2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel, whose origins are in the distant past, will come from you on my behalf. 3 The people of Israel will be abandoned to their enemies until the woman in labor gives birth. Then at last his fellow countrymen will return from exile to their own land. 4 And he will stand to lead his flock with the Lord’s strength, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. Then his people will live there undisturbed, for he will be highly honored around the world. 5 And he will be the source of peace. When the Assyrians invade our land and break through our defenses, we will appoint seven rulers to watch over us, eight princes to lead us.Micah 5:2-5
Today we are in the Second of our Advent Series we’re calling: Finding The Perfect Gift. In a season where people should be celebrating God’s gift of love by sharing gifts of love with each other, it seems so many are obsessed with finding that perfect gift. We think of the perfect gift as the one that satisfies the desires of the heart. Truth is the perfect gift has already been given; and found by those who can recognize it: Emmanuel, God With Us. And this perfect gift comes to us even in, NO, Especially In The Worst Of Times.
These are difficult times. Soldiers are still being scattered around the globe trying to bring peace, trying to end terrorist threats. Washington D.C. who should be leading us forward, is spinning in circles. For many, maybe even some of you, there is not much joy or hope in this Christmas Season.
On Hampton Plantation in coastal South Carolina, there was an elderly sharecropper, illiterate but very wise. One of his favorite sayings was this: “If you ain’t in trouble, your prayers ain’t got no suction.” The Bible declares that our impossibility is God’s opportunity. God is found at your wit’s end, just when you need Him most, when you have run out of answers and almost out of hope.
The Old Testament prophets were not called in good times. They were called up by God in times of crises. Jesus did not visit this planet when we became good enough to receive him. The Bible says, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” He faced us at our worst, and loved us anyway, all the way to a cross.
If you can remember only 1 thing from today’s message, then this is it: Those Who Enter This Holy Season With The Greatest Needs Stand The Best Chance Of Encountering The Messiah. Jesus did not come to the healthy but to heal the sick. His mission is not to round up the pious, but to draw in the worst. If you are hurting or lost or spiritually hungry this season, the odds are in your favor that you will encounter Him.
What causes me to believe this? I got it straight from an Old Testament prophet named Micah. Here is yet another reason why I loathe what well-meaning editors and scholars have done to God’s Word. One reason is they put misleading “headings” above passages that obscure greater truths. Another reason is their use of the term “minor prophets”. No prophet is minor and neither are their messages. Case in point is Micah.
700 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Micah was called by God to speak His word to the nation of Judah. Though he was a simple farmer, he was outright fearless. The national situation was awful: morals were low, crime was raging, the government was immoral, the courts were corrupt, most organized religion was formalistic and cold, and the dominant religion was materialism. Sounds just like today, doesn’t it. To make matters worse, Judah was a tiny nation positioned dangerously between two hostile superpowers—Assyria and Egypt.
They had as much security as a gambler’s dollar in Las Vegas. At that critical moment, Micah attacked the nation’s sin. But he did much more than that. Inspired by God, he looked out into the future and said: A Messiah will be born in tiny Bethlehem. God is going to send someone great to us. So, don’t despair. God has good news coming!
Micah and his people could only look forward to the Messiah’s coming at some future date. But it’s different for us. We live in the excitement of A Bethlehem Manger, An Atoning Cross, And An Empty Tomb. What Micah could only promise, we can receive and experience. Look with me at the specific promises from Micah concerning the Messiah:
1. In The Worst Of Times, The Messiah Will Restore Us.
If you can handle it, here’s the truth: We Are All Broken Somewhere. Somewhere We Need To Be Restored To The Person God Created Us To Become.
Being in a relationship with Him is more than making it a habit of coming to church for an hour or so on Sunday morning. It’s more than saying before the meal: “God is great God is good, let us thank him for our food.” It’s more than saying at bedtime: “Now I lay me down to sleep.”
