Tuesday, December 17, 2013

LOVE So AMAZING... A Christmas Message

I am a “word” person.
·        Don’t give me numbers…you will lose me quickly
·        I thank Mrs. Wheeler my fifth grade math teacher for that flaw
On the other hand,
·        I can spell Albuquerque backwards!
And I make lists…
·        lists of words that, when spoken, hurt my ears
·        lists of words I love…with Jesus being at the top followed closely by “cherish”

The Words of Christmas
In the back of my Bible I have a small list of words we only hear at Christmas time like…
·        “Noel” (French word for “Christmas”)
·        "Gloria in excelsis Deo" (Latin for "Glory to God in the highest")
·        Baruch ha ba b’shem (Blessed is He who comes!)
Advent (the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event)
·        Immanuel (God with Us)

One of my favorite “Christmas words” is…Behold
·        The original Greek word “ idou” would be used in the context of …
    Shock, amazement, wonder
·        Kind of like “Can you believe I just said I Do?”
In English the word only means:
·        to hold in view
·        look at or to see
·        to regard
Kind of like: “Well, now, would ya look at that?”

Interestingly, the word BEHOLD is used only 6 times in the NIV
·        Once in Numbers
·        Once in Isaiah
·        and 4 times in Revelation.
In the NIV it’s not even used in the story of Christ’s birth.

However in the Kings James it is used 1,326 times.
In the King James Version to say “Behold!” is like saying, 
·         “Oh my goodness! Did you see that?”
·        “WOW, would you look at that!”

WOW Moments
Do you know what a “WOW” moment is in Biblical terms?                            
A WOW moment might be or should be anything that merits....
·        our undivided attention
·        The miraculous and amazing
·        Anything that should not be missed
·        The incredible
·        The divine
·        The God things!
·        Moments that should take our breath away!

Anything that is…
·        Worthy of Worship.                           
·        Worthy of Watching                            
·        Worthy of Wonder or…
·        Wonderful Words of Wisdom
·        Words of Warning
Behold” is a word that should get your attention like in…
·        BEHOLD, isn’t this amazing!”
·        BEHOLD, this is the most exciting thing we’ll ever witness.”
·        BEHOLD, this is incredibly awesome!
The word was used in Matthew 27 and 28th at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion.
Matthew 27:50-52
·        And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;”
Matthew 28:1-5
And, behold, there was a great earthquake…

Please read the Christmas story from Luke 2, with ears that can hear and hearts that are prepared to receive and embrace the wonder of Jesus’ birth.
This is the story of God’s Amazing love that came down.

The greatest gift of all…
Amazing Love how can it be that God would love a sinner such as me…
·        Enough to send Jesus… Immanuel God with Us

And, of course, we are reading from the King James Version!
So, BEHOLD, Wonderful Words of Great Joy and Good News….
Inviting you to hear it afresh this morning…
Luke 2:1-20                                                                               
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.                                                             
2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)                                                                      
3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.   
4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee,
·        out of the city of Nazareth,
·        into Judaea,
·        unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem;
(because he was of the house and lineage of David:)                                                                          
5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.                            
7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes,
and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.                            
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.                  
9 And, lo,
·        the angel of the Lord came upon them,
·        and the glory of the Lord shone round about them:
·        and they were sore afraid.                                                                        
10 And the angel said unto them,
Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.                                                                                              
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.                                                        
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.          
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,                        
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.                                                                        
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven,
the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.                                 
17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.          
18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.                                               
19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.                            
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
If we’re not careful the Christmas story can become…
·        old
·        lifeless
·        ineffective
·        It can get lost in all of the hoopla of the season
If we fail to see...
·        the absolute splendor
·        and unbelievable grandeur
…of a God who would put on the skin of a baby boy and choose to come among us…because of  LOVE SO AMAZING, So Divine!

