would be merry and bright again.
This white Christmas is not about snow, but It is a message that with Christ, darkness cannot succeed, it is doomed to fail. God has come in flesh, to a people groping in the shadows of sin and the curse. His work is to make that dark, deep stain, white – as white as snow, to offer to everyone the white Christmas the world had been dreaming of for so long. Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become white like wool”.And through it all, the mission and the purpose was and is, to erase the stains from the garments of our souls and cloth us in the garments of righteousness. To allow the whole world to stand clean and pure before God through the whiteness of His holiness! Isaiah had prophesied that a “White Christmas” was coming and nothing would ever be the same again. This was at the heart of each of the original five songs which were sung at Christmas.
Jesus came to help people everywhere in every kind of situation…. To Change how you look at life….So we could refuse to live lives filled with bitterness, lust and selfishness…We could stop behaving like those whose hearts are darkened by fear, envy, greed and revenge.….and live lives that reflect the light and peace which He came to create in us.…
Now, there are people who believe that Jesus only came to be a great self-help Guru...But Zechariah says: “No! this may be the results, but the Messiah had another task.” He came to give salvation unto all people through the forgiveness of their sins. Everything else would be the out flow of that inner work!
The problem comes when we view salvation as a kind of a “do it yourself” thing. Read the books, watch the video, attend the meetings and just go out there and make it happen.
A little after midnight on Christmas eve, in 1988, a 19 year old woman driving through East Los Angeles apparently fell asleep behind the wheel of her car. Her car plunged through a guardrail of a bridge and was left dangling by its left front wheel over a 100 foot drop.For the next 2 ½ hours 25 rescuers and concerned bystanders worked feverishly to pull her to safety. One of the firemen at the scene commented that - in the midst of the rescue effort - “She kept saying: “I’ll do it myself, I can do it myself".
Lots of people are like that. They look at their sins like a balance sheet of some report. Their sins have plunged them over the edge of the bridge of life, and they think if they just try a little harder/ do a few more good works – their lives will be pulled back from the brink, and they’ll still somehow, get to heaven.
But you can’t be good enough to be good enough to please God. Heaven can’t be bought or earned by human effort… it’s a free gift from God.
It’s like the mischievous kids who put a wallet with money hanging out in the middle of the street, then hide in the bushes to yank it away, as soon as someone reaches out to take it….But folks can’t believe there are no strings attached to the gift that God offers. Friends we don’t serve because we want to earn His free gift, we serve, BECAUSE of the free gift! It doesn’t cost us anything, but it cost God everything!
If our greatest need in life was pleasure, then God would have sent an entertainer….. If our greatest need was money, then He would have sent a financial consultant…..If our greatest need was for information, He would have sent an educator….If our greatest need was for more stuff, He would have sent a wealthy benefactor, But God in His infinite wisdom knew that our greatest need was forgiveness - and so He sent a Savior.
And that Savior turned a lowly manger into a king sized bed….And He’s been doing it every since….He’s doing it still today. He exalts the lowly, He restores the fallen, He gives hope to the hopeless, He makes the impossible, possible, and He can do what no other power can do!
Music producer, John Mays shared an account of His honeymoon in the Bahamas….He says, “a man walked up to me and said, ‘Would you like to buy some cocaine? You can tell everyone how much you REALLY enjoyed the Bahamas.” After he said ‘No!’ and got over the shock of that man’s boldness, he wondered how Jesus would have responded if someone came up to him selling drugs. Later that day, he had another chance to share Jesus, in a most creative way. After he told me that he had the ‘good-stuff,’ I asked him, ‘What is this “good-stuff” you have?’ The man said ‘I’ve got Cocaine, man!’, John asked the man ‘Is that all you have? I’m disappointed! I was hoping you would have something better than that. You see, I’ve got the real thing! What I have is all natural, pure and very powerful. And it makes me feel great all day and all night. And get this, it may be illegal in some countries, but not in this one so you can’t even get arrested for having it!’The man asked what is this incredible stuff was…. John said, ‘I’m talking about having Jesus in your heart! It’s awesome what he will do for you when you get him inside of you! No drug in all the world can do, nothing is as good as having Jesus in you.’ The man got this real serious look on his face and said, ‘I think I want what you have. How do I get it?’ (I’m so glad you asked!)
1. You believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God. (John 20:31) 2. You accept that you are a sinner and that only Jesus can remove that sin. And you determine to “repent” or turn away from accepting sin as part of your life (Acts 3:19) 3. You confess Jesus is now your Lord. You make Him the Lord and master of your ENTIRE LIFE (Romans 10:9-10) 4. You allow yourself to be baptized in the waters of baptism as you identify with Christ’s death and resurrection (I Peter 3:21-22) and you find a support group who will agree to teach and disciple you in the Christian faith.
