Christmas Day - "Sunnyhill" Herne Bay Evangelical Free Church

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Christmas Day


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Christmas Day, 2015.


TEXT:

Mt.1:23 "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us).


Christmas is special and today is Christmas Day! It’s the day when we celebrate Jesus’ coming into the world, the baby born to be a Saviour, the man born to be a King.

This birth, of all births, is important. God had spoken about this many centuries before and now it had come about. The baby born this day was the means whereby God would fulfil his many promises of salvation.

We read earlier a prophetic passage from the prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel lived and ministered some 550 years before Jesus’ birth. He carried out his ministry as a servant of God at a time when the people were in a sorry state. The leaders who should have been helping them were doing nothing of the sort. Ezekiel, acting as God’s mouthpiece, rebuked those leaders for their failures:

Ezek.34:4-6 "The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them."


The condition of the people was dreadful:

  • They were treated like victims v.8 and that meant they were treated cruelly

  • They were poorly and weak but no-one bothered to restore them to health and strength

  • They were sick but no-one came to make them better

  • They were broken but no-one gave them the support they needed

  • They were lost, wandering and in danger but none went to find them and return them to safety

  • The LORD was aware of the situation and promised that he himself would come and be the leader and provider that was needed. He would come himself and be the good shepherd, just the kind of shepherd that was called for:


11-16 "For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice."

At the same time that the LORD was speaking of coming himself to deal with the problems troubling his people, he also declared that he would accomplish all of this through a descendant of King David. How can this be? How can we understand God at one and the same time coming himself and sending another to secure the salvation and well-being of his people?

We are facing the great doctrine of the Trinity. There are hints of this doctrine to be found in the OT: Isaiah’s prophecies for example:

Is.7:14 "the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel."


Or again:

Is.9:6 "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."


But it took the coming of Jesus Christ into the world for a clearer revelation of this great truth to be given. And it begins to be made clear in the birth narratives.

In the months immediately preceding the birth of Jesus the special and unique identity of the boy to be born at Bethlehem is revealed to both Mary his mother and to Joseph his legal guardian:

Gabriel gave Mary this message:

Lk.1:31-32 "you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,"


The message that Joseph heard was perhaps even more direct. It included that first quotation from Isaiah but add drove home its significance by adding an explanation of its meaning:

Mt.1:21-22 "’you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us)."


Let’s think just for a few moments about that explanation of the name Immanuel – God with us. Let us for just a moment emphasise each of those three words in turn.

GOD. This is the most truth that lies at the heart of the Christmas story. It is not the Virgin Mary, it is not the angels, the stable, the shepherds or the wise men. It is the Incarnation the Holy Son of God, the Blest Second Person of the Divine Trinity, becomes man in order to save unholy men and women.
This is miraculous and we are unashamed to declare it to be so!

How wonderful that our God has been so willing to stoop so low in order to deal with the problem of our sin and our being separated from him because of it.

WITH. God draws near to be with us. He doesn’t merely send messengers preferring to keep himself hidden away at a safe distance, no he comes himself in the person of his Son.

God is with us - not against us! God is for us; he does not seek to hurt us nor to destroy us but come to be with us!

He comes that:

  • he might save us,

  • that he might shine his light into our world and into our lives,

  • that he might show us what God is like by doing those things which only God can do:

  • he gives eyesight to the blind

  • he gives agility to the crippled and maimed

  • he gives hearing to the deaf

  • he gives cleansing to the lepers

  • he gives life to the dead

  • he gives forgiveness of sins to the guilty and

  • he gives new transformed lives to all who would and will receive him.


US. Not with great and worthy people who might somehow be able to claim some sort of right to his presence but to people like us! Sinful, self-centred God-dishonouring people. How thrilled we should be with this message of Christmas. As Jesus would later teach:

Mk.2:17 "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."


AMEN.


 
 
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