Not A Fairy Tale
Not A Fairy Tale
Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White
Sunday 23rd December 2018
Gary’s message last week on Peace, particularly in this season of Christmas, really hit the the mark… well it certainly did for me… in fact, I’m sure it was relevant to every one of us.
We sacrifice our inner peace all the time. Life is hectic! And when Gary asked us to sit still and be quiet, in a moment of peace for just 45 seconds, I don’t know about you, but I began to relax and sense God’s peace wash over me – and even in that brief moment, I began to feel refreshed. The peace of God is real.
I know I can be looking like I’m doing nothing on the outside – Venese will tell you I look like that often – but my mind can be going a hundred miles an hour trying to work things out that I need to deal with or prepare for. And most of it is good and positive… but it still takes away from just being at peace within myself.
And what I think Gary’s message spoke to me the most, was that the message of Christmas and the story of Christmas has a relevance to our modern day life, not only spiritually, but in every other way as well.
On a Political, social, and personal level… let alone a spiritual one, that story still speaks to us because despite the gap of centuries, a lot of the issues of life are very much the same.
And the need for peace is just one of them.
A multitude of angels declared over the shepherds:
Luke 2:14, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
On earth peace… a cry from the angelic hosts… don’t we need that to be prophesied over our world right now? We need peace more than we’ve ever needed it before.
I was reading in the news how as a nation, we’ve become more angry. And not just feeling it, but expressing anger verbally and physically. People are frustrated and stressed and it seems that old fashioned respect and manners have gone out the window. Grace and forgiveness are in short supply.
So the gospel of peace is so needed in our nation right now, as much as it was on that first Christmas.
And what about goodwill toward men? God’s goodwill towards mankind is still as gracious and merciful as ever… but goodwill between people is something that we as the church need to guard and promote. Because the world is gradually seeing it dwindle away.
But let’s delve a bit further into the story to tease out its relevance in others areas as well.
Again, if you’ve been following the news, you’ll know that lots of things are being revealed and uncovered at the moment. World political leaders are being investigated and sued for corruption on an international level. The United States is partially in shutdown because the government is in a deadlock on decision making. Our own government ministers are having their personal lives exposed… and falling on their swords in the process.
The quest for power and authority, greed, non accountability, pride… it’s in full display – but the truth is, it’s always been there.
Even when Jesus was born, Herod’s jealousy and quest for domination led him to follow through with one of the most tragic aspects of the Christmas story that we really don’t want to face or talk about. But we have to.
When he was told by the wise men that the Saviour of the world had been born, his evil and manipulative heart tired to trick them into revealing the whereabouts of this Christ Child.
Matthew 2:7-8, “Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”
But his heart’s intention was not worship – it was murder.
God intervened of course and warned the wise men in a dream that Herod was not to be trusted. God also spoke to Joseph in a dream and told him to flee to Egypt with his new family..
Matthew 2:16-18, “Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more.”
What has this got to do with today?
Firstly, we need to be desperately praying for our own government and its leaders – for godly men and women to be positioned in places of Governmental authority. We need to be praying that darkness will be exposed, corruption would be uncovered, and that the intentions of men’s hearts would be revealed.
God is well able to reveal to us His plans and purposes, and what He wants us to pray for – through dreams and visions – through His Word – through that still small voice of the Holy Spirit – just as he did through the wise men. And as much as ever, we need to be listening for that wisdom from above. We need clear godly direction for 2019. We need leaders to be accountable to the great privilege of leading this nation.
And secondly, what does the murder of these baby boys speak to us now?
Well, we are horrified to think about that part of the story. There have been many wild guesses of how many children were actually killed at the hand of Herod’s men. Some say well into the thousands… but in reality, the population of Bethlehem itself at that time was most likely only around 300 people altogether. So a conservative estimate would be that around a dozen or so children were murdered. But regardless of the actual number, even one innocent child is so precious in God’s sight… it remains a terrible tragedy.
But what about now? What deaths are our leaders responsible for right now? What deaths of babies are we as a nation responsible for?
