Press Report from Bethlehem! (12/22/19)

Posted by on Dec 23, 2019 in Hughes, Sermons, Worship & Prayer | 0 comments

In what is becoming a Sunday before Christmas tradition, Rev. Jim Hughes visited PUMC and gave us a first hand account of what happened on that First Christmas.  This year, he appeared as Amos, a newspaper reporter who happened to be covering the beat in Bethlehem on that wondrous night.

To learn more about Rev. Jim Hughes and his ministry, visit his website by clicking this button:

Jim Hughes Ministries

 

Rev. Hughes has spoken at our church and at the Summer Camp Meeting on numerous occasions.  To read more about his sermons over the years, click this button:

Jim Hughes at PUMC

 

Music, Drama, and Word…

Before Rev. Jim Hughes began his message, Pastor Jim Bolton read the selected scripture (Luke 1:46-56).  This passage is commonly known as “The Magnificat”, or “Song of Mary.”  God chose Mary to become the Mother of the Messiah and sent an angel to tell her the news.  Mary then visited her cousin Elizabeth, and Elizebeth confirmed the angel’s message.  This is Mary’s response; a prayer of wonder and gratitude…

And Mary said:

“My soul magnifies the Lord,  And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name.

And His mercy is on those who fear Him, From generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things, And the rich He has sent away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy, As He spoke to our fathers,  To Abraham and to his seed forever.”

And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her house.

NKJV

 

 

The Report from Amos

God gave Jim Hughes a powerful singing voice, a creative imagination, and a love for Jesus.  These three graces combine together to produce a powerful witness and compelling message.  With a quick costume change, some props, and a dramatic entrance, Jim– er, Amos- transformed the written words into a story that’s core to our very existence.

As Amos, his encounter with Jesus began as a bystander.  Amos was just doing his job and he reported what he saw.  But has he got closer, he became part of the story…

 

“Silent Night”

Amos opened his report by walking down the center aisle singing “Silent Night.”  He had a limp in his gait, was leaning on a cane, and wore a hat with the ubiquitous “Press” label on the side.  

Amos was a reporter working with the Bethlehem paper, and his first assignment happened to be the Great Census.  Everyone was called to return to their home town to register for the census (and pay their taxes).  Bethlehem, the City of David, was the home town to a lot of people.  The place was anything but silent.  It’s streets were thronged with people who didn’t want to be there.  Weary travelers were anxiously searching the inns, trying to find a place to rest for the night. 

For two of those travelers, there was no room but  Mary and Joseph were expecting a baby any moment.  During their night in the manger and in the days following, reporter Amos had a chance to meet Mary and Joseph.

We had known about the coming of the Messiah for generations.  And for generations, many young girls prayed that perhaps they would have the awesome privilege and responsibility of becoming the mother of the Messiah.  God could have worked it out any way He wanted, but He chose this time, place, and girl. 

Amos reports that Mary was a person of deep faith.  She did not come from a wealthy family; she came from humble roots.  This silent choice and unnoticed birth contrasted itself with the noise and commotion of the city.

 

“Wonderful Name, Jesus”

After his introduction, Amos began to sing…

“Wonderful Name, Jesus…  The only name worth singing of….   Name the Angels bring…  Heaven touched His name with glory… The title heaven rang…

There was something special about this birth.  This baby had common parents, a common birthplace, and even a common name.  But, something bigger was going on here.  This Name- Jesus- was given by God Himself.  This Name- Jehoshua, Messiah, Jesus- brought the hand of God into humanity. 

 

 

“How Could It Be?”

After the birth, Amos continued his assignment in Bethlehem.  He helped Mary and Joseph find a room where they could stay while Mary recovered from the birth.  During this time, he had a chance to get to know Joseph.  Amos reports that Joseph was a righteous man, and a man of faith.  Looking back, Amos comments that Joseph is sometimes a forgotten character of this story.  But it was Joseph who raised Jesus, who taught Jesus the scriptures, who showed him right from wrong. 

One night, Amos and Joseph took a walk around the city.  Joseph struggled with his role and with what was happening.  Who am I?  How can I do this?  They prayed together, and  Amos related this prayer in song…

How could it be?  Son of God, not my own.  Not of my own flesh, not of my bone…  But let him be the son of my love…  How can I raise Your King?….  Show me where I fit into this plan.  How can a man be father to the Son of God?

Mary and Joseph left the next morning.  Amos never saw Joseph again.  He stayed in Bethlehem for a couple of years, and then traveled around taking on different assignments. 

 

“Bethlehem Morning, Bethlehem Sunrise”

Amos’ work eventually took him to Jerusalem.  Over the years he had heard about a man who was traveling across the land, teaching, healing, and even raising the dead.  But the identity of this man was no mystery to Amos; He looked back to that wondrous night in Bethlehem, and he knew that this teacher had to be Jesus.   Just as Mary had “pondered these things in her heart,” Amos began to connect the dots.   He reported about Jesus, keeping his own conclusions out of the story.  Just the facts.

But eventually, Amos’ reporter instincts began to wane.  Forces deep within his heart were crushing the impartial distance he kept from the story.  He realized that he needed to be more than just a casual follower of Jesus.  

He was in Jerusalem when Jesus entered the city on a donkey.  He was among the crowds cheering this King and ushering him into the city with palm branches.  But later that week he was in the crowd that turned against him.  He was in the crowd that yelled, “Crucify Him!”  He was part of the crowd that watched Jesus as he struggled under the weight of the cross, bleeding and stumbling His way through the crooked streets to Galgotha.  Amos witnessed the cross, the nails, the human agony. 

But his mind went back to that night in Bethlehem.  He knew that he would do a disservice to Jesus’ birth if he didn’t recognize the purpose of his birth. 

Partially as Amos, and partially as Rev. Jim Hughes, the report was closed with the following song…

Bethlehem Morning- more than a memory… The child born there came to set us free…
Bethlehem Sunrise- The spirit of that child never dies…

 

Yes, the Christmas story is about mangers, animals, wise men, and angels.  But the message we need to report is summed up by Jesus’ own words (recorded in John 3:16-17, The Message)…

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.

God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.

Paul would later write that Jesus “became sin for us.”  All of our own shortcomings, wrongdoings, and faithlessness were taken up by Jesus.  He embodied all of the things that divided us from God and died on a cross to take them away from us.  We can’t begin to wrap our minds around how much God loves us.  The Creator of the universe “became sin”…. became MY sin… so that I could have a relationship with Him. 

Why do we exist?  The story of Christmas is that Jesus came to set us free.  We won’t find meaning in possessions, accomplishments, or intelligence.  It all boils down to Christ.  We won’t find any meaning in life apart from the Creator who wants to set us free from meaningless living.   Meaning comes from living out the life that God created us to have.  It’s not about church, bible, or being a “good person.”  It’s not about performance;  it’s about surrender.  It’s not about belief; it’s about relationship.

 

What’s YOUR Report?

After completing his report, Amos left his cane and press credentials on the floor.  The hat and cane left us with an unspoken challenge; are you willing to be part of “The Press” even into your old age?  What will your report be?  When you talk to friends, can you report that you know this Jesus?  Maybe once upon a time He was a casual acquaintance, but can you report that you have grown deeper and deeper in love with Him? 

Rev. Hughes reported that this year has been particularly refreshing for his own personal walk.  He’s looked back over his life and found that this past year has brought him to a love for Jesus that’s even deeper than it was in the previous year.  Our own challenge is to keep falling in love with Jesus, over and over.  You can never catch up with the depth of His love.

The hat and cane are yours to pick up and to carry on.

What’s your report???

 

 

 

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