Most folks are scrambling at this time of year, because they’re concerned about giving the perfect gift. I have come to believe that in the natural realm, the best gift is a gift of yourself to someone, (your time, your assistance, your love and concern) but only God could give the perfect gift. And, that is just what He did when He sent Jesus into this world. He gave us His Son Jesus, the perfect gift and the greatest gift. He gave Jesus to be life for our dead souls and light to our darkened hearts. He gave all that He treasured most and all that He was, when He gave us His Son!
A couple of months before Christmas, the wife of a mail carrier was killed in a car accident. The husband was overcome with grief and was trying to work through his sorrow, and he had stayed late at his post office sorting through the mountain of mail that always comes through at Christmas time. His job that day was to go through the mail that had been lost and to find out where it should be re-routed. He came across a letter that was addressed to "Santa Claus" and he noticed that the address at the top of the letter was his own address. So, he opened the letter. Looking down at the bottom of the page he saw that it was his only daughter's signature, and he read: Dear Santa: My Mommy died two months ago and since then my Daddy has been crying himself to sleep every night. He says only eternity will heal him. Would you please send a little bit of eternity to my Dad this Christmas"?
Well the great news is that God has sent us a whole lot of eternity, when He sent us the darling of heaven and His very heart. Jesus is Emmanuel, God Himself, who has come to be with us and in us.
This word “consist” is “soon-is-tah'-ay-mee” (the glue of the galaxies).He not only made this universe, but He is the power that holds it all together on His terms, it is not some mystical cosmic force. Colossians 1:16 says “For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him v17 And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist”.
Think of it this way, man can't really make anything that runs perfectly. But, if you consider our great planet, then you know that it does not travel in a true circle; it travels in three directions at the same time. It revolves on its axis; it travels around the sun; and it's path is deflected by the gravitational pull of other planets. Still it does not lose more than one one hundredth of a second every one hundred years. We can only observe and say that God is in control.
Then we look at the building blocks of this universe, which is atoms. A substance so small that each atom is less than one hundred fifty millionth of an inch in diameter. If you could take the molecules of a single drop of water, and convert them into grains of sand, there would be enough sand to build a concrete highway half a mile wide and one foot thick all the way from New York to San Francisco. And, there are 120 drops of water in a single teaspoon! Combine that with the fact that one cell from your body contains 200 billion molecules of atoms. Whether you look at the universe with a telescope and see how big it is, or you look at this universe with an electron microscope and see how small it is. When you see the order, the symmetry, the harmony, the beauty of all that is, only a fool would fail to conclude that God did it, and that the God of the “soon-is-tah'-ay-mee” is surely in control or it would all crash and burn.It all declares that God is in control this Christmas!
I heard about a drunk man that was down on all fours late one night under a street light. He was groping around on the ground, feeling around in the grass, trying to find something. A drunk friend walked up to him and said, "Sam, what are doing you there?" He said, "Well, I've lost my wallet.” So this friend gets down on his hands and knees and they both start looking for this man's wallet. Neither one can find it, and finally the friend says to his drunk buddy: "Are you sure you lost the wallet here?" "Well no. In fact, I dropped it a half a block back over there." "Well then why are we looking here?" "Because there's no street light over there."
John 8:12 Then Jesus said unto them, “I am the light of the world: he that follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”.
A white Christmas is a right Christmas, and that means, putting Jesus at the center of everything you do! He is the light for every season. It may look like the social, political, economic and world is spinning out of control, but it isn’t. It is all in the hands of the one who made it and all things are working toward the purpose for which He designed them!The amazing, marvelous and wonderful mystery is that he One Who made it all and controls it all was born into this world 2,000 years ago as a helpless infant. He lived here in poverty and rejection only to die a horrible death on a cross. He did all of this because He loves you and me.
I love the word “NOEL” which in the Latin is ‘Natus” or to be born. Put another way, it means God has a belly button. That scar identifies Him as the God of mankind. He Identifies with us! The power of Christmas has got to be more than a fat man in a red suit taking toys to all the good little children? It’s got to be more than a red-nosed reindeer or a magical snowman? It’s got to be more than elves, presents, huge meals and family get togethers!
Thank God, The power of Christmas is God in a manger, the foolishness of God which confounds the wise, the weakness that is greater than the mighty, the ways of God which are past finding out! And He will make a way for you! MAY YOU HAVE A WHITE CHRISTMAS!
On The Verge Of Christmas….(presented on Christmas Eve) Christmas is here, and we are already on our way to New Year’s Eve, and where has the time gone?