What are the WOW moments Worthy of Wonder in the story of Jesus birth?
First of all, we need to remember that it happened just like it had been foretold by the Prophets in the Old Testament.
Although everyone seemed to be surprised by something…there really were no surprises.
Remember the Word Amos spoke in chapter 3:7
“Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan
to his servants the prophets.”
The Prophets told us…
Born in Bethlehem
·        Micah 5:2 But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from ancient times...
     To be born of a Virgin
·        Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel
     Time of His birth
·        Daniel 9:25 Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven "sevens" and sixty two "sevens." It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble.
     Slaughter of the Innocent children that took place because of Herod’s fear.
·    Jeremiah 31:15 This is what the Lord says: "A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more."  
The Prophets gave further evidence in…
Flight to Egypt
·        Hosea 11:1 When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son
He shall be called a Nazarene
·        Judges13:5 “…for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God…”

The Second WOW Moment…
·        Immanuel: God becoming flesh to dwell among us.
I don’t ever want to cease to be amazed and filled with wonder and awe to imagine God as a helpless infant…                                                            
·        But we can’t afford to forget that the baby grew up to fulfill God’s plan for us!

I had an incredible WOW moment when I realized something that I found to be truly amazing… 
I believe that ALL of Creation was represented in the Christmas Story!

First we have God Himself wrapped up in a helpless little baby
Then there was the human family
  • Jesus was born into a family.
  • He had a mom and a dad, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and brothers and sisters.
  •  He did not come into an institution or an organization
  • He was not born into a club of some kind
  • He was born to Mary and Joseph who represent the human family
Then there were the Shepherds
·        They represent many of the people in the world
  •  The “less-thans”
  • The “have-nots”
  • The lowly, poor, uneducated
  •  Outcasts, unnoticed, uncared for, neglected
Author Randy Alcorn gives an in depth look at how the status of shepherds change from the time of Genesis through 400 years of slavery in Egypt.
  • They were no longer wealthy and highly thought of or regarded
  • They were reduced to the “lowest on the totem pole” status
  • They were often considered thieve
In Jerusalem in the time of Jesus, Jeremias noted: “The rabbis ask with amazement how, in view of the despicable nature of shepherds, one can explain why God was called ‘my shepherd’ in Psalm 23.”
He continued, “To buy wool, milk or a kid from a shepherd was forbidden on the assumption that it would be stolen property.”

And yet the Shepherds …
·        Were greeted by the angels
·        They were the first to hear the news
·        They had the honor of being the first to visit the baby Jesus
·        They were given the enviable task of sharing the Good News of Jesus’ birth!
That’s the AMAZING LOVE God showed to the lowly Shepherds!

I want to mention as well that, in some ways, the shepherds represent the range of emotions that we humans can experience!
Remember how, in the fields at night, they must have been almost scared to death!
·    They experienced what it means to be “sore afraid!” (I think that means they were so fearful that it hurt!)
They must have also known…

  • ·        Wonder
  • ·        Joy
  • ·        Excitement
  • ·        Worship
  • ·        Simple shepherds transformed into worshippers!
A wide range of emotions would have been expressed on their faces and in their hearts that night. 
And I hope that they also felt the love of God as He so honored them.

Matthew tells us more of the story in chapter 2
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.
The Wise Men
They on the other-hand, unlike the shepherds, probably represent…
  • ·        The elite and the wealthy
  •          The educated
  •          The upper class
  •          The highly respected
World leaders…
  • · Kings and princes and governors and presidents.
But I think they also represent the Gentiles…those not of Jewish birth
  • Aliens
  • Foreigners
They remind me, that even from the beginning, Jesus would be…
  • For all times
  •  For all peoples
  •  For Families
  • For Shepherds
  • For the wise and even the foolish
I love the slogan… “Wise men still seek Him!”

Then God, within the realm of His Devine love, invited the Angels to take part in the Christmas story…
·        The angels, of course, represent the heavenly beings
·        The heavenly beings created by God to serve Him and us
How could He leave them out of the story of Jesus’ birth?
·        An angel appears to Zacharias
·        The Angel Gabriel given the privilege of telling Mary that she would be the Mother of the Messiah
·        The angel assures Joseph of the truth of Mary’s conception
·        The angel of the LORD shows up in the fields at night to share the news with the shepherds and he brings a host of angelic friends with him!
·        Then later the angel of the LORD will warn Joseph in a dream of the plot to kill Jesus!
Angels! They’re everywhere in the Christmas story
·        Sometimes God’s love has wings!

