Archive | December 2011

Sermon From Christmas Morning

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A BABY CHANGES EVERYTHING

Matthew 2:1-11

1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, wise men from the east arrived unexpectedly in Jerusalem,
2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”
3 When King Herod heard this, he was deeply disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.
4 So he assembled all the chief priests and scribes of the people and asked them where the Messiah would be born.
5 “In Bethlehem of Judea,” they told him, “because this is what was written by the prophet:
6 And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah: because out of you will come a leader who will shepherd My people Israel.”
7 Then Herod secretly summoned the wise men and asked them the exact time the star appeared.
8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you find Him, report back to me so that I too can go and worship Him.”
9 After hearing the king, they went on their way. And there it was—the star they had seen in the east! It led them until it came and stopped above the place where the child was.
10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed beyond measure.
11 Entering the house, they saw the child with Mary His mother, and falling to their knees, they worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Introduction:

Ole’ Ebeneezer Scrooge didn’t know what he was in for as he headed home from the counting house that fateful Christmas eve…His whole life was about to change in a dramatic way.  In much the same way as the coming of those specters changed Scrooge’s life, the coming of the Christ Child should transform our lives and leave us eternally different.

The entrance of the Christ child stirs us to our deepest point. Our response is our decision. No miracles yet performed…no parables have been told…just the sounds of infancy in the manger…yet He has already impacted the world…already His birth is stirring things.

For us—Even 2,000 Years Later—When Jesus is first born in our heart:

  • Things are stirred—Our nature is shaken
  • Changes begin to occur
  • A revolution begins within us and things will never be the same
  • O, how great a blaze began with that tiny infant light!

TWO THINGS HAPPENED “WHEN JESUS WAS BORN”

THE FAR-OFF CAME NEAR – The Wise Men

  • They were Unlikely Men

Who would have expected these men to care about this tiny foreigners?  Astronomers, dignitaries, wealthy men, whoever they were is shrouded in mystery clouded by time.  In the nativity scene, accurately depicted or not, they are a strange addition next to the shepherds.  For me, as I consider these travelers, they demonstrated the reach of God in the world then and now.  No one is excluded or out of His reach.  He came for the Jews and the Gentiles. 

  • From and Unlikely Place

Persia?  We could understand if a delegation of Jewish leaders made their way to Bethlehem from Jerusalem.  It would make sense if Rome sent ambassadors to welcome the newborn king.  We can even wrap our mind around the possibility that neighboring Egypt or Syria might want to welcome this baby.  Persia, once among the worlds super powers, was now a place of waning influence and power.  But there was something significant in their history, perhaps dating way back to a prophet named Daniel that had kept them looking forward to this gift from heaven.

It’s stunning to consider that these Persians were from the land that today is known as Iran.  In that day these noble men sought the Salvation of the Jews (and all the earth).  Today the leader of Iran has proclaimed his intent to destroy the Jews and all who are allied with them.  Sad the distance they have fallen from these early centuries.

  • They were Uniquely Guided

The original GPS was this star in the heavens.  God had chosen to announce the birth of His Son by placing a new star in the sky.  Not many of us would look to our family and say, “There’s a new star up there, and I’ve decided that I’m going to take a trip and follow it wherever it leads.”  People would think we were crazy.  Perhaps there were those nay sayers in this day too that tried to talk the travelers out of going.  Regardless, they were determined and could not be deterred.

  • They were Urgently Seeking
    • Un-Prejudicially – The came to the nation of the Jews
    • Un-Hesitantly – They didn’t waste time on niceties or etiquette
    • Un-Reservedly – They made the decision and nothing stopped thme

For You: Today, if you find that you are far off from the Savior, He invites you to hasten to Him and come near to Him and find forgiveness of your sins and salvation for your soul.

THE NEAR BECAME FAR-OFF – The King

The Newborn TROUBLED Many Then

It’s interesting and saddening that the people who I think should have been most interested in the birth of the Messiah the Bible describes as “troubled” by the news of His birth.  Even more so that the news that troubled the king troubled the nation.  There’s much that could be said about Herod and his penchant for psychotic behavior, but I’m more interested in the parallel that this illustrates in our culture and climate today. 

The Newborn Troubles Many Now

Protests, calls for boycotts, lawsuits, petitions, and political correctness have become part of the modern Christmas pageant.  Oooops, I’m sorry, I meant “Holiday Pageant.”  (insert chuckle here)  I think some people on both sides tend to lean toward the extreme and even ridiculous in this “War Over Christmas.”  However, personal bias aside, I think that all this hoopla is evidence that people are troubled still today by news of His birth. 

The Newborn Interferes with Life as Usual

Here’s the thing that bugs me the most I think in this narrative.  The travelers came and the King and religious leaders gave them the information they sought.  The Messiah…the Christ…the King of Kings…would be born (and by default had been born) in Bethlehem.  So, they knew it had happened.  What did they do once they knew?  Nothing.  They sent these foreigners on to welcome their long awaited Savior, and they stayed at home.  Whether they were too lazy, too disconnected, or too apathetic isn’t clear; fact is they chose to stay home when they should have headed for…now, they should have run straight to Bethlehem.