It was a romantic Christmas Eve moon, when Pedro says, "Hey, mamacita, let's do Weeweechu." Oh no, not now Pedro, let's look at the moon!" said Rosita. Oh, c'mon baby, let's you and I do Weeweechu. I love you and it's the perfect time," Pedro begged. "But I wanna just hold your hand and watch the moon." replied Rosita. Please, corazon, just once, do Weeweechu weeth me." Rosita looked at Pedro and said, "OK, one time, we'll do Weeweechu." Pedro grabbed his guitar all excited and they both sang....."Weeweechu a Merry Chreesmas, Weeweechu a Merry Chreesmas, Weeweechu a Merry Chreesmas, and a Happy New Year. Well, we’re on the verge of Chreesmas and weeweechu an awesome one!
One thing you become good at during the holiday season, is waiting. Mary and Joseph waited 9 months, Jesus had to remain in the womb until the time was fulfilled, the wise men searched and found Jesus when He was about two years old. (They really knew how to stretch out Christmas)
"Dietrich Bonhoeffer preached a sermon on 2 December 1928, titled “Christmas means learning how to wait.” He said, “Those who learn to wait may be restless and discontent in life, because they have seen a vision of greatness in the world of the future and are patiently expecting its fulfillment.They see what is, and look forward to something greater to come.We have pulled out from the Christmas story only the pleasant bits and pieces. But at the same time we know the unpredictability of such an awesome event in which the God of the universe, the Creator and Sustainer, draws near to this little planet and now speaks to us. The coming of God is not only a message of joy, but also challenging news for anyone who has chosen comfort and compromise.Without doubt, the people of Christ should rejoice that the Word has become flesh and dwelt among us, and that the Dayspring has visited us, “to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” But we must also be reminded that the birth of Jesus brings a difficult path for all who choose to follow.”
The Christmas story has a power all it’s own…..Only six months into World War I, the scale of slaughter was difficult to comprehend. Hundreds of thousands of German and British soldiers had already died (only a fraction of the nine million lives that would eventually be claimed by the war). Yet if you want an example of the power of Christmas, none would be more powerful than the scene in one corner of the Western Front on Christmas Day 1914, when the enemy soldiers climbed from the trenches and greeted each other on the open battlefield, making no attempt to treat one another as an enemy. The Germans offered cigars and in French they requested English fruit, jams and jellies. It was a spontaneous "Christmas truce," in which they played soccer, exchanged wine and photos, and sang carols in each other’s native languages. However, it didn’t last long and the killing began once again, by New Year’s Day. But it is clear that many lives were spared on that one special day!
Christmas Day was the turning point of the American Revolution, when General George Washington led his army across the Delaware River to Trenton, New Jersey, in blizzard conditions, catching the enemy troops totally by surprise. That evening, they captured 1,000 Hessian soldiers in a surprise attack that raised the morale of Washington's troops who were cold, tired and hungry, and turned the tide of the war.
On December 25, 1990, British computer scientist Timothy Berners-Lee introduced the World to the internet which got its first test run on Christmas Day. The internet was birthed on Christmas day. It was a special moment, indeed, when the planet’s first ever web server, sent out the first text to a nearby monitor, and global communication was up and running. Look how far we’ve come in only 27 years!
On the very edge of the first Christmas, there were events that began to connect together, to form an environment for the impossible to happen which would change the course of history. So it is now, that many small miracles occur in our lives every day and it’s sometimes difficult to identify them as significant moments, or we may totally overlook them all together. It seems that we live in a world where things move so quickly that it blocks our view of God's moving as He connects us with His miracles in our lives. But here on the verge of Christmas, we need to stop and just acknowledge that God is answering prayers and performing a multitude of little miracles right now at this moment, that will change the outcome of our lives..
Billy Graham said, “It seems that we are a world and a society that is always perched on the brink of something”…..
That was certainly true of the First Christmas…..The bible calls it “Redeeming the Time”…. It’s God’s way of working within the scope of ordinary every day events to transform them and connect them to a greater plan and outcome!
Christmas Day it’s self is a redeemed holiday…..around 320 A.D., that’s about 320 years after the birth of Christ, the Roman Emperor Constantine became a Christian. One of the first things he did as a Christian was declare Christianity as the state religion. Everybody in the empire was required to become a Christian. Of course, one of the things he struggled with, was what to do with all of these pagan holidays. But, he wasn’t stupid. He knew that if he took away all the holidays and festivals, he would not be emperor for very long. So he did what some of us do. For example, some people don’t like to observe Halloween by dressing up their kids as ghosts and goblins, and so rather than cancel it altogether, they have Harvest Festival’s, October Fests, or Hallelujah parties for their kids where they dress up as Bible characters, cartoon characters or super heroes, and talk about the Lord, but still get the candy and the fun.
So that is what Constantine did with Saturnalia, which was the winter solstice holiday. He turned it into a time to remember Christ’s birth. He called it “Christ’s Mass”, or Christmas. He had all the symbols of Saturnalia redeemed and gave them Christian meaning. He took the Solstice evergreen tree and made it stand for eternal life in Christ, and the Lights on the tree represented Jesus, the light of the world. The holly, with the little thorns speak of the thorns on his brow, and the red beads symbolized the blood of Jesus, and so on with all of the symbols and traditions.
