Preparing For Jesus
Galatians 4:4-5 --- “When the right time – the appropriate time – had fully come, God sent His Son He came as the son of a human mother, and lived subject to the regulations of the Law, in order to redeem/purchase freedom for those under the law, so that we might become God's children.”
In my readings this past week, I came across this statement: “Christmas is the joyous celebration of eternity's intersection with time.” Listen again to what Paul wrote: “When the right time – the appropriate time – had fully come, God sent His Son”…and the first Christmas happened.
Opening Question: Why do people refuse what Christmas offers? Think about it: Why do people refuse what Christmas offers?
I read the story this past week about a wife who was visiting her husband in the nursing home. Her husband had Alzheimer's, and was in the stage of being awake, but unresponsive – He was just staring vacantly into space. The man's wife was pleading with him; trying to connect with him: “John, look – Here's a Christmas present for you. Take it – Look at it.” But....John made no move.
Again, the plea was made, “John, all of us at home thought you would like your present very much. Look at it, John. Isn't it nice?” Again....No response.
For all of her trying, the loving voice of John's wife failed to reach John's mind. He had no ability to grasp the meaning of a Christmas gift.
Now...You may think, “Wow, Pastor, nice Christmas story...NOT!” I know! It's pretty tragic and depressing. But, I would point out two things to you:
1) The scenario I've described for you is REAL. Whether you yourself can identify with this or not, there will be many people living that scenario in the next few weeks...And, quite frankly, we should pray for them. ALSO...
2) Let me tell you about something that's even MORE tragic and something that you should pray about MORE: How many people – with fully functioning and capable minds – are going to fail to grasp the meaning of God's Christmas gift? And please – PLEASE – Don't imagine that it's only unbelievers who fail to grasp the meaning of Christmas. With all the irrelevant hoopla that goes on, Christians can lose sight of and fail to remember the meaning, too!
The difference is this: UN-like the man with Alzheimer's, who did not knowingly refuse the gift offered to him, many people today deliberately and knowingly refuse the gift/gifts of God – The gifts of a Savior and of eternal life. And even Christians can “miss” the real meaning of Christmas, if we allow ourselves to be caught up and blinded and deafened by all the hoopla.
So – Another question: In view of all the distractions, all the hoopla – Where IS Christmas to be found? Think about it – REPEAT. Let's think about three “locations” of Christmas this morning, and also about for preparing for Christmas in 2011: First of all....
1) Christmas in Heaven. Think about this: What had been happening, in terms of preparing for Jesus, from heaven's point of view? Well, the Bible says that a number of significant things were happening in preparation for the advent of Christ. For example:
* There was the announcement of the angel to Zechariah (Lk. 1:18-23, if you want the reference).
* There was the miraculous conceiving of John the Baptist (Lk. 1:24-25, if you want the reference).
* There was the announcement of the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary (Lk 1:26-38, if you want the reference).
* There was the announcement of the angel to Joseph (Matt. 1:18-25, if you want the reference).
* There's Mary's visit to Elizabeth, and the miracle that happened there (Lk. 139-56, if you want the reference).
* There's the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, in fulfillment of prophecy (Lk. 2:1-5, if you want the reference).
And, the next event, on God's calendar...By the way – Did you know that? Did you know – God HAS a calendar? Listen, friends – Our God is NOT a reactionary God; our God is the Omniscient, Supreme, and Sovereign Ruler of the whole universe. And He has a plan and a purpose and even a calendar for things! The next event on God's calendar was the birth of Jesus Christ. This event, the Incarnation of Christ, is one of two events on which all of history turns (the other event is the Resurrection). So, in terms of what had been happening, in terms of preparing for Jesus – from heaven’s point of view – a number of significant things had taken place. Now, think with me about….
2) Christmas on earth. The Scripture speaks about Christ coming at “the right time”, “the appropriate time”, “the fullness of time” – What's that about? Well, it means that, from a human standpoint, when Jesus was born, everything was right for the coming of the Messiah. First of all, the time was right culturally. The conquests of Alexander the Great had established the dominance of Greek culture and language throughout the known world. This dominance continued long after Rome replaced Greece as world ruler. And what that means is this: Christians who proclaimed the gospel for the first several centuries had a common language with both those whom they were trying to reach, and those whom they worshipped with. And so the spread of the gospel was an easy thing.
Secondly, the time was right politically. Rome had instituted the pax Romana (Roman peace), which provided economic and cultural stability. The apostles and others could travel freely and safely throughout the empire on the magnificent systems of roads the Romans built.
Thirdly, the time was right religiously. During the Babylonian captivity, the Jewish people forsook the idolatry that they had so often fallen into. After returning from the captivity, Ezra and others gathered all the scrolls; and the books we now call the Old Testament were put together. In addition to that, synagogues came into use as places of worship, of instruction, and as courts. And so, there were places where Jews gathered in all the cities of the known world. And these provided a perfect setting for presenting the gospel.
Friends, each of the factors I’ve given you has to do with timing and preparing – God’s timing and preparing. Please – Don’t be so foolish to believe that it was all just “an accident” or “a coincidence.” Don’t kid yourself – God arranged/ prepared the conditions under which His coming to us would be most favorable. If Jesus had not been born when He was, with all those conditions being met, you and I never would have heard of Him.
We’ve talked about the advent of Christ from Heaven’s point of view; we’ve talked about it from an earthly/human standpoint. Now…What about….
3) Christmas in You. Let’s make this personal. You’ve heard, today, that a lot of things – and some of them were BIG things too – taking centuries to accomplish – were involved in preparing for the coming of Christ into the world. And when they all came together – when time was right – Jesus was born. He came from heaven to earth to be the Savior of the world; and He wants to be your Savior too. He suffered and died on the Cross and rose again to provide things like…
the satisfying of God’s wrath against sin,
the forgiveness of sins,
reconciliation and peace with God,
adoption into God’s family,
the promise of heaven,
and so much more.
But the question is – Are you prepared to receive God’s Christmas gift? You see, there’s an old hymn that makes the point:
“Though Christ a thousand times
In Bethlehem be born,
If He is not born in thee,
Thy soul is still forlorn.”
To be forlorn is to be sad, lonely, miserable, wretched, pitiful, and deprived of hope. That’s the condition of every person outside of Christ. If you want to find out about how to receive Christ or to make sure you have, I’d like to speak with you after the service.
It was St. Augustine who said, “Thou hast created us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” Donald Grey Barnhouse was a noted Bible preacher and teacher (one of his accomplishments was a 4-5 volume Bible commentary on the Book of Romans). I read this week where he, in thinking about what Augustine had said, had a benediction that went like this:
May the God of peace be with you, if you’re a believer.
And if you aren’t, may you be miserable, and empty, and afraid, and lonely. May your heart be restless until it finds rest in Him.
That, of course, is a benediction for some and a malediction for others. If you know Christ, I hope this Christmas season is a blessing to you. If you don’t know Him, I hope it isn’t…until you find Him. Amen.