It is just about impossible to estimate the number of abortions that have taken place in Australia. Many go unreported. One conservative figure for 2014 that I came across said around 73,000 unborn babies were killed in that year alone.
Other studies say 80,000. One article I read brought the wonderful news that it’s really only 65,000…. only 65,000…
I hate facing these facts as much as anyone in this room, but we must face them. Are those statistics good enough? Is our government providing ethical, moral and practical leadership in this area? Is it OK for Australia to continue to go down this path? Are individuals really being cared for, supported and loved as they face the torment of making these decisions?
I honestly want to shout out: “What the hell is gong on?”
I’m sorry, and I’m not sorry, that I’m speaking about these things on the Sunday before Christmas. But we as the church cannot back away from reality. We don’t live in a bubble… we live in the world as it is.
One comforting thing of course is knowing that every one of those beautiful children are now with Jesus. They had no opportunity to become accountable for their own lives. And I totally believe as I hope all of you do as well – that Jesus rescued them all.
Praise God that the Christmas story is more than anything about redemption.
It’s about God intervention into our lives as a humanity… And the way he did it speaks volumes about His heart for the humble, the lowly, the broken…
And He is well able to intervene into the lives of those who carry regrets and pain from the past – and bring healing and forgiveness. This is not about judgement. It’s about recognising that something has to change and a great start would be through our own government recognising the sanctity of life from conception – and providing all the support that is needed to assist women to make a choice for life.
Herod was accountable for the deaths of innocent children. Our government, and we as a nation, are also accountable for the deaths of innocent children.
In Matthew, in the genealogy of Jesus, there’s no hiding or denying the truth and reality of some of the brokenness even in the generations that came before Him. There was some messy stuff back there. There are people in that family tree that Matthew begins with, that were born from an incestuous encounter; there’s Rahab the harlot; there’s the mention of David and his son Solomon. Solomon was also the son of Bathsheba… the one David had an adulterous affair with… and all the goings on in relation the death of her husband Uriah. If you want a sordid past, you don’t have to go past this one!
You might be sitting here this morning thinking, there are things about my own life and my family tree that I’m ashamed of, and I’d rather forget about it. I’m sure we’ve all got skeletons in the cupboard if we look closely enough.
But this is what I love about God’s incredible grace and His unwavering love. He sends Jesus, the pure, undefiled Son of God, into the midst of all that mess and brings about the greatest redemption of all history.
This message is about redemption and reconciliation with our Father in heaven. But before we can appreciate redemption, we have to acknowledge what we have been redeemed from. That’s why I speak of things as they are. Truth matters.
Jesus doesn’t come as a King or a mighty man or a wealthy foreigner… He comes as a baby – Born into the lowliest of circumstances. He fulfils prophecies that have been spoken of for thousands of years.
His mother is a 16 year old girl who simply trusts in the divine proclamations of an Angel. The place of Jesus’ birth is a stable… His bed is a feeding trough. It’s full of stinking animals.
Mary most likely gives birth to this baby on her own. There’s no mention of anyone else besides Joseph – and if he’s like most other men, he wouldn’t have been much use.
Sometimes we think it all sounds very romantic and lovely, and the stars are out and the moon is shining, and it’s all rustic and nice. But it was far from romantic. There were no fairy lights adorning the building. This poor girl did it as rough as it gets.
I’m making a point here that I’ll get to in a minute…. but what about the shepherds?
Can you believe that it’s the outcasts of society… the ones everyone looks down on… the ones everyone avoids because they most likely smell about the same as the sheep they are tending… but it’s these poor isolated men that God decides to speak to, to announce to the world that the Messiah has arrived.
They are nothing! They are nobodies! They weren’t even able to join in with regular village life. They certainly couldn’t follow through with doing all the religious duties and religious rituals like other people who lived in the towns. They had no standing in society whatsoever.
But the angels come – not just one or two – but a whole host of them… and they light up the sky and tell the shepherds, of all people, where to visit the Christ Child.
I just want to say to every one of you… not only does it not matter what your ancestors got up to… not only does it not matter what has gone down in your own personal life… even if you feel as though you are on the lowest rung of society or you are feeling at the end of things emotionally, physically, relationally… it has no bearing whatsoever on what God is capable of doing in your life. It has no bearing on what He might reveal to you and how He might pour out His glory over you and your circumstances.
