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Sermon of the Week 
Sunday, December 25 2016

                                                                                                      

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!

Posted by: AT 07:35 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
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