Today, how many might think: I can’t become a Christian because I am enjoying my life too much.  Coming to the manger, to Jesus, might interfere with my plans and life as I like it.  How many are “hugging the serpent-sin to themselves” and stubbornly refusing to let it go and come near to the Savior?

How sad, that the Gospel can be Good News to some and Great Trouble to others

Closing Challenge:

So few sought Him that day! The Son of God… the Promised Messiah…the Savior… and no one would leave what they were doing and seek him!!

Let’s seek Him today.

Let’s not stop searching until He is found.

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Make it to the Manger

 

Notes from Sermon on December 11, 2011

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Joke: Mary and Joseph had to leave the stable because the ACLU ordered the Town of Bethlehem to tell them they couldn’t display a Nativity scene publicly.

What Does Christmas Mean to You?

The season of Christmas has come to mean stress, cost, commercialism, and seasonal sorrow mingled with holiday cheer. The further from the manger we move the more we find the significance and meaning of Christmas buried by the hustle and bustle of the holidays. We in the Christian family are not immune. My prayer for myself and for you is that together this Christmas season we will—like the shepherds and wise men of antiquity—make it to the manger, and find there what they found. Peace…Presence…and Purpose… Please join us on the journey.

My Post December 1st on Enhance the Romance (FB Group): Did you make it out early on “Black Friday?” Have you been taking advantage of the cyber-specials all week? Are closets and “secret places” filling up with bags and boxes? Have you made your list and checked it twice? This is at once a terrific and a terrible time of year. It is no wonder that increased stress leading up to Christmas and all the holiday festivities claims countless families each year as people move from celebrating with each other to snarling at each other. I urge you to work diligently at maintaining unity and love in your family and with your special someone this year. My encouragement is this–and I’ll be sharing more about this in other avenues coming up-together may all of you “MAKE IT TO THE MANGER” this Christmas, because that’s an incredible place of peace and purpose.

Why It Matters to Me

I have had the opportunity to do some really amazing things of late – once in a lifetime things.

· Steven Curtis Chapman story-time Concert

· Meet Dr. David Jeremiah – a preacher hero of mine

· Meet and get picture with President George W. Bush

· Go to a Monday Night Football game with the Patriots

-These were all REALLY COOL things that mean a lot to me

-None of them CHANGED MY LIFE

-Making my way to the Manger—meeting Jesus—that is LIFE CHANGING!

There are two stories of two groups who demonstrate for us the powerful change that can happen when we “Make it to the Manger.”

Luke 2:1-20 – The Shepherds

Matthew 2:1-12 – The Wise Men

MAKE IT TO THE MANGER TO FIND PEACE – The Shepherds

“Peace on earth…”
Israel had a History of Conflict and Conquerors for Centuries

o Babylonians

o Persians

o Greeks

o Romans

· I Wonder if we Have Conflict and Conquerors in our Lives Today

o Busy-ness – The Crush of the Rush

o Problems – Dysfunction and Destruction at home and in life

· Can Making it to the Manger Bring us Peace Today?

MAKE IT TO THE MANGER TO FIND PRESENCE – The Wise Men

Entering the house, they saw the child with Mary His mother, and falling to their knees, they worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (10)

· Their World had no shortage of Rulers

o Caesar Augustus – Emperor of Rome

o Quirinius – Governor of Syria

o Herod I – King of Israel

· The Wise Men Traveled a Long Way to Make it to the Manger

§ Ok – I know they probably didn’t actually get to the manger…

§ They did finally stop to ask for directions though.

o They found what they had long searched for – The King

§ Consider – These men came from Persia, what would today be known as modern Iran – oh how far that nation has fallen from where they once were.

· Entering into His Presence Brought a Response

o They Bowed

o They Worshipped

o They Gave

· What Impact does Making it to the Manger have in Your Life?

o Reverence?

o Worship?

o Generosity?

MAKE IT TO THE MANGER TO FIND PURPOSE – Shepherds, Wise Men, Us

· Having Made it to the Manger these two Groups Leave with Purpose

o Imagine encountering any of the shepherds on their way through town.

o Imagine bumping into the Magi caravan headed back to Persia

o What do you think was on the forefront of their conversation

· If We have Made it to the Manger—Life Changing

o Has it made a difference in how we

§ Talk? Walk?

· If You haven’t Made it to the Manger – Will you come to Christ Today?

o Find Peace

§ He Can Make a Difference

o Find Presence

§ He is Available to You

o Find Purpose

§ He has a plan—let Him Lead

Make it to the Manger

Did you make it out early on “Black Friday?” Have you been taking advantage of the cyber-specials all week? Are closets and “secret places” filling up with bags and boxes? Have you made your list and checked it twice? This is at once a terrific and a terrible time of year. It is no wonder that increased stress leading up to Christmas and all the holiday festivities claims countless families each year as people move from celebrating with each other to snarling at each other. I urge you to work diligently at maintaining unity and love in your family and with your special someone this year. My encouragement is this–and I’ll be sharing more about this in other avenues coming up-together may all of you “MAKE IT TO THE MANGER” this Christmas, because that’s an incredible place of peace and purpose in God’s presence.

More to come!