Christmas Eve at LMPC

Isaiah 9:2-7 10:30 AM- Ben at LMPC “Christmas Means Hope, Joy and Giving Peace”
For a Video of this 10:30 AM service, click here

Jason Coker of Garland Texas has been sick for two years with a blood disease with mounting pain and medical bills.  His son went to Santa and asked him to help his dad.  Santa replied that he was in the toy business but he prayed with the boy that his father’s pain would end and that he would have hope and joy in the midst of the pain.  A mother saw the moment of Santa bowing his head and folding his hands- clicked a picture and lots of prayers and financial gifts were on their way to that family.
Santa knows the limits of his ability.  St. Nicholas was a saint because he put his hope and trust in God.
When people are hopeless; when we are sad by the stress of life; we put our hope in the only One who can give it.  The good-no great news is He came to give us hope.  He came down to earth to show He cares.
If you were God and you wanted to give people hope without scaring them, how would you do it?  Today you could send out a tweet or a text that says, “Have hope.”  But that doesn’t necessarily mean people will hear.  You could send an eclipse or a hurricane to wake people up- that doesn’t always work.  In fact, no matter how you might want to communicate our need to hope in God, sadly some people will not hear, some will actively refuse to listen.  How would you have done it 2,000 years ago? Babies are miracles and signs of hope.  So, if God were to want to give a sign of hope it makes sense to come down as a baby.  So Isaiah says “To us a child is born who is called “the Mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”
The context of Isaiah’s words (end of chapter 8) are that people have given up listening to the scriptures as a way God speaks to us.  Instead they are turning to other gods, mediums, witches, channeling.  Isaiah describes this as walking around in darkness and gloom unable to hear God speak.   They were living without hope.
But then He says, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.”  The light is the fulfilling of the prophecies given in the Bible.  He is basically saying scripture is worth listening to, and God’s coming is a sign that it will be fulfilled.  While God could come with a rebuking sword.  He tries a different approach- coming as a baby.
Today, again, people get tired of scripture without even listening to it.  I remember watching and hearing (it was kind of loud) a three year old eat at a restaurant.  The mother was trying to get the boy to eat shrimp.  The boy said, “I don’t like it.  I don’t want it.”  The mother said, “But you haven’t tried it yet.”   Green Eggs and Ham was written for such folks.  Some assume- falsely- that the Bible has nothing to say to them.  They turn to superstition, or to hopeless and dark skepticism as their answer.  They are walking around either in fear or without hope.  But there is real hope.  The skeptics die off.  It is really hard for people to get excited about skepticism or superstition.   The communists thought they had killed Christianity.  But now the largest revivals in Europe are in the post-communist countries.  When the church becomes so rationalistic and skeptical itself that it leaves no room for God’s power and God’s hope- God will raise up other churches.  The light of Christ will never be snuffed out.  Sometimes it flickers, but then it comes back like a raging fire.
If you were to give joy- how might you give it?   Isaiah describes the birth of a baby messiah as “you have enlarged the nation and increased their joy.”  Even today when a child is born to a couple it is a symbol of hope- that life not only goes on, but becomes exciting.  It is a privilege to visit people in the hospital after they have had a baby.  More than any other kind of hospital visit, I regularly hear something like:  “This is a miraculous event.”   It is a sign to us that God, the Maker of all life, is still active- still making life.  He makes life for the sinners, and He makes life for the saints.  There is joy in life.  It is not found permanently in presents, or in toys, going to college, winning a game, or even in having your name in lights- just ask those who are popular.  Everyone has an opportunity for real joy in Christ.  It is His coming that brings joy to the world.  If you have hope, you can keep your joy.  In some of the most hopeless situations it seems God sends a person or a song or a source of hope to help us.  But the very best help we can get is not from ourselves- it is from Him.  Be God- centered in your hope.  Jesus came to give hope to the hopeless rest for the weary.
In the midst of war and oppression as the people of Isaiah’s day of the eighth century and in the first century faced, hope meant just the prospects of peace.  Jesus is the peace child.  There is a great classic book called “Peace Child” by Don Richardson. It is about how Christian missionaries stopped cannibalism in the 1960s in New Guinea.  Warring tribes were brutal and would cook and eat their enemies.  Retaliation, revenge, hatred and violence ruled their lives.  Missionaries came and the first ones were killed.  But more came.  There was one custom however, that these tribes had, that broke the cycle of revenge- the Peace Child.  Each warring tribe finally having enough would exchange young children to the enemy tribe.  As long as that child was alive there would be peace.   The missionaries said that this is what God did for us.  God sent His Son to be the Peace Child.  They read these verses: “Every warriors boot used in battle every bloody garment would be burned.  For to us a child is born to us a son is given- He will be the Prince of Peace.”  The people could understand that Jesus is the one born as a child to bring peace between them and the Mighty God.    When they became Christians- they not only quit cannibalism, they had peace, they had joy.
If you were to give a gift to people what might be the greatest gift you could bring?
I have decided, as I get old, that money and things are not the greatest gift.  Time is very very close to the greatest gift  Time shows love.  Making time for another.  Putting aside the entertainment enough to love; putting down the phone or tablet to look someone in the eye is a great gift these days.  When Jesus came to earth He was showing He was giving us His time and space.  He was telling us He is not too busy to care.
In this busy season take time.  Maybe Some gifts may involve free baby-sitting;  fixing a meal; Taking time to put a dollar in the Salvation Army bucket, or take your extra clothes to the Goodworks store;  Take time to call a friend you haven’t talked to- maybe at New Years if not Christmas.  Write a note to someone in a retirement home.   Christmas has come!  We spread hope to the hopeless;  We spread grace to sinners; we spread strength to the weak;  we spread rest to the weary.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.  You cannot hear that enough.   It is love that came at Christmas.  God did not forsake us- or give up on us.  He could have washed his hands or wiped us out- we would have earned that.  We earn it today.  But God went the other way- He didn’t leave, He came closer.  He didn’t walk out in a huff, He came down to solve the issue. Come to Him for te great gifts of hope, joy.

