Happy Birthday to Jesus!
December 29, 2019
Spread the good news. Better yet, spread the Great News that Jesus Christ is Lord; Jesus Christ is King, and Jesus Christ is here! Maybe not physically – yet. But Jesus is here in the presence of the Holy Spirit. More than 2000 years ago God came to us in the human form of Jesus. Jesus lived and walked among us for 33 years until He ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father. His father and our father in heaven. And, ever since that glorious day of Pentecost, Jesus came back as a spirit to dwell within us for eternity. God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit, together, have been with us from before the beginning of time and will forever be with us until the end of time. God said in Revelation 21, “And the One seated on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Then He said, “Write this down, for these words are faithful and true.” 6And He told me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give freely from the spring of the water of life.” From the beginning to the end. God said himself, “write it down, for these words are true.” You can bank on it.
Our final bible study for this season begins back in Isaiah 9 where it brings up good ole King Ahaz and just how terrible a king he was and how focused he was on being tied in with the Assyrians that he pushed his faithfulness to God (what little he had) aside. It also talks about how our presidents today look physically at the beginning of their 4- or 8-year stint in office with how they look at the end. What a transformation they all go through in appearance in that period. President Obama was a perfect example as we see how his hair grayed and the pressure of the presidency took its toll on him. All that stress of the job along with the continued conflict between the political parties. One political party fighting against the other trying to prove the incompetence of their leader. Just look at what is happening today. It really makes you wonder why anyone would want the job of being president of the United States. With that in mind, just imagine what Ahaz must have looked like after his 16-year reign while under the constant threat of attack by the armies of Syria and the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
But even with all that looming over the head of Ahaz and his people, God still offered a sense of hope. The hope of a coming king who would wipe out the worries of war and instill a hope of a peaceful life for all the people. Truly a reason for celebration. King Ahaz was not perfect. Hezekiah, his successor, was not perfect either. We all know that David was no angel himself. Even though David was adulterer and a murderer, God still held him close as read in 1 Samuel 13:14. “The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people.”
Don’t we see that in our country every 4 years? With a new election, those that are dissatisfied with our government, have a sense of hope for change; hope something different; something that will make our lives better. I think even those who are relatively happy with the way things are, still look for things to change to be even better than they are. That’s where we need to pray for God to intervene, to guide the hand of those voting for the next in power, to lead those in power once they are elected, to guide them in their decisions and to be welcomed into the hearts of all those involved with running this country. We must remember that Jesus came into this world with one purpose – to save us all from the grip of sin and death. He came to willingly sacrifice His life so that we can have that promise of eternal life; that knowledge that when we leave this world, we are heading to the most glorious place we could ever imagine. The resurrection of Jesus gave us that promise. When Jesus walked out of the grave on Easter morning, He showed us the fulfillment of His promise.
God said to Ahaz, “trust me; let me give you a sign; I am the only partnership you need. In your moments of anxiety and fear, as well as when you rejoice in freedom and deliverance from your oppressors, I will always be your God.” And God still does that today for each of us.
This Advent let the church remember the One who never leaves us or forsakes us. May we remember the God who has always been at work for us, in good times and in bad. God has always been with us, blessing us, providing for us. No matter our earthly hardships or joys, God is still with us. And there lies our true hope. Regardless of what happens in your life, God will always be your God.
But all of this started with Jesus’ birth on Christmas morning. The gift that God gave us when He came incarnate in the form of a human to live and walk among His people. Christmas and Easter go hand-in-hand. One event is empty without the other. Without the birth of Jesus there is no eventual death and resurrection. And without His resurrection there is no promise of eternal life.
The next part of our study came from Paul’s letter to his friend and fellow apostle Titus, beginning in chapter 2:11-14.
11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
The amazing part about this pericope (Greek for “cutting-out” or a small section of scripture), is that it stands the test of time. What Paul is saying here still holds true today, nearly 2000 years later. God still offers salvation. God still wants us to say “no” to sinful things of this world. God still wants us to live godly lives in self-control. And all of this while waiting for the second coming of our Lord. How amazing is that?