That’s our mission….to give new meaning to old patterns, and redeem them with a new message that glorifies God and presents the messiah!
On the verge of the first Christmas I see Joseph, struggling with the news that the woman He’s engaged to, is pregnant, even though they had not been together in that way. I see his struggle as the angel appears and tells him the answer to the mystery. I see his concern with information that was not understandable in the natural sense and still He obeys, in spite of his personal anguish, pain and confusion. With all the backstreet gossip and the malicious slander that he must have been aware was swirling around him, he chose to put God first and move forward.
Joseph shows us that you can obey God, in spite of all the painful and difficult circumstances and situations we find ourselves in. And that’s all the Father requires. When Joseph received God’s word, he burned his bridges and set out to do what God asked of him, and never looked back.
On the verge of Christmas, what if a young couple in our day, had just began to settle down and prepare for a new arrival, when suddenly, some government bureaucrat said every head of a household in the United States had to go back to their home of birth, to register for a special tax. So they get in the old model car and drive across country, and when they get to the man’s hometown, all of the motel rooms, hotel rooms and bed and breakfasts are full, and the only place they can stay is in a garage. He takes his wife, who is very pregnant, and in the garage the baby is born, and they lay the baby on a rough, crude workbench.
When the young man wonders what else could happen to me? A group of street people come in banging on the garage door and saying, "Let us in," and these street people fall down on their knees and say, "Glory to God in the highest. We've come to worship this baby."Then, three stretch limousines pull up and ambassadors to the United Nations get out and bring gold and silver and diamonds, and lay them at the baby's feet. Then the governor of the state calls up the National Guard to kill all the babies in that town, and he has another dream and God tells him "You better get out of there and go to South America in a hurry." Can you imagine? (perhaps in light of that, your mess isn’t so messy after all)!
Christmas is located somewhere between darkness and light, between hopelessness and hope, between sickness and wholeness, between the end of one thing and the beginning of another, between the impossible and all things are possible!
Wow, on the verge of Christmas, things will happen that you can’t get your head around, but keep listening to the voice of the originator, the creator and designer, and you will find that what seems like chaos and confusion, is really just a miracle being born!
We now know that Jesus was born around September the 29th, but we celebrate on Dec. 25th because that’s what redemption does…. I asked a friend, who was celebrating their birthday, if this was their biological birthday or their new birth, birthday…. When they were born physically or when they were born again. Why don’t we celebrate our redeemed birthday, when we received our new birth, as much as we celebrate the biological birthday? One will perish, but the new birth will last forever!
The Jesus we celebrate is a redeemer. That’s what He does. He takes things that are full of evil and wickedness and transforms them into things that give glory and honor to God. That’s what He’s doing right now on the verge of Christmas Day, 2016! I believe that Mary conceived on December 25th which is Hanukah, or the Jewish festival of lights. “For they that dwell in darkness have seen a great light”. Nine months later, she gave birth around September 29th to the Light of the world!
Here on the verge of Christmas, perhaps you have felt like you are stuck in the darkness? Or you have felt fearful about the future, perhaps you were depressed about your life’s circumstances? Maybe you were worried about a loved one and confused about the why of it all? God wants to allow you to give birth to His light in that situation and bring forth the power of His Redemption, to cause that situation to give Him glory and honor!
Lovingly, deliberately, The creator of everything, somewhere in the timeless past, wrote a name, and as He writes, He is already feeling and experiencing the pain. "JESUS", the name that transcends time and eternity. The name which stands at the crossroads in the life of every Adam. For at that crossroad, which each must choose, is the path for their eternity, for it was love that gave us Emmanuel, God with us, in the form of Jesus. The Author would write Himself into his own story as His pin dripped with love. The Word would become flesh. He, too, would be born. He, too, would be human. His first scar to bear would be the birth scar. He, too, would have feet and hands of flesh. He, too, would have tears and trials and blood. And most importantly, He, would have a choice. Emmanuel would be born at the crossroads of life and death, blessing and curse, the old and the new.
The Author knows well the weight of that decision. He pauses as He writes the page of his own pain and testing. He could stop. Certainly, the Creator has a choice. But how can a Creator not create? How can a Writer not write? And how can Lover not love? So, He chooses life, even though it also means that He has chosen death. With His understanding of the scope of history, the Author of Life completes the story. He drives the spike in the flesh and rolls the stone over the grave. For the choice He will make, has already been made from the beginning, and He takes His writer’s pen and then He adds to the story of history, the story of humanity and the story of eternity…...“Let there be light!”
