Sermon Options: December 11, 2022

August 1st, 2022


Isaiah 35:1-10

A little girl in our city lived in a government housing project. She watched the drug deals and gang violence from her second-story window. A church started an outreach ministry in her complex, and after she became acquainted with one of the workers, the girl confided to her how she felt. "Mrs. Jones, when I see everything that goes on around here, sometimes I just don't want to live anymore." She was ten years old when she said that, and already she was feeling hopelessness.

She is not the only one. Successful business people sitting in mahogany-paneled offices are hoping that there is something more to life than what they feel inside day after day. People who feel themselves trapped in dead-end marriages are hoping that perhaps tomorrow their spouse will be willing to make the changes that will make life bearable again. Such stories could be multiplied endlessly.

Isaiah prophesied during a time when Judah's future looked bleak. Yet, the first word in the Hebrew text of chapter 35 is "rejoice." We too live in a world that seems to be growing darker all the time, but because of what God accomplished at Christmas we can have hope.

I. Christmas Gives Hope Because the Glory of God is Revealed.
With picturesque and vivid imagery, Isaiah wrote of a time in the future when the glory of God would be revealed. When the angels proclaimed the birth of Jesus, they said, "Glory to God in the highest" ( Luke 2:14) . John wrote of Jesus, "We have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son" ( John 1:14 ; see 2:11). The glory of God is the manifestation of his character, and Jesus manifested what God is like. At Christmas, when we reflect on the character of God as revealed in Jesus, we are given hope. As Corrie ten Boom once said, "When we look at the world we are distressed, when we look in ourselves we are depressed, but when we look at God we are at rest."

II. Christmas Gives Hope Because the Compassion of God Is Expressed
Isaiah prophesied that in the last days miracles would be performed. How do we know that God cares for our infirmities? We need only look at the ministry of compassion in the life of Jesus. Our greatest infirmity is sin, and he came as the Savior to die for our sin. Since he cares for us so, we should cast all our anxiety on him (1 Pet. 5:7 ; Heb. 4:15-16).

III. Christmas Gives Hope Because the Purpose of God Is Made Possible
Isaiah wrote of salvation (v. 4), holiness (v. 8), and the redeemed (v. 9). Since the Garden of Eden, God's purpose has been to reconcile persons to himself, and each of these words describes aspects of that reconciliation process. The purpose of God, which Isaiah expressed, was made possible through Jesus (John 3:16) . Isaiah wrote of a highway in the wilderness—"the Holy Way" (v. 8). Jesus said that he is the Way (John 14:6) .

When we go God's way, we have hope for reconciliation with God and eternity in heaven. As Good-will said to Christian in Pilgrim's Progress, "Look before thee; dost thou see this narrow way? That is the way thou must go: it was cast up by the Patriarchs, Prophets, Christ, and his Apostles; and it is as straight as a rule can make it: This is the way thou must go." (N. Allen Moseley)


James 5:7-10

Waiting. We hate it! We don't want to wait in long lines for goods or services. Sometimes we even act like we should dictate God's schedule. So today's Scripture arrests our attention with its first words: "Be patient." The patience called for here is more than just killing time. It is the waiting of one in the dark awaiting daylight. We might say that this is a season of our waiting for the "son" to shine. How do we wait?

I. Anticipate His Coming
What if someone gave you a magnificent gift but you did not bother to open it? Jesus could very well be given the title, for many people, "The Unopened Gift." Christ's coming again is a natural result of his coming long ago as an infant in Bethlehem. Today we celebrate the first coming and anticipate his Second Coming. We can help someone else to know who he is and what he offers. You could invite friends and family to church with you and let them hear about the word of grace. That is active waiting.

II. Work in the Meantime
Christianity is not a rocking-chair religion. While we are waiting we do not waste our time by doing nothing. Instead, as James says, we are farmers planting seeds in hope of a harvest. This is work. God expects us to be busy planting for him.

Many people wonder, "Does anyone really care about me? Does it matter whether I live or die?" The answer, according to Advent, is a resounding "Yes, it matters!" God's Son came to give life and meaning and hope to all who trust in him. What a joy to be about the work of telling people the reason for this season.

III. Give Others a Break
A five-year-old girl was trying to say the Lord's Prayer. When she got to the part about trespasses, she said, "And forgive us our Christmases as we forgive those who Christmas against us." We understand that sentiment! This time of year can be hectic. It can be a crisis that displays itself with frayed nerves and short tempers.

"Don't grumble against each other," say the Scriptures. Give other people a break. Our waiting is active and includes working for others and bearing with others. (Don M. Aycock)


Matthew 11:2-11

One of the most powerful characters in all of Scripture is John the Baptist. He steps onto the scene as a bold prophet, condemning the sin and corruption of the nation and calling Israel to repentance in preparation for the coming of Messiah. The crowds came to hear him, and many responded. When Jesus came to John at the Jordan, the prophet recognized that this was the "anointed one," the one God had sent to save the people.

Now John is in prison; the historian Josephus tells us that he was held at Machaerus, a hot desert fortress east of the Dead Sea. It must have been a difficult time for John, the hours of isolation must have caused doubts to creep into his thoughts. Was Jesus, in fact, the Messiah John was expecting? If so, why was John sitting in prison while his opponents lived in comfort?

Jesus reassures John and his followers by pointing to the deeds that surrounded the inauguration of this new age (v. 5). Then Jesus uses a tribute to John to explain the importance of this new Kingdom that was being ushered in, and to demonstrate that true greatness comes through following Christ.

I. People Judge Greatness Based on Achievement
Can you list some truly "great" people? If we think historically, we will tend to think of political or military leaders who accomplished significant things—perhaps Napoleon Bonaparte, George Washington, or Abraham Lincoln. We might think of people who did great things in science and technology—Madame Curie, Jonas Salk, George Washington Carver.

Could John the Baptist, locked up in a miserable dungeon, have been doing the same thing, wondering about Jesus' identity based on his lack of political or military initiatives? If Jesus was really the Messiah, would John still be locked up?

Obviously, we admire those who have achieved much; they serve as excellent models, and we respect the dedication and skill they have exhibited. But Jesus is making it clear that, in the light of eternity, human accomplishments are not the source of true greatness. If not, where is greatness to be found?

II. God Judges Greatness Based on Discipleship
Humanity judges greatness according to one standard, but God has an entirely different standard, a different measuring rod by which to judge greatness. Notice how Jesus answers John's question about Jesus' identity (v. 5). Everything Jesus points to involves serving the poor and dispossessed, those who suffer from disease or physical handicaps. While John's contemporaries were awaiting a Messiah at the head of an army, Jesus is saying that God's new Kingdom doesn't work that way; it is a kingdom of love and compassion, of faithfulness and service.

Something new has come, and it supersedes every kingdom and rule before it. John stands at the pinnacle of the line of prophets; indeed, Jesus says that "there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist" (v. 11). But with the coming of Jesus and the inauguration of God's Kingdom in human history, everything has changed; now "he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than" John. Few minds in human history have been greater than that of Aristotle, but now the average high school student has knowledge far beyond that of Aristotle. How can that be? Because we live in a different era with a far greater body of knowledge—thanks in part to thinkers like Aristotle. We stand on the shoulders of giants, and thus can we see farther.

John the Baptist helped prepare the way for the coming of the Kingdom, although he would not live to see the remarkable events surrounding Jesus' death and resurrection. We are privileged to be able to look back and see, from a different vantage point, all that God has done to demonstrate his love for us. It is not enough simply to see, however; the key question is this: How will we respond to God's call? (Michael Duduit)

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