Sermon Options: December 8, 2019

October 31st, 2019

CHRISTMAS GREATNESS

Isaiah 11:1-10

Sometimes big things come in small packages. One man said that he had learned after years of marriage that when his wife says that she just wants something small for Christmas, it means that she wants jewelry. Some days seem small, but can later prove to be big. The day I met my future wife did not seem all that significant, but I did not know then that one day I would marry her; it proved to be a big day.

Christmas greatness is that way. It begins with what seems to be mundane and ends up being the most important thing in the world. It sneaks up on us. We don't realize how big it is until it's almost too late.

I. The Origin of Christmas Greatness Is Humble
During the lifetime of Isaiah, Judah was only a stump in comparison with the mighty forest of Assyria. Yet, in God's timing, by God's power, that stump became great. It started with just a twig—a shoot of new growth. No one would have voted for this unimpressive stump as "Most Likely to Succeed." But this small shoot changed the course of history, altered the nature of our world, and transformed millions of lives.

Isaiah used a fitting analogy for the birth of Jesus. The supernatural came in the form of the simple on the night that he was born. What appeared to be mundane was really miraculous. He was just a baby, but he was God in human form. Mary was just a plain Palestinian girl, but she was having a baby as a virgin. They were just ordinary shepherds, but an angelic host split the night sky to announce to them the birth of the Savior of humankind.

II. The Embodiment of Christmas Greatness Is Jesus
His greatness was not that of a celebrity, but of a servant. He went to the common people, not to the rich and royal. He touched the marginalized to manifest his power—a boy with fishes and loaves, a bleeding woman, a diminutive tax collector. He said, "Blessed are the meek," not "Blessed are the mighty." His followers were ordinary people, yet they changed the world. After all, he taught that his Kingdom would begin as a tiny mustard seed and would become a great tree. His death was the most ignominious possible, but through it he accomplished the redemption of the human race. Virtually everything Jesus ever did came in a small package, but it was really great. It started with an ordinary-looking infant—just a shoot from the stem of Jesse. But every Christian church, hospital, benevolence organization, and countless great things have come out of that small package.

III. The Nature of Christmas Greatness Is Determined by God
What made Jesus great? It was his character, and Isaiah gives us a glimpse of it. Jesus was great because the Spirit of the Lord was upon him (see Luke 4:18). According to Isaiah, this gave him wisdom and understanding, counsel and strength, and knowledge and the fear of the Lord. His delight was not in pleasing people, but in pleasing God. His character was marked with righteousness, compassion, fairness, truth, and faithfulness (vv. 3-5). The result of his life will be cosmic peace. Ultimately, through him God will restore the world to its intended order and beauty (vv. 6-9).

God wants to create this Christmas kind of greatness in us (Matt. 20:25-28). This is a typical-looking worship service. But it would be just like God to touch someone in this small service in a way that would make a great difference. (N. Allen Moseley)

AT CHRISTMAS TIME, DON'T MISS CHRISTMAS!

Romans 15:4-13

A man who lives in Hollywood says this to friends who come to visit: "When you are in Hollywood, don't miss Hollywood." He reminds his guests that his town is much more than a movie set. They won't see stars giving autographs or movie crews with cameras whirring. In a similar way the Scriptures seem to say to us, "At Christmas, don't miss Christmas." We can get so busy that the season passes over us like a plane at night, heard but not really seen.

I. Know the Hope That Comes with God
Christmas is a season of hope, and Advent is a message of the church, Santa Claus notwithstanding. The merchants have practically stolen this season by their message of "Buy, bye, bye!" Even so, this season is about God, who sent his Son into this world so that the world through him might be saved. Another word for this reality is hope .

We naturally think of this as a season of receiving, so think of what you can receive from God. One of his gifts is salvation from your sins. Another is a sense of belonging and purpose in life. A third gift is work to do in his Kingdom. All of this is part of the hope that is ours from our relationship with Christ.

II. Accept the People Who Come from God
"Welcome one another," said Paul. But this is more than just "buddy-buddy" feelings. Paul added the specification, "just as Christ has welcomed you" (v. 7).

Many people this time of year are already tired, broke, preoccupied, and cranky. Contrast this with the fact that Jesus came as the Prince of Peace. Why not accept some of his peace in your life during this season?

III. Give the Praise That Is Due to God
We also think of this season as a time of giving. What can you give this year that will express your faith and obedience? What about giving your life to Christ? We can also give gifts to the church to be used to spread the message about Christ and his love.

Perhaps the finest thing to give is praise to God. Paul breaks out into song in verses 9-13. Isn't that really the mood of Advent? At Christmas, don't miss Christmas. There is meaning behind the madness. (Don M. Aycock)

A CALL TO NEW LIFE

Matthew 3:1-12

What a unique character John the Baptist must have been! The first prophet in Israel in four hundred years, he burst on the scene with a bizarre appearance and a powerful message: God is about to do a new thing among us, and you must prepare by coming to God in repentance.

What new thing does God want to do in your life? Have you experienced the things that John told the people they must do in order to prepare for God's presence?

I. Preparation for Christ Requires Confession (v. 6)
Have you ever known someone who had a lingering illness but who refused to seek a doctor's attention? You have to recognize that there's a problem before you will seek assistance from outside yourself.

Confession of sin is an acknowledgment that you have fallen short of God's perfect will for your life, that there is a spiritual sickness within you that requires the help of a Master Healer. Only in confession can we find authentic forgiveness.

II. Preparation for Christ Requires Obedience (v. 8)
John challenged the religious leadership to demonstrate their faith through specific, concrete acts of service. Just as a good tree produces fruit, so also a faithful life will produce actions of obedience and service for Christ. Did you hear about the little boy who was acting up at the dinner table? He stood up in his chair, and despite his mother's demands, he continued to stand in the chair. Finally, she came around behind his chair and forced him to sit. After squirming for a time, he finally sat still, but he said defiantly, "I may be sitting on the outside, but I'm standing on the inside!" How like that child so many of us are—defiantly insisting on our own way, when all the time God wants to give us so much more if we will only trust and obey him.

III. Preparation for Christ Requires Dependence (v. 9)
It's little wonder that the religious establishment opposed John's work, for he was doing something unprecedented. Baptism was not new in Judaism; it was used as a step in the process of converting persons to the faith. But John wasn't simply baptizing converts; he was baptizing Jews! And he reminded his pious opponents that they couldn't rely on their religious heritage for salvation; repentance and faith involve recognition of their own inadequacy and a complete dependence on God.

For some people, the most difficult part of coming to Christ is acknowledging that they need help from beyond themselves, that they are not sufficient in and of themselves. That truth is at the heart of the gospel; it is only as we place ourselves in Christ's hands, relying on his love and grace as the only source of salvation, that we can find authentic peace.

John was preparing the way for Christ by preparing the hearts and lives of the people. Are you prepared for Christ to come into your life today? (Michael Duduit)

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