Candles, Characters, & Carols VI- Christ

This is a sermon originally given on 12.24.11:

 

Last summer I had the privilege of serving at a church in North Carolina. There was a lady there who I had gotten to know and work with. She was really nice and good with hospitality. One day she came up to me with a sort of smile and told me, “Erica, my grandchildren are coming to visit next week. Just so you know they are the most precious grandbabies in the world. Ever. I wanted to make sure you knew that.” Oh, ok. Thanks. The way she said it was kind of intimidating like if you don’t agree you’re in trouble. When I met them, I don’t know if they were the most precious children I had ever met in the entire world, but I said they were. She scared me.

 

Something happens when a baby is born. Things change. Think back to a time when you held your child as a baby, or a grandchild, nephew, niece, a friend’s baby. This time last year my nephew was 12 days old. He was born on December 12, 2010. His name is Jacob. I saw him yesterday, he’s doing well. This is my parents’ first grandchild. I noticed that when I held Baby Jacob, the tone in my voice was different. Kind of quieter, you know. When my parents, especially my mother, hold him she has this sort of glow. Maybe you know what I mean. This side of her came out that I don’t remember seeing before. Babies change things. Babies change people. A baby changes you.

 

We are here to celebrate and remember the birth of Jesus Christ, that baby in the manger. God’s only begotten Son. The Savior. This is a festive occasion & I certainly don’t want to rain on the parade, [there’s enough rain outside for that J] but Jesus isn’t the only miraculous birth in the Bible, is He? Think about it. There is a theme throughout the Bible of fertility issues, miraculous births, and special children. Let’s think about Moses, Samuel, & John the Baptist. Don’t worry, we’ll get to Jesus too.

 

Moses– born a Hebrew under the Egyptian slavery. The Hebrews grew in population, Pharaoh felt threatened, and Exodus 1:22 tells us that “Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Throw every newborn Hebrew boy into the Nile River.” BUT Moses’ mother, put Moses in a basket, into the Nile River, and Pharaoh’s daughter picked him up down the river. This is amazing, isn’t it?! Moses would go on to lead the Hebrews out of slavery and toward the Promised Land. God worked through Moses to deliver an entire people group, gave the 10 Commandments to him, and in one my favorite passages in the entire Bible, Moses experiences God. Exodus 33:21-23, “The LORD continued, “Look, stand near me on this rock. As my glorious presence passes by, I will hide you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and let you see me from behind. But my face will not be seen.”

 

Moses is so important that the Gospel of Matthew uses many allusions to Moses such as the law being clarified on a mountain, deliverance of people, and so forth. Today, if you go to askmoses.com, you will find an extensive collection of writings on Jewish theology and tradition. Ask who? Moses. Askmoses.com. You may have seen these shirts that were popular a few years ago. They said Jesus is my homeboy [slang for friend]. There was another shirt in the same line that said Mary is my homegirl. And I have seen a 3rd design- Moses is my homeboy. Moses- super important. God worked amazing things through him. Moses is incredible and highly respected, but I don’t worship him. Moses was a savior as God worked through him to save the Hebrews, but Moses isn’t my savior.

 

Samuel– Samuel’s mother, Hannah was barren. This was a source of much stress and shame for her as fertility issues can still be a problem for many couples today. Hannah prayed to God for a child and promised to give the child to God. So, Hannah had Samuel & takes him to the temple, to Eli the priest, and Samuel grows up in the temple. Samuel will go on to anoint Saul & David- Israel’s first 2 kings and is considered Israel’s greatest judge.  

 

There are some strong similarities between Hannah’s song of thanksgiving in 1 Samuel 2 and Mary’s Magnificat in Luke 1:46-55, but Hannah isn’t Mary. Hannah doesn’t birth the Messiah. God is even in the name of Samuel. That ‘el’ means God. The name Samuel can mean heard by God. You have to watch out for those names in the Bible with ‘el’. There is something special about these folks. More than their mamas think they’re special. Elisha means my God is salvation, Elijah means my God is the Lord, Emmanuel- God with us. Samuel even has the name of God in his name, but I still don’t worship him.

 

John the Baptist– What about John the Baptist? Again, Elizabeth was barren. The angel Gabriel came to Zechariah in Luke 1: “But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.” Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.”

 

All of this happened as Gabriel said. John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus, but he was not Jesus. The words and work of John the Baptist were so amazing that people thought he was the messiah, but he was not. Matthew 3:2-3 says “In those days John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” The prophet Isaiah was speaking about John when he said, “He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the LORD’s coming! Clear the road for him!'” John was even prophesied about, but he is not the Messiah, the Savior. John baptized Jesus, but he is not Jesus Christ, the Messiah. This brings us to Jesus.

 

Jesus– Just a minute ago we sang the song What Child Is This. Listen carefully:

What child is this who, laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping? Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping? This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing; haste, haste to bring him laud, the babe, the son of Mary. Good Christians, fear, for sinners here the silent Word is pleading. This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing; So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh, come, peasant, king, to own him; the King of Kings salvation brings, let loving hearts enthrone him. This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing.

 

This is who Jesus is! Christ the King. King of Kings. Lord of Lords. The Word. The Son. Lamb of God. Emmanuel. The Savior. Son of Man. Son of God. Light of the World.

There have been some amazing people who have prepared the way for Him. There are amazing saints through time, holy people among us today, but there is only one- one- Jesus Christ, Jesus Messiah.

 

In a minute we will confess who and what Jesus is:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth; And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord:  who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,                     suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; the third day he rose from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

 

This must be who Jesus Christ is to us- more than a baby, more than a teacher, more than a historical figure. A personal savior. A life changing presence in our life every day. This is a baby that changes things. There is something different in us, as believers, as Christians, once we believe the meaning and message of this baby.

 

As with all babies, you can’t help but think of their future. What will they be when they grow up? Who will they become? Well, we know the story of Jesus. He grew in stature and wisdom, gathered disciples, healed, taught, and sacrifice Himself. Why? For our forgiveness.

 

As the great hymn, O Holy Night says: “O! Holy night! The stars, their gleams prolonging, O night divine, the night when Christ was Born; With glowing hearts we stand by the Babe adored… Truly He taught us to love one another, His law is love and His gospel is peace. Long live His truth, and may it last forever, For in His name all discordant noise shall cease. Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise us, With all our hearts we praise His holy name. Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we, His power and glory evermore proclaim!”

 

Tonight, we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, but we also remember the bigger picture. His life. His sacrifice. I don’t know if you have heard this, but Bethlehem means ‘house of bread’ in Hebrew. House of Bread. Let us take a moment to quietly reflect on the meaning of Jesus in our own life…

 

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