On Christmas Eve, several of us gathered, along with some old friends and a few new faces, to hear the prophetic scriptures from Isaiah, to listen to Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts of the birth of Jesus and to sing those infamous Christmas carols that we love so well. We gathered together to worship, fellowship and remember Christmases of old; to remember Christmas services when we were younger and perhaps came with our parents and grandparents who are now celebrating Christmas in the company our Lord and Savior. Can you imagine sitting around the feet of Jesus like little children, listening to Him tell His own story? Maybe we came with our children and grandchildren to pass on that long tradition of attending Christmas Eve services in hopes that they too will continue that tradition to generations to come. Maybe you came because you lost a loved one recently and wanted to be around friends and family to welcome the comfort and support of others. Maybe you just wanted to be in the presence of the Holy Spirit to invite Him deeper into your life. For whatever reason, you came and hopefully you left here rejuvenated with hope, peace, joy and love.
The great part about the Christmas Eve service is that is was happening all over the world, in all Christian denominational and non-denominational churches (Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal and so on) by worshipper of all ages, ethnicities and cultures. We were far from being alone in this celebration. And that is what Paul says in his letter in verse 11, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.” ALL PEOPLE. Back then this included Jews and Gentiles. There was no discrimination among the people that Paul was writing to and there should be no discrimination among them today as we strive to be disciples of Jesus in order to bring “ALL” people into God’s kingdom.
This celebration of the birth of Jesus is not a one-night-a year event. We need to celebrate Jesus every day. Our study says we need to take Jesus seriously. The Word became flesh and dwelled among us. God came to Earth! This is REAL! It is world-changing, life-altering stuff we get to live into and tell others about. It is not about manger scenes, candles, and carols. It is about God being here on earth, God’s imminent return, and the kind of holy living that we get to do in the meantime.
The third part of our study came from LUKE 2:1-20. This is the most detailed description of the birth of Jesus. Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem to register for the census. They find no room to stay in anywhere in the little town, so they are forced to hold up in a stable (cave). Mary has the baby. Shepherds get a visit from an angel; they go in search of the baby, worship him and then run off and tell others of the birth. That’s it. It’s no Star Wars: The rise of Skywalker. It’s no Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s not even as riveting a story as Scrooged. It doesn’t even say how Mary and Joseph reacted to the birth of God’s Son. At least today, fathers run around handing out cigars or some sort of gift to celebrate the birth. The most exciting part is when the angel, in all its brilliance and glory, appeared before the shepherds out in the field, in the middle of nowhere, scaring them half to death. In fact, the whole story can be a bit boring if you don’t already know the prophecy of Isaiah telling about the coming birth of the Christ-child, Matthew and Luke’s account of the previous visits by the angel to Mary and Joseph and the fact that Mary put her life on the line, literally, to be the mother of the Son of God. That Joseph put his reputation on the line to wed a young girl who became pregnant before she married a man who was not the biological father of the child. You have to go back to Zechariah and Elizabeth and the impending birth of John the Baptist. You have to go deeper into the story than what Luke tells us in chapter 2 to get the full impact of what the story is truly about. GOD CAME INTO THIS WORLD AS AN INFANT! God got up off his heavenly throne and came down to Earth to be with His children. It doesn’t get any more exciting than that.
The “good news” of Christ coming into the world doesn’t need embellishment or fanfare. Jesus, Son of the Most High, the one to sit on the throne of his father David, is born of a virgin in the city of David. That’s all we need to know, for it is everything.
This week we turn the page on another year and reveal the year 2020. I call it the year of clarity, the year of perfect vision. What are some things you are grateful for from 2019? I am grateful for the opportunity to have known those who went home to the Lord this year: Irene Kersey, Kenny Lavere and Harold Carlisle. I am grateful for those who felt it in their hearts to become members of Woodside Church this year. I am grateful for the youth and being able to watch them grow in Christ. I am grateful for this church and all of you who have taken up a large part of my heart. I am especially grateful and blessed for my wife of almost 39 years and how God has touched her heart and how God continues to be a large part of our lives.
I pray for a wonderful New Year. I pray God has good things in store for you and that you let go and let God guide your life and that you endlessly thank and praise Him for all He does for you.