Sermon Options: December 18, 2016

November 7th, 2016

CHRISTMAS IS...

Isaiah 7:10-16

During a past Christmas season a five-year-old boy was playing with our son and stayed at our house for lunch. As I served their meal I noticed our visitor's good manners, and I complimented him on them. His response was classic: "I'm being polite so that I can get what I want for Christmas." At least he was honest.

If we were as honest as my son's young friend, some of us would have to say, "For me, Christmas is getting what I want." Surely in our better moments Christmas means much more to us than that.

I. Christmas Is a Sign
God's sign to King Ahaz was the birth of a child. The birth of Jesus is also a sign to us. It signifies God's love, mercy, power, and grace. Sometimes it takes a sign to convince us of these realities, just as it did for Ahaz. For the main character in the movie It's a Wonderful Life, it took an angel to convince him of his worth. For Dickens's Scrooge it took a vivid nightmare. For the characters on the "Peanuts" Christmas special, it took Linus's recitation of the story of Jesus' birth.

When our oldest son was about four, we went through a stage of stretching out our arms as far as we could and saying, "I love you this much!" Once when we were in the car, our son made that gesture and said those words—first to my wife and then to me. My wife responded by doing the same thing. Then my son expected me to do it also. I explained to him that I was driving and that it would not be safe. "And besides," I added, "I could never stretch out my arms far enough to show you how much I love you." I was sure that would satisfy him, but in a few minutes he said, "Daddy, when we get out of the car, you can stretch your arms out to show me how much you love me." Sometimes we feel the need for a sign.

II. Christmas Is Grace
Ahaz had not been listening to God or to his prophet. He had not been a righteous king. This king was too busy with affairs of state to pay attention to spiritual things. He thought that problems such as the threat of invasion should be taken care of by practical means. To merely trust God, as Isaiah suggested, would be naive. It is proof of the grace of God that he continued to try to communicate with this errant king.

We, too, have gone astray (Isa. 53:6). We have disobeyed and rebelled. It is evidence of the grace of God that he would continue to seek us by sending his Son.

III. Christmas Is a Miracle
Jesus was born by impossible means—by a woman who was still a virgin. It was a miracle. In fact, Christmas is packed full of miracles—the angelic host, the guiding star, the escape from Herod, and more.

Perhaps the greatest miracle was that the little infant was God making himself known. During World War II a little boy kept a picture of his soldier father on his desk at school. The father had been at war for a long time. The boy's teacher asked him what he wanted for Christmas. He said that for Christmas he wanted his father to walk out of that picture. On the night Jesus was born, God walked out of eternity and into time; he has manifested himself through this sign-child. (N. Allen Moseley)

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON

Romans 1:1-7

Many people have been told they look just like their father. Family characteristics run deep. This is true of Christ, too. When it comes to his relation to God, we might quote the old proverb "Like Father like Son." On this Christmas Eve, let us hear the Word of God from Romans 1 and learn about God by getting to know his son.

I. The Promise
The gospel was promised long before it was delivered. The prophets were "seers" who knew something was coming long before it arrived. By the time Jesus was born, though, interest in the promised Messiah seemed low.

"Due to the lack of interest, Christmas has been canceled!" That statement was seen on a bumper sticker. We laugh at such a thought. Christmas may be many things, but a season of little interest it is not. Some companies spend eleven months gearing up for the one-month sale at Christmas time. Many other businesses make at least half of their profits from Christmas sales. They are very interested in this season! Take stock of your own attitude. How are you feeling right now? Exhilarated? Bored? Excited? Depressed? Angry? Joyous? What is Christmas supposed to be? It was a promised event then and a promised blessing now.

II. The Fulfillment
What do you associate with Christmas? Gifts? Family and friends getting together? What about the special foods, like roast turkey and eggnog? In the flurry of activity around the holidays, we should keep this one fact in mind: Jesus did not come into the world to give us a Christmas holiday. He did not enter human history to give us a cause for celebration. So why did he come? Verse 4 gives us the answer. It speaks of Christ's resurrection from the dead. The promised Savior came, was crucified, and was raised from the grave. That affects our destiny. The Gospels tell us that Mary bore a son and that she gave him the name Jesus "for it is he who will save his people from their sins."

III. The Blessing
"Mary Had a Little Lamb" is the title of a nursery song many of us sang as children. It is also a biblical reality. Mary's son Jesus grew up to be what God had intended him to be—the Savior of the world. John the Baptist said of him, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"

That gives us a tremendous blessing, one that is sketched in verse 7. We receive grace and peace from God. That is what we see when we look into the life of Jesus. He is the giver of blessings. Like Father, like Son. (Don M. Aycock)

THE MAN AT THE MANGER

Matthew 1:18-25

In the many elements that compose the Christmas story, the one we are most likely to overlook is Joseph. Certainly Mary and her special child are at the center of the story, and we love to recall the shepherds in the fields and the wise men bearing gifts. Look at the average nativity scene; Joseph is that guy standing in the back of the scene, looking on while everyone else gathers around the manger.

Yet Matthew reminds us here that Joseph was a central and essential character in the Christmas drama. The depth of character shown by Joseph serves as a model for each one of us during this time of celebration.

I. Joseph Was Righteous Before God
Matthew tells us that Joseph was a "righteous man" (v. 19), but I can't help thinking that was an understatement. God selected a special man to serve as the human father and model for Jesus, a man who would demonstrate integrity, honor, and virtue as the boy Jesus grew into a man.

The events described in this text offer one bit of evidence of the kind of man Joseph was. What a bitter blow it must have been to discover that young Mary, who was promised to him in marriage, was bearing a child. Can you imagine the thoughts and suspicions that would have gone through your mind in his situation? How would you have responded, especially in that culture, when you could certainly have exacted a dramatic measure of punishment for what you thought was a betrayal?

Yet Joseph's concern was for protecting Mary from public ridicule and punishment. Even at a moment in his life when he must have felt deeply hurt, he was anxious to protect the one he thought had hurt him. That is a depth of character not often found in his or any other day.

God could use Joseph because he had a compassionate heart and was a man of honor. Do we seek to demonstrate the kind of character in our lives that will enable God to more effectively use us?

II. Joseph Was Responsive to God
Imagine having the kind of dream Joseph had that night, and learning that the basis for his predicament was actually the work of God, and that the child your future wife is bearing is the Messiah, the "anointed one" of God. Yet Joseph's response was a simple one: "When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord commanded him" (v. 24).

God isn't looking for the best and the brightest, the most handsome or beautiful, the most polished or popular. God is looking for men and women who will be responsive to his will; people who are willing to hear and obey. Look at the stories of those men and women who were used by God—people like Abraham and David and others like them; their common characteristic is a responsiveness to God. They were willing to do what God told them to do.

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