Christmas Day - "Sunnyhill" Herne Bay Evangelical Free Church

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Christmas Morning


Text. 2Cor.8:9
" For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich."

Rich through the Poverty of Jesus Christ

God is a generous giver and he has made a wonderfully rich creation. Our world is a great environment in which we men and women live our lives. The shortages that are experienced are not to be attributed to any niggardliness in God but rather to man's selfish and wasteful use and distribution of the riches God has made available to us.

Not only has God generously given us so much he wants and expects us to enjoy what he has made available:

1Tim. 6:17 "As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy."

However while the many gifts that God has given us are all good they make very poor substitutes for God himself! They were, after all, never intended to do that but this is something that our consumerist society today fails to appreciate. It is so easy to focus all of our attention upon the gifts and forget the giver and we must take care that we don't follow the crowd and fall into that trap. Material possessions can glitter and dazzle in such an alluring manner that many get duped into imagining that the more possessions we have the happier we will be.

In the OT this is illustrated men such as Achan and Gehazi.

Achan selfishly took stuff to which he had no right:

Jos.7:20-21 "this is what I did: when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak…, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them."

This action had consequences for the nation as God was displeased and allowed them to be defeated in battle. Achan's own life would subsequently be forfeited because of his guilt.

Gehazi also gave way to the enticements of wealth – his actions quickly involved him in secrecy and deception and it ended up back-firing seriously. In the place of the pleasure and satisfaction he hoped for he had to put up with the disadavantages of being a leper for the rest of his life.

The Bible tells us something that, if we take time to think about it, we know to be true: It is possible to have a great many things and yet fail completely to be satisfied or even to enjoy them. Listen to what the preacher, the writer of the Book of Ecclesiastes, had to say:

Eccl.5:18-6:2  "Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.

There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy on mankind: a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God does not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them. This is vanity; it is a grievous evil."

Men and women have been made in the image of God and part of what that means is that we are designed in such a way that we will be incomplete if we leave God out of the picture. Similarly our lives will be out of kilter if we place something other than God at the centre or if we focus our sights on something or someone else in our lives.

Possessions are nice to have and to enjoy but they are poor masters to serve. When it comes to providing lasting satisfaction they are deceitful – promising much more than they ever deliver – and neither do they offer any genuine understanding as to the meaning of life.

To chase after riches will mean embarking upon a never-ending pursuit – the crock of gold at the end of the rainbow will always remain just out of reach:

Hag.1:6 "You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes."

The French philosopher Pascal is often quoted as having said:

"There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every person which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator."

Yet throughout the centuries men and women have tried to fill that gap with a whole range of different things – none has worked: riches and possessions can't do it, nor can religious activity or anything else you might care to mention.

Centuries before Pascal came on the scene Augustine had already explained why this was so. In the opening lines of his most famous book The Confessions Augustine put it like this:

"Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee?"

God has made us the way we are for a purpose – amazingly he wants us to enter into a relationship with himself!

And that is precisely the reason why Jesus was born into the world. In the words of our text:

2Cor.8:9 "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich."

We're not to imagine that Jesus came in order to secure a strong bank balance for us all or that he came in order that we might amass and ever increasing pile of possessions but he came in order that we might come to possess true riches and that we might be rich toward God!

Are you rich with regards to God? Are your sins dealt with by Jesus or are they still forming that barrier that keeps you separated from God? If your sins are still laid to your own account small wonder that God seems distant and perhaps unreal to you – he will be! But Jesus' coming into the world was designed to meet us at our point of need and transform our entire standing with God!

And yet we can often fail to realise just how good God is to us.

Do you ever give any thought at all to the way in which God has been so very good to you? Has his kindness and generosity towards you met with any response on your part? Jesus hasn't come into the world in order to impoverish you by hampering you in the way you live your life. Quite the reverse! He has come so that you might finally begin to live life as it was always meant to be lived in fellowship with our Creator! Jesus wants you to be rich toward God and came so that you might be.

And what of you who have become believers in the Lord Jesus Christ and call yourselves Christians? The world and all it has to offer in terms of material prosperity etc. can still at times seem so appealing can't it? There may even come times when the professing Christian so takes his eyes off his Saviour that he becomes indistinguishable from those around about him. Are you beginning to desire what the world desires and are your hopes indistinguishable from theirs?

The world is consttantly trying to squeeze us into its mould and we need to keep our wits about us and to recognise what is happening. Just listen to what the apostle John had to write to one church at the end of the first century – they had taken their eye off the ball and yet they thought that everything was fine when in reality it was anything but:

Rev.3:17 "For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked."

Left to our own devices we are like that too but it need not be so! We can be rich towards God, we can have treasure in heaven, true riches – that is why Jesus came!

2Cor.8:9 "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, (do you know him?) that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich."

With God's help we will look more closely at the nature of our spiritual poverty without Christ and the nature and extent of our riches with him next Sunday morning. But for now let me simply conclude by wishing you much joy this Christmas.

Amidst all the enjoyment of the day, whether through friends and family, or in the giving and the receiving of gifts, or in having plenty of good things to eat – don't forget that you were created to enjoy God! And that Jesus came so that you might!


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