Just Believe (12/24/15)

Posted by on Jan 4, 2016 in Sermons | 0 comments

What do you believe?  It’s Christmas Eve… God wants to give you a big gift!  Not just a package under tomorrow’s tree, but a big lifelong gift.  One that lasts.  One that makes a difference.  Are you ready for it?  How do you receive this awesome gift?

Pastor Jim’s Christmas Eve sermon helped us revisit the manger in a fresh light.

Click the below “Play” button and scroll down to follow along…


Our scripture reading was Luke 2:1-20 and Isaiah 9:6-7…


Luke 2:1-20

1  And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.

2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.

3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.

4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,

5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.

6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.

7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.

10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.

11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, 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, goodwill toward men!”

15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”

16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.

17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.

18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.

20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.


Isaiah 9:6-7

6 For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

7 Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. NKJV




What do you Believe Tonight???

Your mind might be going a million miles an hour with all sorts of thoughts.  But the question isn’t what are you thinking; it’s What do you Believe?

Somewhere it has been suggested that we go through Four Phases of Life:

We believe in Santa…
We stop believing in Santa…
We become Santa…
Finally, we LOOK like Santa!

Do you believe that Christmas is a gift to be embraced?  Or are you so caught up in the busyness that you can’t wait to take down the decorations and be done with it?

Be still, and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth.”   Psalm 46:10

The people in Bethlehem were certainly busy.  They just wanted to get this census thing over with as soon as possible and to get back home.  And yet- Bethlehem was home for them… at least it’s where their roots were.   There’s something about Christmas that calls us to come home.  There was a gift to be taken, but most of them didn’t see it because they were too busy.

The traffic must have been crazy.  Can’t you just see people riding their donkeys and camels through red lights and stop signs…. can you imagine the congestion around the malls?  People were looking for somewhere to sleep for the night (antiquities version of Tom Bodet saying, “We’ll keep the torch lit for ya!”).

Manger Square, Bethlehem

Manger Square, Bethlehem

Sound familiar?  It’s just like us today.  Everybody was busy doing something, rushing around, with good intention.  But still- the entire town of Bethlehem missed the Messiah!

Do you believe that Christmas has a gift to be opened?  Do you believe tonight that you can find the Messiah?  Or do you believe that it’s all too much hassle and you can’t wait for it to be over?


But Outside Bethlehem…

But a different scene was playing out outside the busy city.  Shepherds were out in the fields being still; focused on their sheep.  They weren’t caught up in the Christmas Rush.  Elijah heard God in a “still small voice”- a gentle whisper…

 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.

And after the fire came a gentle whisper.   1 Kings 19:11-13

Even Elijah had to quiet down and listen.  Could it be that we need to be a bit more like the shepherds?  When is the last time you enjoyed a silent night?  Even on this Christmas Eve we can be in too much of a rush to really take in the gift God has prepared for us again this Christmas.  Angel Cloud_300x300

Before the shepherds could see the multitude of angles, they had to notice the single angle and listen to his message.  And they had to believe.  The angel said that there was news of “Great Joy for all people.”  Do you believe that Jesus is the Messiah for the world?  For ALL  people?  What do you believe???


1: The Shepherds Left with Haste…

The shepherds were having a silent night.  They weren’t caught up in the busyness of the city.  They weren’t busy wrapping gifts or preparing food.  They knew what they believed and they acted on their beliefs.  They “went with Haste” to find the baby and to see for themselves.


2: The Shepherds Arrived with Wonder…

They just looked with amazement and wonderment at what God had done.  Can we be more like the shepherds?  Quietly listening, believing, then rushing to see more?  They were amazed, but they knew what they believed.

They saw and believed that God had given them an awesome gift; a Savior who brings forgiveness, peace, and hope.  Can we slow down and marvel at the same thing?  Can we embrace God’s grace which reaches out to us and loves us even when we haven’t deserved it?

They took the gift.

For us to stop and be still for a moment is a hard thing to do.  To be effective and worthwhile we feel that we need to keep on  going and keep on doing.  Our hectic lives,  our doing, all the noise we make, our obsession  with bigger and brighter and more complicated can mean we can miss it.  Can we stop and realize what God has done for us?

