Friday, December 30, 2011

The Perfect Christmas Gift!

This early Christmas morning we are going to think of people who saw baby Jesus for
who he really was: Isaiah: The Shepherds and Jesus' mother Mary.

Isaiah prophecied the coming of Jesus more than 700 yrs before his arrival - doesn't
that blow you mind?
In Isaiah 7 (not read this evening): Isaiah filled with God's Holy Spirit sees with his mind's eye a virgin who is impregnated with child giving birth to a son: Immanuel: GOD WITH US!
Somehow within a tiny baby Isaiah sees and declares
that the great God who flung billions of stars into space, the majestic God who created universe the planets, the earth, the skies the seas, the incredable God who created the animals and the plants .. the God who created you: - Isaiah saw this majestic all powerful great big God somehow becomingsmall (God incarnate! God made flesh! )

700 yrs later John records this Gospel – this good news event like this: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. THrough Him all things were made, without him nothing was made that has been made ... THe Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. God with us! God incarnate! Great Big God made flesh as a tiny vulnerable baby.

And in our reading from Isaiah 9 – we capture something
more of Isaiah's vision :
Unto us a child is born
Unto us a son is given
All government will be on His shoulders

Isaiah here sees a picture of a child who encapsulates all authority. It is as though he sees a sceptre over child’s shoulder and from day one this child has the authority to rule – like a
king. Indeed authority to rule over everything!

He will be called
· Isaiah sees a child full of awe and wonder –
perhaps one who is both a miracle and one who performs many miracles – who
performs many acts of wander
· one who is full of Awe and wisdom: Wisdom that can only come straight from God Himself
hence he is:
Mighty God, Eternal Father
· Here Isaiah builds on his earlier understanding
of this child to be Immanuel – the vision makes no mistake that this Messiah, is a vision of God himself
Further He is
Prince of Peace
· because he comes to make peace between man and God, but only with those who respond to him
· for this child is born to bring about both judgement and justice to the kingdom that only He may rule.
A God of wrath, a God of judgement and justice are not easy concepts for the church today – rather they are subjects that are in many churches avoided – but we need to understand that the character that Isaiah saw was that of one who demands justice.
This is a Holy God who can not stand the presence of sin, a God whose
justice involves casting any sinfuness away from his presence.
The penalty of sin writes Paul is death (and that means eternal separation from God).

Barbara and I have been blessed with a grandson this year (1st grandson, 3rd grand child)
yes you are right – I don't look old enough! But it is true.
When Leona went into labour: we were waiting patiently for news of the new birth. I think we were probably the first to know about the new birth – but in this day of multi texting I am not
quite sure. Of course we were delighted when we heard that Zachary Ethan Grace had been born!

But can you imagine what a thrill it must have been to the shepherds that night to hear news of baby Jesus before anybody else? You see the shepherds were seen as the lowest of the low, they were seen to be in a dead end minimum wage job. Living in the fields with sheep day in day out was the total sum of their lives. It was often very boring type of job where nothing out of the ordinary ever happened,
But on this night God chooses them to be the very 1st people on earth to hear that the Saviour of the world has just been born in local village.
Half asleep they may have been –
but when the angel of the Lord appeared to them – I guessed they jumped up with
a start. And we hear that the skies around the field were filled with God's glory.

"Do not be afraid said the angel

Is there fear in your life?
Do you consider your life to be meaningless?
Do you know that in God's presence, when the glory of God fills your heart, when you declare Jesus to be your Lord and Saviour and God’s Spirit fills your heart to the brim, all our fears are taken away?
Do you know if you have a healthy fear of an awe filled God, there is really nothing else to fear?
Does your life, like the shepherds, feel somewhat without a true purpose?
Do you know that when your heart is filled with the Glory of God – when your heart is filled with God's Holy Spirit - you begin to realise that even your life – yes even your life isn't meaningless after all?
Do you know that?

Anyway then the angel of the Lord tells the shepherds THE GOOD NEWS (are you in need of good news? – then listen to this:)
a Saviour has been born to YOU - He is Christ the Lord
As this was declared - so that the shepherds could get a real taste of God’s glory - a host of angels appeared in the sky saying:
Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests

The Christ! The anointed one of God! The Lord has been born. He has been born so that if you (Romans 10:9) confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart ... you will be saved.

So excited were the shepherds at this news that they sprinted all way to Bethlehem.
And they like Isaiah 700 yrs before saw (not in their minds eye – but in the flesh!)
Immanuel – God with us – fullness of God in helpless babe!

Yes the shepherds saw Jesus for who he was, the Christ, the Saviour the Lord – the one who takes your fear away, the one who lifts up the lowly, the one who brings life and gives meaning to
life itself!

And so important in the shepherd's eyes was this baby Jesus that the shepherds couldn't keep that good news in – they spread the word – they told everyone they met – as they returned
glorifying and praising God for what they had seen.

There are so many people in Selby, so many people in our families
· who are lost – living lives apart from God (which is no life at all!)
· who are living with no sense of hope
· who feel totally insignificant,
· who live with fear in their eyes (upto their eyeballs in debt, fear of loosing their jobs/ fear of not being able to pay their mortgages, who are afraid because of broken or bad relationships)
· who have fallen out with their families
· who feel low, who have no self esteem
· whose lives by their thinking is meaningless

Can you see this baby Jesus event – like the shepherds? Is this good news event important enough, is it Good news enough to tell everyone we meet, or at least those we know – who don't know Him?
That there is hope! There is salvation! That there is light that can shine in their darkness! That their lives do not have to be meaningless! That Jesus can make a difference. Is this good news enough for you who know Christ to start introducing others to the life giving, life changing, life saving Grace of Jesus?