And we can’t forget the Animals
·        Representing the Animal Kingdom, of course!

We don’t know how many or what kind, but I don’t think anyone doubts that animals witnessed the birth of the Christ child.
·        God included animals in the story of Creation
·        God provided for the animals in Noah’s day
·        Then He gave them a place in the story of Christ’s birth
So the children sing…
"I," said the donkey, shaggy and brown,
"I carried His mother up hill and down;
I carried her safely to Bethlehem town."

"I," said the donkey, shaggy and brown.
"I," said the cow all white and red
"I gave Him my manger for His bed;
I gave him my hay to pillow his head."

"I," said the cow all white and red.
"I," said the sheep with curly horn,
"I gave Him my wool for His blanket warm;
He wore my coat on Christmas morn."

"I," said the sheep with curly horn.
"I," said the dove from the rafters high,
"I cooed Him to sleep so He would not cry;
We cooed him to sleep, my mate and I."
"I," said the dove from the rafters high.
The Star
·        The Star represented the heavens and the earth
·        The Star was the GPS of biblical times
·        It lit the sky
·        It showed the way

In the story of Christ’s birth, I believe Herod represents the Kingdom of Darkness
·        hell bent on destroying the Messiah                   
Paul in Ephesians 6 calls the kingdom of darkness: “The rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
·     Herod was simply, yet profoundly a tool in the hand of satan...
  • An instrument of unrighteousness
But, doesn’t it also stand to reason that Herod also represents…
  • Those who just don’t get it?
  • Those who have been blinded by the enemy and cannot see, hear or understand the Good News of Jesus Christ….
  • The anti-Christs” of past, present and future.
  • Those who refuse to believe and to be saved.
  • Herod represents those who are destined for destruction.

And yet we cannot forget Peter’s admonition… (2 Peter 3:9)
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Then there were the gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh
Although they were gifts given to the child Jesus I think, in a lot of ways, is it possible that the gifts represent the things of this world.
So we need to remember this…
    The things of this world only have true meaning and eternal value when they are presented to 
the KING of kings!
Gold, frankincense and myrrh
Remind us that…
  • All good gifts come from the Father
  • All gifts are His to give and to take away
  •  It all belongs to Him, we are just His stewards
  • Use what you have for Jesus!
It wasn’t until yesterday, as I talked to a friend who uses essential oils, that I really began to take a closer look at these gifts and there may be far more significance than I have yet to ponder.
They must represent the things of the earth….
  • A precious metal dug from the depths of the earth itself
  •  A gift worthy of a King
Frankincense and Myrrh
·        Both tree sap or gum resin extracted from trees found in Africa and parts of the Middle East
  • With healing properties
  • A sweet aroma
Frankincense reminds me of Jesus Himself…our healer!
  • An anointing oil used to prepare a body for burial
  • And much more!
  • I believe these three gifts call for a deeper study for another time!
Last, but certainly not least, let’s consider Simeon and Anna and Zacharias and Elizabeth
·        I think these four godly and righteous individuals represent believers
  • They represent the faithful
The Remnant who always remain
Faithfully waiting…
  • For redemption from the LORD
  • For His promises to be fulfilled
  • For eternal life
They remind us…
·        That all things are possible with God!
That regardless of our age…
  •  God still has plans for us
  •  He still uses His faithful children to accomplish His purposes
  •  He will never leave us nor forsake us
So, for me, they represent the older generation of every generation.
·        All four of them would have been considered “old” by our standards and yet they were used mightily of God…for His purposes.
·        They were faithful and willing to be of service to God, regardless of their age.
All of Creation was represented in the Christmas Story!

What are the WOW moments to you?
Questions I’m asking today….
  • When did you last BEHOLD the Son of God with awe and amazement?
  • When were you last consumed with Holy Reverence?
  • When did you last experience an excitement that you could not contain about something wondrous?
  • When was the last time you were rocked to the core of your being by the magnificence of the Creator?
May the LORD graciously restore your sense of wonder and awe and you contemplate His Amazing and Devine love.

Behold Him in whom we live and breathe and have our being!