I was thinking about the Christmas parade in Key West and the floats that were throwing candy to the crowd, along the route. How the children would rush in behind the float and grab up the candy. But I noticed a little boy across from us, that was getting crowded out by the other kids, who were quicker than him and he was getting no candy. I could tell by his face that he was getting upset, and frustrated. At that point I had grabbed a lot of candy myself and when the next float that came by, I waited till the other kids had grabbed it all up, and as they turned to go back, I threw a handful at the feet of the little boy who was still looking, hoping some had been left. He grabbed it up and looked around to see where it came from. I waved and for the next several floats I did the same thing.
I thought how much that is like our Lord, when we don’t seem to get a fair shake, or others are getting blessed and it seems we’re getting left out….He makes sure He drops some blessings close enough that we can’t miss it, and it is in those times that we know He had us on His mind. I can see Him waving now, letting us know to get ready, because it’s about to drop and it will be in a way that we can’t miss it!
The lover of your soul, is on the verge of sending His gifts your way, because He’s a giver and He can’t help Himself. That’s what givers do. He’s a lover and He can’t help but love you…He’s a redeemer and that’s what redeemers do!
I want to give everyone a Christmas ornament today.
When you go out and get a Christmas tree, you set it up and you immediately set about decorating it and putting some glitter and bling, bling on it. Otherwise it would just be a fir tree in your house. It wouldn’t look like much if you didn’t transform it into a Christmas tree. That’s what I want this Christmas ornament to remind us all of. That each of us has been given the power to decorate the situations and circumstances of life and transform them by the power of redemption….It’s the gift you give yourself that everyone else enjoys and benefits from also. That’s what He told us to do isn’t it? Redeem the times for the days are evil….
Ephesians 5:15 “See then that you exercise self-discipline, and be wise. v16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. v17 Do not be unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is”. Christmas proclaims that everything is subject to transformation, as we allow God to show us a higher and better way. No matter how it is, it doesn’t have to stay that way.
And what better scripture to wrap this up and put a ribbon on it, but… Isaiah 9:2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them has the light shined. v3….they joy before You according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. v4 For you have broken the yoke of their burden, and the rod off of their shoulder, even the rod of their oppressor… v6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. v7 Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from this time forth, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this”!
In the space race of the 60’s, A Russian Cosmonaut went up into space and said… ”I see no God up here”… But an American astronaut went up into space and the American said …“I see God everywhere”… The difference was not the place or situation they were in, but it was the eyes of the beholder, that had changed.
On a cold winter day, during the holiday season, a little boy about six or seven was in front of a store window shivering in the cold. He had no shoes on his feet and his clothes were not much help from the cold. A young woman passing by saw the little boy and she reached down and took him by the hand and led him into the store. There she bought him new shoes and a complete set of warm clothing. They came back outside into the street and the woman said to the child, "Now you can go home and have a very happy holiday." The little boy looked up at her and asked, "are you God’s wife, Ma'am?" She smiled down at him and replied, "No son, I'm just one of His children." The little boy said, "I knew you had to be related to Him somehow."
John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God. v2 The same was in the beginning with God. v3 All things were made by Him and without Him was not anything made that was made. v4 In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. v5 The light shines in darkness; and the darkness comprehends it not”.
The first chapter of John’s gospel says more than our minds can take in. There are a lot of ideas in this first chapter… too many for our minds to explore it’s depths without some extensive study and digging. At least, too many for one sermon such as this. But our focus today is, how John emphasizes that we can SEE God.
John lays it out plainly. “No one has ever seen God.” But he says it is the Son…who has made Him known. That’s Jesus, the person the gospel is all about. When you look at those first verses, of John, the theme of being able to see, is paramount to discovering it’s truth. John tells us that he was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’
Two of the disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day.
John uses a couple of different words for seeing, and he uses these “seeing” words more often than any writer in the New Testament. In these few verses alone, look how many times he uses the idea of seeing! The gospel writer clearly says, “No one has ever seen God.” And then still in the opening part of this story, he tells how Jesus is walking by. Jesus, the Son of God. Will anyone notice him? And we read that John the Baptist sees Jesus. Now there were a lot of people who might have seen Jesus…seen what color hair he had, or how tall he was.
But it was only John who really SEES him. John had a revelation from God that this Jesus was the Lamb of God. He saw with his eyes, but more importantly, he saw with his heart…he understood who Jesus was. Often in the gospel, the use of the word “see” has this double meaning. It’s the same in English. I see something, but then suddenly, it’s as though a curtain opens and I really, truly SEE!!!! I suddenly comprehend a deeper meaning to what my eyes had been viewing. I see and then, I SEE!….. And the writer of this gospel is playing with that double meaning. He watches Jesus, and says, “Here is the Lamb of God.” It was because John saw God, that it moved two of his disciples to start following Jesus.
Being a disciple means you believe in someone, it means you live with them, you travel with them, you stick with them through thick and thin. Now Jesus saw a lot of people, there were crowds of people. But Jesus SEES them … he knows them, not as casual passers-by, but as people who are interested in truly following HIM.