With that thought move to Mary:
Luke records:

Mary treasured up these things and pondered them in her heart.

Here is Mary trying to make sense of all that she now sees.

Greek word translated pondered
means to see with the mind’s eye – to imagine (it appears twice in the New
I wonder: can you with Mary see in your mind's eye - that sight of the new born baby?
(P W Creek)
"Royalty wrapped in rags
Majesty in a manger
Holiness in the filth of sheep manure and straw
The creator of the universe now dependant upon a teenage girl and a sleepy
carpenter. Genius! Pure Genius!"

But could you imagine what it was like for Mary?
On that first angel visit when you’re told you’re going give birth to no other than the Son of God?
Can you imagine having the trust and confidence in God to say to him ''Even though I don't understand – I will put my trust in you O Lord – Let it be according to your Word!"

(ladies) can you put yourself in Mary’s position and imagine what it was like to go through the labour pains as you pushed baby out into the world, imagine that first cry of the Son of God as He enters the world through you?
Do you see this baby Jesus as Mary sees him? The result of God's promise, the result of God's Word? Are you able to put your trust in Him and His Word even when life is confusing, when life is challenging and tough when you simply can’t understand?

There has been a miracle happen in our household over Christmas.
For the 1st time in my married life – my present to my wife Barbara was the 1st under the Christmas tree (now surely that is worth an applause?)

Christmas is of course a time for giving and receiving presents
There are a number of things we can do with a present that is given to us:
1. Pretend it's not there (Christmas day has come, we have seen the present but decide to
ignore its presence)
2. Acknowledge that the present is there but decide even though it has your name on it
that it is not for you, perhaps convince yourself that you are not worthy of that present
3. or one might just admire that beautifully wrapped up present – saying to
yourself ‘wow what a wonderful present’ but it still there next Christmas and
the Christmas after: a present that never gets unwrapped!
4. Ahhh –one might open it and find a“fantastic – a jumper – and declare that it is `just what I wanted’ – but never the less you leave it in its packaging – admiring it from a distance -
5. Or you might go all the way: scramble the Christmas present open, with joy and excitement in your heart, to find that it is not just what you wanted but moreso what you need – it's a jumper and you've been feeling cold since winter crept up on you and … You know what … you’re going to put it on! And oh how warm that feels!

Isaiah writes For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is ... what? Right … given!
This child, this Messiah that Isaiah sees is GIVEN … this baby is the greatest, purest, richest gift we will ever receive and like Mary we need to treasure it in our hearts.
But I wonder how you have received this gift?
· Pretended it's not there? That the Christ child isn't real?
· Acknowledged that it is there and real – but declared that it is not for me – it might work for others – but not for me
· perhaps you have convinced yourself that you are not worthy – don't wait until you are worthy – no one is worthy – but God gives anyway!
· Maybe you've opened the gift – but just in the same way that I might have left the jumper in the wrapping – you have left Jesus in the manger.
· You’ve put Jesus on one side
· Maybe your understanding of Jesus has not grown as Jesus has grown out of that manger and headed towards that cross

Isaiah didn’t leave Jesus as a child in manger – no he prophesied the most cruel death known to mankind – he showed us that by Jesus dying on the cross, we can have peace with God: But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed. Isaiah didn't leave the gift in the gravyard either - but goes on to prophecy his resurrection!
This is a gift – writes Isaiah that has all authority, authority over life and authority over death
· You hand him your darkness and this gift of Jesus is able to transform that darkness
into light
· You hand him the mess of your marriage and
relationships and this gift of Jesus has authority to change you and yours as He becomes Lord
of your relationship
· You hand him your sin and failings and this gift of Jesus .. by his cross has authority to forgive your sin and transform your failings
· You hand him your fear and this gift of Jesus has authority to transform your
fear and replaceit with hopes and dreams
· You hand him any part of your lifestyle that is not of God and he will replace it
with the gift of life – life in all its fullness – and a joy and peace beyond measure!

You accept this gift and like Mary treasure it you heart and like the shepherds give it to others and Jesus has the authority to (Ephesians 3:20) do immeasurably more than all we might hope or (that word again) imagine according to His power that is at work within us.

How can Jesus possibly have authority to do all these things?

Because this baby Jesus is no other than THE AUTHOR OF LIFE ITSELF!

Go on open that present fully this Christmas/don’t neglect it/don’t leave it half open - don't leave Jesus in a manger He is Jesus - he is the Saviour!

Open your hands to receive ALL that this Jesus has to offer
Be confident in Him through the tough times … and enjoy the life that only He can bring.

For God so loved the world (writes John) for God so loves you … that he GAVE

Jesus GAVE UP his majesty to be born as a gift of a baby – he emptied himself of all but love ….
So that if you trust and believe and cleave to this gift – you will not die – you will not be separated from God but will receive the free unearned gift of eternal life (it is a quality life
in the presence of God instead of a life in His absence – it is a quality of life with God that starts now and goes on for ever and ever and ever!

Go on – receive this gift today!