A White Christmas (12/21/14)

Posted by on Dec 22, 2014 in Sermons | 0 comments

Today was the Fourth Sunday of Advent, and Pastor Jim wrapped up his Advent sermon series looking at the “Colors of  Christmas”- tools we use to Look Up and to keep our focus on Christ during this busy season.
 
Click the “Play” button on the following player to listen to the  sermon, then scroll down and follow  along.
 

The scripture reading was from  Luke 2:8-15.    Open the drop down box to follow along.  Pastor Jim read from the New King James Version of the Bible…

Luke 2:8-15

Luke 2:8-15 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.”

NKJV

 

Dreaming of a White Christmas…

It was 1942.  We had just entered the war.  Young men and women were becoming soldiers and leaving home.  The war was young, but the country desperately longed for a time where things would be “normal.”  They longed for peace, and hope, and family.  Into this atmosphere entered the now famous song, “White Christmas.”

It not only painted an image of a winter snowscape, but it  also pictured a future time where the darkness would be driven away.  Soldiers heard that song and thought, “I want that time when I can be home and joyful and secure with my family again.”

During Old Testament times people were “dreaming of a white Christmas.”  Their dream had nothing  to do with snow.  Their dream and hope was in the fulfillment of God’s promised Messiah. Because they were looking ahead, they were prepared.

We dream of “white” too.  We wait for the promise of light and of a time when our scarlet sins will be white as snow… when we’ll be clothed in white before the throne of God.     During  this  Advent season, we too are called  to be prepared.

 

The Shepherds were Prepared…

That night must have started out as a perfectly normal night of work for these shepherds.  But they knew the scriptures that predicted the  coming of a Messiah.  They might have been subjected to Roman rule, but they knew that God had promised something better.

The light appeared and suddenly none of the problems didn’t matter anymore.

In verse 15, we see that the shepherds responded to the angels’ message immediately.  Like the disciples in Galilee 30 years later, they dropped what they were doing so they could see the Messiah.  Verse 16 tells us that they “went with haste” and  rushed off to see what the angels were talking about.

The light chased away the darkness and they rushed off to see the gift of God.

But if they didn’t know about God; if they weren’t prepared with the hope of a coming Messiah… would they even have seen the angels?  Would  they have believed?

 

Light Chased Away the Darkness…

Many people living in Old Testament times didn’t “get it.” They believed that the Laws would make them holy in God’s sight.  That if they followed all of the rules, they would be forgiven and be perfectly right with God.  But The Law was never able  to make us righteous. In Romans chapter 3, Paul tells his readers that the Law can’t justify us before God. The culture made them walk in darkness.

Darkness changes our perception.  The story is told of a young marine and his commanding officer traveling on a train.  He sat across from a young lady and her grandmother, and his CO sat beside him.  The young man and young woman obviously “liked each other.”

The train entered a tunnel and  darkness covered them.  Within this period of darkness was the sound of the “smack” of a kiss, shortly followed by the smack of a slap across the face.  When the light returned, each of these four people had a different take  on what had happened during  that moment in the tunnel:

“That man was brash to kiss her. I’m glad she slapped him.”
“The young man showed some guts doing that. I just wish the girl hadn’t missed him and accidentally slapped me instead.”
“That was kind of cute that he kissed me. I just wish Grandmom didn’t slap him.”
“What a life. I just got a chance to get away with kissing a pretty girl and then slapping my commanding officer!”

Their perceptions were influenced by the darkness.  But Jesus is the “Light of the World.”  Over and over, scripture tells us that God’s light brings comfort and hope and peace.  But darkness and shadows bring doubt and despair:

The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined.

(also quoted in Matthew 4:16 and applied to Jesus)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; When I fall, I will arise; When I sit in darkness, The Lord will be a light to me.  I will bear the indignation of the Lord, Because I have sinned against Him, Until He pleads my case And executes justice for me. He will bring me forth to the light; I will see His righteousness. 

 

The light chases away falsehood.  The shepherds “got it.”  Because they were disposed to “dream of a White Christmas,” they were able to recognize the light of truth.  They knew God’s  promises.    They probably even knew that the Messiah would be born in their own town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). They knew that this Messiah is the eternal God Himself.  They wanted that gift.

In Acts 13:47 Paul proclaims that Jesus came to save all.  All nations.  Jesus isn’t some new idea that religious people dreamt up.  This has always been God’s plan.

He says:

“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept.

I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord Almighty.
“Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you.
Many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,  to the temple of the God of Jacob.

He will teach us his ways,  so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion,  the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.

Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

Sing to the Lord a new song;  sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day.

 

Christianity has come from the Mind of God!

 

White as Snow…

God’s word frequently makes reference to our sins as being as “red as scarlet,” but to God’s righteousness (available to us) as being “white as snow” or “pure”…

Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.

Snow forces us to slow down and “chill out.”  It takes us out of the routine and forces us to look at each step differently.  Freshly fallen snow is peaceful and quiet and bright.

The first Christmas was a White Christmas!

 

 Free Gift

God never forces us to take His gift.  If we don’t embrace this Gift, we won’t see God.  There’s no returning to “business as usual” after you’ve seen God.  The shepherds returned rejoicing and telling everyone about Jesus.  The Magi “returned a different way.”  When you truly receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior you cannot be the same again.

The story is told of a preacher who began his sermon by bringing out a poinsettia plant and telling the congregation that this beautiful plant was free for the taking for anyone who wanted it. First come first served.

But members of the congregation were unwilling to take up the offer.  They had different doubts, fears, or even excuses:

  • Skeptical:  “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”
  • Priorities:  “I’ll get it later.  I’m too busy right now.”
  • Untrusting:  “It’s probably glued down to the table.”

But one woman finally did come forward to take the plant.

But- after the service she handed the pastor some money.  “It was too beautiful to take home for free.”

This woman got a flower, but missed the gift.  The white gift of Christmas is a free gift.  God offers us peace, quiet, and pureness.  But we can’t earn it.  We can’t pay for it even if we wanted to.  We must simply embrace and accept the gift.

During this advent- are you prepared to accept the gift???

 


 

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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