And then he asks them a question, “What are you looking for?” These are the first recorded words of Jesus in John’s gospel. The first words of “God made flesh”, the first words out of His mouth in this gospel are “What are you looking for?”
You would think they might answer, “We are looking for the Lamb of God, the Son of God, the hope of Israel. Is that what you are?” It is true that later the next day, Andrew, excitedly goes to his brother Peter and says, “We have found the Messiah.”
But John’s gospel says their first question on this occasion, is “Where are you staying?” or “What is Your address?”,
You can imagine Jesus answering with a little smile on His face as He hears this question.. He doesn’t give them a ten point summary of why he is the Messiah, or what it means to be God, dwelling among men. He doesn’t in fact give them any answer. Instead he tells them to “come and see”, to find the answer for themselves.
And yes, they will see with their eyes the house where Jesus is staying, but they will see much more as the Holy Spirit opens their inner eye….and by the very next day, Andrew is beginning to see the bigger picture, and he is filled with a new dimension of good news excitement.
.He runs to see his brothers, and declares… “I have found the Messiah!” Jesus, the Son of God has come to dwell among mankind in human form!! Andrew thinks he has his answer, on the second day after meeting the Son of God. But it is three years later, as they have followed Jesus, as they have seen Him in the garden and seen Him cruely crucified on the cross and seen Him laid in a tomb, that they realize the depth of what it meant for Jesus to fully become one of us.
What are we looking for? We can become so focused on one tree that we miss the forest. Because what we are looking for, will determine what we see.
If you find yourself stuck in traffic; Don't despair. There are people in this world who have never had the privilege of driving.
If you have a bad day at work; Think of the person who has been out of work for years.
If you are overwhelmed by a relationship gone bad; Think of the person who has never known what it's like to be loved because they lived as slaves.
If you’re upset about all you have to put up with in life, think of those in third world countries who would give anything to trade places with you.
If your car breaks down, leaving you miles away from assistance, Think of the paraplegic who would love the opportunity to take that walk for help.
If you notice a new gray hair or that your hair is thinning in the mirror; Think of the cancer patient in chemo who wishes she had any hair at all to examine.
If you find yourself feeling your life is a waste, and you’re asking what is my purpose? Be thankful. There are those who didn't live long enough to get the opportunity.
If you ever find yourself as the victim of other people's bitterness, ignorance, smallness or bigotry, remember, things could be worse. You could be them!!!!
We as humans live in the valley of the shadow of death and Jesus chose to come from the realms of eternity, to walk in that valley too. Come and see. Come and see the miracle at the consummation of the gospels, which is that glorious realization of the power of God over death. The disciples saw the empty tomb, but it is only when they physically saw Jesus’ body again, that they truly SEE the empty tomb in the larger context and what that means for all of us, for all time.
Hear Jesus’ question to us all today, “What you are you looking for?” What is it that you think you want to see, because it is only the smallest part of the bigger thing which you will come to know, as you follow Messiah. It is a dimension of life that supersedes the valley of death. It is so dynamic that this life is transformed by it, the grave cannot hold it and death cannot stop it…Hallelujah!
The principle is, that you will only see what you are paying attention to. Important things can happen, and you won’t notice them if you are not looking for them. Jesus’ question, “What are you looking for?” is really important. It’s central. Because we must retrain ourselves to look for the right things, and not make lesser, and unimportant things the object of our focus.
God knows how to fit all the pieces of our puzzle together. What are we looking for? Is the job, just about getting a paycheck, or are we there to focus on more eternal things? Are we so busy providing for our family, that we fail to provide for our family the things that really matter?
Am I so caught up with my problems and challenges, that I fail to be sensitive to those around me, who are looking and searching in their own lives? Check, check, check. How many situations and circumstances were not what we expected, and how many places were not where we would rather be? But in those places and in our many circumstances God has plans which we see in part and yet it is only a part of that which make up the bigger plan.
The danger is that we will make what we see and feel, greater than what we don’t see in the moment. To know, that God is working among every terribly broken situation, and through every crisis. He made the puzzle and He certainly knows how to put it together!
As you go through it on your knees, and you need God to show up so badly, just know that He is there, all the time. He was showing you where He lived, and that His address was right here, among us. “Jesus was standing in the midst, in His risen power, and it should have been a time of worship, and a hallowed, sacred time, but because we were looking at the wrong things, we missed it when it walked right in front of us!
Week after week, month after month, people are standing on Holy ground, and lives are being changed, shaped, expanded, and re-directed by the faithfulness of God, and His witnesses in the dark, broken, hard and economically-depressed places. What is important is what we are looking for, because that is what we will see.