 


“My Child is Special” 12/24 5 PM Matthew 3:17 “And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.”  Luke 2:8-14- And there were shepherds…I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people …Suddenly a great company said, “Glory to God in the highest…”

For a video of this service, click here

Each child is unique-. You may have heard that snowflakes are unique. But humans are more unique Today with our intimate study of the human body and a quest for identity we are finding this out.  Of course everyone’s fingerprints are different.  But now we see that eyes are different- and your eye pattern can be used for identification.  You smell is unique- studies are done especially between mothers and babies to point out a special identification bond.  Your face is different- so even i-phones have facial recognition. your DNA is unique- no one has one exactly like yours.
To each family- every child is not only different, but special.
In our passages in Matthew and Luke- it is pointed out that there is only one Jesus.  He is not just one special person among many special people.  He is special in many ways- but one thing we need to know Is He is not just another special baby.  He is THE BABY.  He is God become flesh.  So Angels tell us- He is the Savior- He rescues us from our mistakes and failures. He is Christ the Messiah- which means He is anointed for a purpose.  He came with a mission to save us.  He is the Lord.  He deserves our worship- our time- our attention and we need to tell our children He is special.  The angels said it, those who knew Him best said it.  God said it when He was baptized- “This is my Son- whom I love.  With Him I am well pleased.”   So, tell the children.  Tell the neighbors children.  Tell it on the mountain- with the angels and Simeon, and the voice of God Himself that Christ the Savior- the Lord- the most unique and worthy One is born!

 

12/24/17 7 PM Titus 2:11-14 “His Appearing” LMPC by Dr. Ben Sloan
This passage tells us we are there but we are not yet there.  He has appeared but we wait for His appearing.  In my first church Santa would come to the fellowship hall to meet with the kids.  This would get everyone excited and hopeful.  But he would always poke his head in- we would see him then we would wait until after supper and he would come in fully.  All that supper was eaten with expectation and one eye on the door where Santa had poked his head.
I. GRACE HAS APPEARED- Jesus is grace made visible, touchable.  Jesus is our great God and Savior who walked and touched our earth.
But His greatness was cloaked in humility.  His power was tamed by mercy and love.  Jesus was grace incarnated.
There is a very shallow unsupported myth that Jesus never lived.  It is wishful thinking on the part of the skeptical.  Here are a 2 billion Christians who would disagree.  We worship on Sunday, we have his words written by eyewitnesses, and have existing copies of the scriptures that are in our hands today that go back to the first century.  I was so proud that one of our youth called Google on this as Google said that Jesus may not have lived.  They changed because of his challenge.
II. WE WAIT FOR HIS APPEARING- Lord, there is so much sadness- even at Christmas.  When will you come and make things un-sad?  Even unbelievers express this- things are not right.  They would go on to say, “Therefore there I no God.”  Jesus would say, be patient.  Hold on I’m coming.
When I was little, my father would make long out of town business trips while he was installing telephone offices in different places.  But he would always come home for Christmas.  We anticipated his coming.  We waited for it.  He would always bring us a gift and a hug. When Jesus comes back His reward is with Him.
III. LET US NOT ABUSE HIS GRACE-
vs. 12- This grace teaches us to say “No.”
Grace means that we are redeemed from all things we did not say no to.  Maybe you can look back on your past mistakes- maybe there are whole swaths of time that you wish you could go back and do again the right way- or maybe you are just glad you’ve escaped those times.  Those times when we messed up- Jesus teaches us to say “No” to those things in the future.
Edith is now 50 years old.  She was a gang member when she was in her 20s.  She has a lot of regrets, but she is in church every Sunday thanking Jesus that He saved her from continuing to live a regrettable life.  But God has turned those regrettable mistakes into good things like children and grandchildren.  She has most of them by her side in worship now.  Now if Jesus can do that for Edith, can He not do that for you?   The hardest thing to regret is pride.  Pride keeps us from admitting not only could we be wrong, but that we are wrong.  Pride always teaches us to say yes to whatever.  But grace softens pride and teaches us to say “No.”  One of the great email addresses that I have seen is “toomanyyesses.” We must say no to things. Questions is what?  Do not waste your life. The grace appeared to teach us to say no to hate- yes to love; no to selfishness and pride- yes to humility and grace .  I hope we will also say “no” to leaving Jesus out.  Make room for Him- make time for Him.  They had no time or room then- they put Him in a stable.  Herod tried to kill him.  Today we try to ignore the King.
I have read that Trump gave 17 appearances in 2007-8 for over a million dollars an appearance and speech by  the Clinton’s minimum now is $200,000.  But how much for a speech from Jesus Christ?   He appeared- He spoke.  He still speaks through his Spirit.
I have heard whole classes of children sing “Jingle Bells” and “Frosty” and “Rudolph”- I like them- but wish they would mention the main character!  I have seen where millions are made on Christmas movies that do not mention Jesus or albums that have no Christian mention in them.  Look we are here in this room not because of family, or shopping, or a saint- even good St. Nicholas; We are here because He appeared!  We would not leave flour out of a cake.  Why would we leave Jesus out of Christmas?  It is ridiculous, and the more we leave Christ out the more we are killing the season.  I have been to some countries- like Japan and Taiwan- where 90% of the people do not believe but they still celebrate Christmas- it is shallow.  May your life be deep and meaningful- lived with love and grace and an occasional “No”  because He appeared!