12-17-17 “Better Than Santa on a Firetruck”

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11  “Better Than Santa on a Firetruck” 12-17-17 by Dr. J. Ben Sloan LMPC

click here for 10:30 Advent Lighting, Sermon, and Anthem (People Look East)

Click here for 8:30 baptism of Jackson Shealy and 8:30 sermon “Better Than Santa on a Firetruck.”

When you think of Santa- you think about someone bringing gifts and  toys and generally good things.  The Santa of old brought a lump of coal or switches for those who didn’t do so good, but hardly anyone gets that anymore.  Santa basically means good news.
When you think of firetrucks- it usually is get out of the way they are coming in a hurry to put out a fire or solve some emergency. Firetrucks mean rescue, and help is on the way.
In Chapin we have an interesting tradition that is a mix of these two things- SANTA ON A FIRETRUCK!  But Isaiah is basically saying that when the Messiah comes- it is good news- and it is good news that comes to rescue us.  In some ways Santa on a Firetruck is the right kind of message.  Goodness comes to help us- rescue us.
Isaiah says elsewhere that the people who are walking in darkness have seen a great light, those living in the land of the shadow have had a light dawn on them.  This is how He describes the coming of the Messiah- like a sun rise- giving hope.  John also says this.  The light that gives hope came into the world, but people loved darkness rather than light.
There are people who are so in darkness that they have a hard time thinking that any kind of light is good news.   There is a cave in North Carolina where the fish have lived so long in darkness they are almost blind.  But if you shine a light, they see just enough to know that they need to flee from it.  So people get upset about saying, “Merry Christmas.”  We do not need to fear a baby born in a manger.  Herod did.  Some do. But they have nothing to fear.   The angel said, “Fear not for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy for all the people.”   This is good news for everybody.  There is hope beyond death, and there is meaning in the midst of this sometimes- crazy life.  It is easy to get caught up in fear and worry.  But Jesus is the Prince of Peace . We do not need be afraid of the One who brings peace.
Isaiah says it poetically- instead of grief there will be a crown.  This is what Jesus did.  Instead of grieving at the grave like it is meaningless or that is all there is- there is a crown awaiting on the other side.
A garment of praise instead of a ghost of despair.  God doesn’t just speak of spiritual care- He came down and was touched.  And when Jesus touched people they were helped and healed and strengthened.  He touches us and makes us whole.  Jesus is not bad news.  He came as a humble baby. He came and humbly died on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins.  He came humbly to show He is approachable and wants us to come to Him.  That is not bad news.  He died on the cross as a sacrifice, that is not bad news.  He rose from the dead- that is startling- but it is rather than bad news the best news we can have.

  1. JESUS TO THE RESCUE – Jesus comes to bring us hope, to save us from our despair and failures. He is the ultimate rescuer. The ultimate Good guy on a firetruck.
    How sad it is when there is no firetruck coming.  There is another small town where Santa comes on a firetruck to all the communities- West Miffin, PA.  But one year (1985) it snowed and the temperatures dipped into the teens mid-day so the truck didn’t come because they were afraid the water would freeze in the truck.  The kids had to come to the fire station in the cold to get their candy, and compared to the whole neighborhood, not as many did.
    I also remember, maybe some of you do too, when there were riots in LA (Spring 1992) and people were setting buildings on fire.  Sadly, whole neighborhoods were set on fire. Some of these areas could not be reached by firetruck because people were shooting at the firefighters.  When Jesus comes to us- and He opens up the opportunity for us to come to Him, let us not retreat, or refuse His hand or help.  Let us not fight against or resist Him.  When Jesus calls- and He may be calling some of you today to come back to Him.  Come back.

God has come and has helped us.  Isaiah describes it like we were cold and He puts a coat of goodness on us.  We were freezing and naked and God cares for us and takes away our shame and our helplessness.  Almost like going from having no clothes to having the best clothes- wedding clothes- a brides dress with jewels and a grooms tux.   Instead of being embarrassed and sad we are happy and proud.  Jesus will do this for us in heaven.  But He does it through His church even now.
I think about how our church has helped many this Christmas.  We help those who were homeless and give them a nice place to live.  We help those who had no Christmas gifts, and give them their basic clothes and a nice toy so they can have some comfort and joy.
Jesus brings us tidings of comfort and joy.  People get rightfully excited when they hear the siren come down their street.  I remember last year I was at Jay and Bekah’s house near Chapin High and I heard a fire siren and I thought, “Oh no there is a fire.  Somebody’s house is burning down!”  But instead it was just Santa on a firetruck spreading good news.  My heart went from fear to joy.  So it is when we believe in Christ.  God is no longer our enemy, He is our greatest friend.  Let Him come and rescue you forever .

1The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,a 2to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. 4They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.
8“For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them. 9Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the Lord has blessed.”  10I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.