A group of children were told to write a letter to God… here are some of them…
Eugene wrote…. “Dear God, I never thought orange went with purple until I saw the sunset you made on Tuesday. That was really cool”!
Allison wrote… “Dear God, I read the Bible. So, what does "begat" mean? Nobody will tell me”.
Anita wrote…. “Dear God, Is it true that my father won't get in Heaven if he uses his football game words in the house”?
Norma wrote…. “Dear God, Did you mean for the giraffe to look like that or did you get distracted like I do sometimes”?
Cindy wrote….. “Dear God, Instead of letting people die and having to make new ones, why don't You just keep the ones You already made?”
Brad wrote…. “Dear God, I’ll bet it is very hard for You to love everybody in the whole world. There are only 4 people in our family and I can never do it.
Joyce wrote…. “Dear God, Thank You for the baby brother, but if you’ll check, what I prayed for was a puppy”.
Satan wants to get us distracted so we miss what’s really happening. And when we miss the strategic play, he wants to make us miss the blessing. It’s easy to get distracted….and allow less important things to cause you to go down a detour.
It’s sometimes like finding Waldo….WHERE’S WALDO!!! Life is filled with distractions, but when our quest and our priority is to look for Jesus, to find Him wherever we go and whatever the situation, then we will begin to see Him all over the place. Jesus said “You will find me when you search for me with all your heart”. If I’m looking for other things, which may be fun things, feel good things, comforting things, or even important things that I really treasure, well, guess what, I might just miss the pearl of great price that is right under my nose. We can get caught up in looking for a nicer home, or a bigger bank account, or better job, and those things are not bad, but if we spend our time looking only for that, we can easily miss things that are WAAAAY more important!
Three men are traveling on a cruise ship, when they are approached by the Devil in an area where the sea is 1500 feet deep. The Devil proposes that if each man drops something into the sea and he can find it, he will own that man’s soul. If the Devil doesn’t find it, that man is off limits forever. The first man drops a pure, clear diamond, and immediately Satan finds it. The second man drops an expensive watch, and the Devil, finds it with no problem. The other man is praying for wisdom, when Jesus walks by and whispers something in his ear. The third man begins to loudly sing “It is well with my soul”, fills a bottle with water and pours it into the sea yelling, Try finding that!" -
So, what are we looking for right now at this place in our lives? John says “The word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth”. But truth be known, we can’t really know what that’s going to look like. They missed him in his day because He didn’t come like they thought He aught to come, He didn’t look like they thought He aught to look, He didn’t act like they thought He aught to act.
It would be great to be able to report to you that every situation will be dramatically turned around, the way we want it to be. That everyone will be thriving, successful and prosperous the way we want to see it! Are are looking to see the power of God working right in the middle of the messes we find ourselves in? To work through us in this city and this world. Jesus is working in our hearts, changing our families, by changing us, to see where He is, right in the midst of where we are. But that doesn’t always happen on our time frame, and it doesn’t always happen the way we want…
That’s because we are the clay, not the potter…and the clay must submit to the potter’s plan, and shape and design while his hand is on it. Oh, that we might know, how powerful and active our Lord is in all of our places, and that the kingdom of God is not dependent on any of it, but is ruling over it all. To see that the kingdom of God is dependent upon God, thank God for that, and not our own efforts.!
What are we looking for? I want my life to be a certain way, I want a certain amount of security, I want a certain kind of church, with certain amounts of friends and certain this and certain that. I want good health and safety for all I love. That’s what I’m looking for, and I try my very best to make sure I can find that. But instead, what we find, is that when life falls apart, when all the pieces break apart, when I can’t hold them together, when all we are looking for, disintegrates, it is precisely there….that Jesus is living, in the middle of the brokenness. And it is there that we need the potter’s hands to come rest upon us…..
We must keep our eyes peeled to see that Jesus is working in ways that our minds cannot take in. To see Jesus… in the doctor’s office where we get the bad news. Jesus with us when we get the (middle of the night) phone call saying there’s been an accident. Jesus in the funeral home. Jesus at divorce court. Jesus became flesh and dwelling right here among us. If we are looking for Jesus, we will always find Him. There is no power on earth or in the spiritual realms that can stop Jesus from dwelling with us, in every aspect of our lives together. Jesus enters into our lives, and He begins to change our destiny. What will that look like in our future? Come and see, that’s the invitation, Come and SEE, and you will know where I live!!!!
1 Samuel 17:29 we find a statement which is formed as a question from the lips of David. As David is processing in his own mind and to his brothers, why someone should take the risk of going against Goliath, when the entire army of Israel was cowering from the verbal assaults of this giant, he looked at something bigger than Goliath and said, “Is there not a cause?” That’s why we’re here today. It’s why we’re seeking to move forward in faith: “Is there not a cause?”