If He can seek out a bunch of shepherds who have no societal standing, and probably no estimation of themselves even in their own eyes… He can easily seek you out…
In fact, if we follow the pattern of people’s lives and the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth, the more humble and lowly you are, the more likely you are going to be the one that God uses to reveal Himself to the world.
And the story is not over! The Christmas story is not over! It’s still being played out!
When we compare what was happening 2,000 years ago to what is going on in the world right now… there’s really nothing new under the sun! Yes, we have technology and modern lifestyles, but the issues of life are still very much the same.
I believe God is saying is us this morning – that the redemptive plan for all of mankind includes His redemptive, sanctifying process and plan for you and I on a very personal and intimate level as well.
He’s been speaking to us about peace, about joy, about heart issues… because everything… all the issues of our life, flow from the inside out. And as He transforms our heart, then we will be realigned again with our purpose. Our true purpose comes from a place of worship. Not just singing a song… but worshipping Him with our whole life.
When you read through the Christmas narrative in the bible, you’ll find that the birth of Jesus, and therefore the redemption of our lives, causes everyone touched by it to worship!
The angels worshipped! The multitude of heavenly host worshipped God in their proclamation of what this new birth meant:
Again, Luke 2:14, they proclaim: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
And then, after the shepherds had seen the new born Messiah, Luke says:
Luke 2:20, “Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.”
The shepherds lives were changed forever – they experienced the glory of God like never before. And their response was to worship and glorify God as they spread the news of what had happened.
The wise men came… we don’t know how many… we don’t know exactly how much later they arrived… we only know they brought three gifts… and they came to worship.
Matthew 2:11, “And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”
So the message is: in all of your humanity, humility and lowliness yourselves, look to where you fit into the Christmas story in 2018. What is God revealing to you? What heart changing, life transforming message is the Holy Spirit revealing to you right now?
As you go about your daily life, don’t disqualify yourself as just one of the crowd… don’t listen to the lies that God could never use you, you’d never be good enough, you don’t have the right background, your family background is dysfunctional…
God has proven to us that He is just looking for those who are humble – those who are available and willing to walk out His plans of redemption.
He’s looking for those who will trust Him and who are willing to look beyond tradition, beyond religion, beyond the confines of perhaps what “normal” looks like.
He will never ask us to do anything that opposes His Word. But He has shown us throughout the lives of many bible characters, that sometimes there are big leaps of faith to be taken. And usually, it doesn’t all add up at first glance.
The Christmas story was very much about the people directly involved being willing to embrace a path that looked different to what others expected of them – and what they expected of the Messiah.
But here’s the key. They listened to God. They trusted Him. They sought wisdom. They looked to the word for prophetic insight and confirmation.
Also, the shepherds, the wise men, Mary’s cousin Elizabeth and her husband who was a priest… they show that there was confirmation amongst them of what God was saying and doing.
There are a number of scriptures in Proverbs that encourage us to look for the support and counsel of others:
Proverbs 11:14, “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.”
When Christian poet John Donne said: “No man is an island”, he stated a truth that we all need to remember – we’re in this together and we need one another as part of our journey of aligning ourselves with God’s story for us.
So dare to believe. Dare to take risks. Dare to share your life and plans with other respected Christian friends…
Dare to live a life of worship!
And let me finish with these thoughts from Psalm 139 that speak of not only the Father’s blessing on His Son, Born as a baby on earth, but His blessing on all of His children.
Psalm 139:13-18, “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You.”
This Christmas – don’t detach from the story. Immerse yourself in it. Embrace its message for now. In all humility, see yourself as one whom God Himself created and positioned for such a time as this. The story of Christmas continues as long as you and I live it out.
There are many more relevant messages from the nativity… more than I could possibly share this morning.
The story of Christ’s birth is not a fairy tale. It’s about real people, just like you and I.
It’s a powerful story of God’s intervention and redemption of mankind.
And it speaks as powerfully now as it ever has.