(My message this week….)
Isaiah 9:6-7 (NLT)
For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!
One of the things I enjoy doing is riding my bike. And while planned routes and organized rides are fun, sometimes I simply enjoy heading out one direction then making several turns before coming home on a different route. I will head north for a while, then east for a while before turning south and then to the west. I know that somewhere along the way I will find a familiar road that will take me home. Several years ago my wife Debbie joined me on such an adventure. We headed north on Highway 43 past Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, then I turned east, and then north again, and then east again. We came to a 4 way stop and I asked her, “Do you know where we are?” She said, “No, where are we?” And I said, “I haven’t a clue.” She replied, “No, really, where are we?” And I said, “Really, I don’t know. But if we go in that direction, we should find our way back home.” I don’t think she was real happy with me, or even believed me. I didn’t know where we were, but I knew a different way would get us home.
Driving to work or going shopping—we tend to always travel the same way, seldom if ever, considering a different route. Now that Christmas Day has passed and all the refunds and exchanges are complete, and all the After-Christmas Sales have been seen, many people think it is time to go back to the dull routines of everyday life. We have come face to face with the truth of Messiah—that God is with us.
But now many think it’s time to get back into our normal routines—Routines That Often Leave Us Feeling Tired, Frustrated, Unhappy, Unsatisfied; And If We Will Be Honest With Ourselves, It Leaves Us Feeling Empty. More often than not, the word we hear after Christmas is, “I’m glad it’s over!” And in January, the depression sets in with all those credit card bills.
In the season of Christmas we are brought face to face with God—we have had multiple encounters with the wonder of His grace—a variety of signs and symbols with one single message: The God of All Eternity has completely revealed Himself by becoming one of us. Every bit of God’s being and heart has been revealed in the most extraordinary act ever best described by Isaiah: For a Child is born to us, a Son is given to us. These words are the words of the Mystery Of Incarnation. In a precise moment of time The Child Is Born—This Is The Humanity Of Jesus. Rather than assuming we know that He understands us, God shows us He understands us by becoming us!
And at the same moment The Son Is Given To Us—Jesus Is Also Divine. The two natures, human & Divine, are forged together in the womb of Mary and breaks into our world that night in a stable near Bethlehem. The Child—He’s human; The Son—He’s Divine. The Child speaks about the life of Jesus and The Son speaks about the death of Jesus.
And this is the mystery that we are called to accept and embrace—God fully reveals His Awesome Love for in a single moment of time by becoming both The Child and The Son! The Mystery is that God loves us so much that He enters the stench and the filth not just of that stable, but into the stench and filth of our broken, sinful, dirty lives.
If you can remember only 1 thing today, this is it: He Doesn’t Just Come To Visit Us—He Doesn’t Come TO Us—Mystery Of All Mysteries—He Comes, Now Listen: He Comes FOR US! God doesn’t just wave to us as He passes by like Miss America or the Pope or all those New Year’s Day Parade Queens. God doesn’t just glance over at us, nod His head at us and then goes on. He doesn’t come to us as He did when Moses saw only the backside of God’s glory. God comes to us face to face and heart to heart.
And the government will rest on His shoulders. Our sin excludes us from the Kingdom of God—so to bring us into the Kingdom, it all depends on Jesus. There was more than the weight of the Cross on Jesus’ shoulders—it was the weight of God’s predetermined plan to bring to us rebels into His Rule by putting to rest once and for all time the sins of all peoples in all ages.
Ever felt like the weight of the family was on your shoulders? Ever felt like the weight of a project at work was on your shoulders? But try to imagine that the plan, rule and dominion of God’s eternal Kingdom resting on your shoulders. God’s eternal purpose is carried on the shoulders of Jesus. God has no plan “B”!
And in the filth and stench of that stable, in the filth and stench of our lives, we encounter the mystery of grace. Isaiah says, “He will be called” and the Hebrew word comes from another word that means To Encounter.
- We Have This Indescribable Encounter With The One Who IS Wonderful! It really is an incredible moment to come face to face with Grace!
- We Encounter The Counselor! The timeless wisdom and knowledge of God is placed right smack dab in the middle of our broken world.
- We Encounter The Mighty God! We come face to face with Him who holds all power in His hand and unleashes that power in the form of Love!