If you’ve met some giants lately, you know that they make you feel small and weak. They can scare you. They definitely will intimidate you. Giants continually keep the people of God from seeing God, so they miss His will and best. They either limit them, hinder them, or totally prevent them. Your special bulletin of the day is…..(There will always be giants), either personally or corporately as believers, whoever attempts anything for God. So we have a choice. We can live by fear because “there are giants” or we can live by faith and declare (Is there not a cause)?
David viewing things from God’s perspective, says (“Who is this uncircumcised Philistine?”). Saul had confidence in his armor, as long as David was the guy wearing it, but David had confidence in his God. Saul was concerned about his own image but David was concerned with the honor of God .
From David the giant killer we learn how to take on the giants in life. To fell the giants of life, we need a spiritual perspective. Goliath challenged Israel to a representative battle—their champion against him. The loser’s people would become the slaves of the winner’s people. It’s still true today, it’s never just about us….it’s about the people we love and those we have influence with.
David has a spiritual perspective! Saul and the armies of Israel were afraid because they saw it as a conflict of their puny muscle against Goliath’s mighty muscle, their little weapons against Goliath’s impressive weapons, their experience in warfare against Goliath’s experience. David had a biblical, spiritual perspective on the problem.
If you want to slay a Goliath, you must begin by seeing it as God sees it and know that God is in it with you.. It’s the starting point for victory. Notice two things about David’s faith, the kind of faith we need…We need a faith rooted in personal experience. This wasn’t David’s first outing in the school of faith. Though a teenager, he’d proved God in his own experience. He had seen that God was working through him, in every challenge and every test.
David’s faith was in the Lord, and he also had no illusions about what was really going on here… and while he was no match for Goliath, when that giant took on God, he got in over his head. Do you really believe that your God is greater than the thing you’re facing, and that He knows the best outcome possible for yourself and everyone involved? When God is in His rightful place, all the giants which we face in life will shrink down to their proper size.
Peter understood this when he said, in 1Peter 1:7 “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ”.
Throughout the pages of Scripture, whether it’s David taking on Goliath or Abraham leaving everything to follow God, Noah building the ark, when the whole world is against him, Moses leading the Israelites across the desert, Nehemiah building the walls of Jerusalem, or the disciples leaving everything behind as they follow Jesus, the story of the people of God is consistently one of facing difficult choices, between the risk and trust, between fear or faith.
A giant is any situation in our path which blocks the way and keeps us from walking with the Lord in the way He wants us to go. It can be a person who opposes us or it might be a combination of circumstances which when taken together block us from doing what God wants done.
For most of us, the greatest giants are the ones we face on the inside, not the outside. Usually those inner giants defeat us much faster than any giant we face on the outside. It’s in the mind where the battle must be fought and won. In that sense, many of us face a giant right now. It may be an impossible situation at work or home. It may be a financial difficulty or a broken relationship. It may be a task before you that you know you can’t handle. It may be a dream that seems unreachable. Giants want to fill up our vision, until we can see nothing else but the problem, or the challenge before us.
Giants come into our lives to turn a novice Christian, into a veteran believer. As long as we run when the giant rears his ugly head, we’ll have to face him tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. He won’t go away until we stand up and fight him. Goliath never leaves on his own. The bible says that Goliath came back twice a day for 40 days until David finally went down to face him in the valley.
Your giants are the same way. They’ll never leave on their own. Until you stand and fight in Jesus’ name, until then, they win every time. David needed Goliath. He didn’t realize it, of course. In the same way we need giants because we’ll never become all that God wants us to be without them. Though today you are praying to be delivered from them, God intends to use the struggle you face to take you from Abram (father) to Abraham (father of nations0… from Jacob (the deceiver) to Israel (Prince of God)…from David the shepherd, to David the King!
A minister once carried a secret burden of past sin deep in his heart. It was the personal giant he had battled for years. At a low time in his life, he had committed a sin during his Bible school training that he had never told anyone. Even though he had repented, he still suffered remorse over the incident without any sense of having God's forgiveness about it. There was a woman in his church who claimed to have visions in which Jesus Christ spoke to her. The minister, was skeptical of her claims, and he asked her, "The next time you speak to the Lord, would you please ask Him what did your pastor do while he was in Bible school that still plagues him to this day." The woman kindly agreed, and the next Sunday, the minister asked, "Did the Lord visit you?" She said, "Yes." "And did you ask Him about the thing I struggle with?" "Yes, I asked Him," she replied. "Well, what did He say?"…."He said, 'I don't remember.”
John 1:29 “The next day he saw Jesus coming towards him and declared, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”!
Everyone else saw the carpenter, Mary’s son, the Nazarene. But John saw Him for who He truly was. As we move through our days, and face our giants, may we see Him, in the midst of it all, moving and working to glorify God in our lives, making sense of what doesn’t make sense, turning our upside world, right side up again, giving us peace in our turmoil, and then make that place, a special place of worship!!!