…and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.  But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.   Luke 2:18-20

Do we believe that this  baby is the Way, the Truth and the Life?  Or do we put Him away with the tree and decorations as soon as the Mummers are finished their New Year’s parade?  This very God… the one who holds all creation in His hands… came to earth as a baby.  Have we slowed down and pondered this?

This very God was born into human history and became just like you and me.  Have you ever been still and thought about that?  God didn’t hit the “delete button.”  Instead He loved with an amazing gift of love.  That what draws us back to Christmas and to return home: God loves us that much!


3:  The Shepherds Believed…

You can’t receive the Gift just by sitting in a pew.  Each of us must take a trip to “The Manger.”  It’s not enough to just recognize the Gift or believe it as a fact.  It also must be accepted, embraced, and used.  We can’t just look and see a Christmas Decs 2014- narthex Nativity _IMG_1282baby.   We need to ponder and recognize what the gift means.

The shepherds went; they saw the manger for themselves, then they left “glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.” They didn’t just believe the angel; they went with haste (whoever he is…) and saw the baby for themselves.  They went away praising God because they had seen and accepted the gift for themselves.  They believed.



4:  The Shepherds left with the Gift…

Thew message  of the angel kept ringing in  their ears…”This very day in David’s town your Savior was born- Christ the Lord.”  What they saw in the stable, it just blew them away.  It was just as the angel had told them.  From then  on,  on one could shut them up.

As they made their way through the streets back to their sheep their loud singing caused more than one comment from the weary half asleep travelers bedded down for  the night.  The shepherds shared the story with everyone they came across.

  • If you got a car as a Christmas gift…  would you just let it sit in the driveway?  No!  You’d get outside, settle into the car, and start the engine.
  • If someone gave you a check for $10,000… would you frame it and put it on display?  No!  You’d go the bank with haste and cash it.

When you get a gift, you have to do something with it.  Otherwise it’s useless!


What do we do with God’s awesome gift of Christ?  Do we “wear” it proudly throughout the year?  Do we tell others about this amazing gift?  Do we allow the music of God to be heard by others?

Sanctuary Candelight _fbSR

The story is told of a children’s presentation of the Christmas events.  There were the usual wisemen in their long robes carrying expensive looking gifts.  The little shepherds were carrying toy sheep.  They all gathered around the manger.  Yet the highlight of the play occurred when Mary unwrapped the babe in swaddling clothes and revealed, not a cuddly baby doll, to rather a Cross!  In silence, Mary held the cross high over the manger for all to gaze upon.

That is the gift of Christmas The meaning of the baby of Bethlehem is best understood in the light of the cross.  That is the give that God is offering you not only today, but every day.


What do You Believe Tonight?

When we consider this child born in Bethlehem we must make the decision.  We must choose to accept it,  believe, Christmas Eve15 Candle Closeup _IMG_2882and live by this gift.  Do you really believe it,  or is all of this just part of the hustle and bustle of the season?  Do we embrace this gift; that God loves us so much He’s providing a way for us to spend eternity with Him?

Don’t let this Christmas fade away like the fruitcake you gave to Uncle Eddie.  Don’t put the gift away with the decorations.  Be still… ponder the gift.  Take the gift with you throughout the year.  Then share it with others.  God’s gift is meant to be “re-gifted.”  God’s gift keeps on giving, even after the tree is in the attic.

What do you believe tonight?

Do you believe that He is who He said He is.  If you embrace Him tonight, you’ll have a God who will be with you and never forsake you.  He will give you joy in the worst situations and be a continual source of peace.  Even if the world comes crashing down on you, He will never stop loving you.

How can you turn that gift away?  Embrace it!  Take it with you!  Re-gift it! Don’t leave it here like a discarded bulletin.  Take the gift with you tonight and every night.



 Quiz Time!

As you reflect on what you’ve just heard/read, give this quiz a try.  If you don’t understand an answer (or if you disagree with the “correct” answer, post a comment)…




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