- We Encounter The Everlasting Father! We encounter the only one who will never ever give up on us! Love, grace and mercy that is Never Ending!
- We Encounter The Prince Of Peace! He gives us peace not because of what we have done, but because of everything that He has done for us.
There are other ways He has made Himself known to us. He’s been making Himself known through all our activities this Season.
- In the exchanging of gifts God has been offering to exchange our guilt and powerlessness for the gift of forgiveness and new life.
- God has made himself known to us through the poor and hungry with the reminder that when we do it unto the least of these we do it unto Him.
- In the bright Christmas lights He has made Himself known as the Light that Shines in the Darkness.
- In the parties and family dinners God as made Himself known as the One who will one day bring us to the Great Banquet Feast.
- In the beautiful decorations that adorn homes God has made Himself known as the only One who is able to adorn our lives with the beauty of holiness.
- Even in cleaning up the torn paper and boxes, God has made Himself known as the One who takes out the trash of our lives to make room for what really matters.
This is our encounter with God—God who has come FOR us. Now, you have a choice. You can go back the way you came into this encounter, back to your ordinary life—back to the deadlines and pressures—back to all that stuff that really never completely satisfies us. Or, you can go back into the real world, a different way.
Think about those Wise Men. In Matthew 2:11-12 (NLT)—They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.
The only way we can go back a different way is to become a different person. When the Wise Men arrived back home, what do you suppose they talked about? The sand storms they faced? The beautiful oases that would surprise them in their journey? The beautiful palace of Herod? That spectacular Temple in Jerusalem? The wonderful eating places they found? Or the eating places you don’t want to stop at?
We don’t know exactly what they talked about, but I can’t help but think and believe that they talked about their encounter with God through The Child that was given, and The Son that they saw in person. And it should be the same for us. This morning you are faced with a choice. Go back to the old life, the usual things, the ordinary things.
Or you can go back to your daily life a different way by choosing to become a different person. Come to the manger, then walk with Jesus and listen as He teaches and watch Him as He works. Then spend some time at the Cross.
Focus on the wounds and bruises of Jesus. Focus on the nails. Focus on the crown of thorns that pierced His head. Then focus—focus on that face—watch His lips move and listen as He says “Father, forgive them.” Now, how can you be the same person who walked in that door this morning?
This Child, This Son who is Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince Of Peace—this is the one that the Wise Men came to see—and this is the One they encountered. And when they encountered Him they went home a different way. It was more than just the threats of Herod; it was that They Were Now Different People.
Different people can’t travel the same road home—they go a different way. The mystery of Incarnation, God in the flesh, changed Mary, changed Joseph, changed the Shepherds, changed the Wise Men, changed the whole world! And It Ought To Change Us! Throughout this Advent and Christmas season, God has made Himself known to us.
They went home a different way because they were different people. The different way is for people who are now different, changed by embracing the Mystery: He is The Child and The Son who comes FOR us. This Different Way changes everything. 3 things should change in our lives:
1. It Changes How We Think About Life!
Life is now more than calendars, appointments and time clocks. Life is meant to be about relationship—with God first and then in relationships with others. Because of The Child, because of The Son, life isn’t about us and what we want. It’s all about Him and what He desires for us and the world.
2. It Changes How We See Life!
See your life in light of what God can do, not what you can accomplish. Start looking at situations and problems the way God sees them—as opportunities for growth. Start seeing people the way God sees them—people in need of His Mercy, Grace and Love. Stop Seeing Life As A Sentence To Be Endured But Rather An Adventure To Be Discovered.
3. It Changes How We Live Life!
Make your life an offering to God. Make every thought, form every word, make every choice as an offering to God. Listen to how The Message puts it in Rom. 12:1-2:
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. (emphasis mine)
Robert Frost wrote a poem entitled: The Road Not Taken. He talks about walking along a path in the woods when he encounters a fork in the path. Two paths are in front of him—one obviously traveled frequently and the other was less traveled. In the last verse he writes these famous words: “I shall be telling this with a sigh. Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” You are about to go home, back into the world, your world. Which way will you go?
Your Next Step
Decide if you will go back to life the same way, or a different way because seeing God with you has made you a different person.