- It Is All About Intimacy—Knowing And Sensing The Nearness Of His Presence.
- It’s Living Out The Name Joseph Was Given To Name That Child—Emmanuel-God With Us. God Offers Us More Than Nice Sounding Words Or Lofty Ideas And Virtues. He Offers Us The Nearness Of Himself.
- And In The Worst Of Times—It Is That Holy Presence That Restores Us Where We Are Broken.
Now, I’m about to meddle in your life: What Are You Doing To Cultivate And Nurture That Nearness? Are you spiritually hungry and thirsty this Christmas? If so, Jesus wants to be for you The Bread Of Life and The Living Water. Let the Messiah feed you during this Holy Season and all the seasons afterwards. Invite him into your life as Savior and Lord. Allowing God to restore you will be The Best Gift In The Worst Of Times.
2. In The Worst Of Times, The Messiah Will Lead Us.
Do you feel insecure in this Advent season? You do if your marriage is less than solid. You do if your job is at risk. You might if you or a loved one has a medical problem. You might if you have lost a loved-one in the last year. You might if you have had a lot of “stuff” to deal with.
Preacher and writer Dr. James Moore tells a story about a young man whose wife had died, leaving him with a small son. Back home from the cemetery, they went to bed early because there was nothing else he could bear to do. As he lay there in the darkness—heartbroken, the little boy broke the silence with a disturbing question, “Daddy, where is mommy?” The father got up and brought the little boy to bed with him, but the child was still disturbed and restless, occasionally asking questions like “Why isn’t she here?” and “When is she coming back?”
Finally, the little boy said, “Daddy, if your face is toward me, I think I can go to sleep now.” And in a little while he was quiet. The father lay there in the darkness, and then in childlike faith, prayed this prayer: “O God, I don’t see how I can survive this. The future looks so miserable. But if your face is toward me, somehow I know I can make it.”
That’s what the Messiah came to teach us: That God’s Face Is Always Towards Us. Let the Messiah replace your uncertainty this Advent with this bedrock conviction: God And You Are In This Together. Nothing can happen that God and you together cannot manage. Nothing will ever be able to separate you from his love. That is how He leads us.
3. In The Worst Of Times, The Messiah Will Be Our Peace.
We need peace! Inner War and turmoil is everywhere and it spans the globe. Some of the streets resemble a war zone as drugs, greed, poverty, and anger create an explosive mixture. In America people yearn for inner stillness and the absence of turmoil. So, they turn to alcohol, drugs, sex and anything else that will help them forget their pain, trouble and sense of chaos.
Peace is not placing a police officer on every street corner and U.N. Peacekeepers in every troubled nation.
- Peace comes when Jesus Christ washes sin from human hearts.
- Peace comes when Jesus opens eyes so that people will see each other as brothers and sisters
- Peace is a personal friendship with Jesus who said, I give you peace, the kind of peace that only I can give. It isn’t like the peace that this world can give. So don’t be worried or afraid. (John 14:27)
- Listen to how The Message puts it: That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.
During Advent, The People Who Most Often Meet The Messiah Are Those With The Greatest Needs. It seems that Jesus seeks them out. Just as Micah declared 700 years before Jesus’ birth, God’s best gifts are given in the worst of times.
Are you experiencing the worst of times right now? Do you need strength? Is it security you hunger for? Are you longing for a deep and lasting peace? Ask Him for it. His Nature Is To Give It And So Much More. The Messiah comes to us offering Himself as our gift. When we accept the gift of the Messiah, it matches exactly Our Hurt, Our Fear, And Our Need. When we tie our destiny to this Messiah-King, we can face whatever the future brings, knowing that we are more than conquerors through Christ who loves us.
Knowing the He will restore you, lead you, and give you peace, What are your Next Steps?
- Find Ways To Build People Up, Especially Those You Don’t Like.
- Seek The Power Of The Holy Spirit And Treat Him As A Real Person Because He Is.
- Be A Peace-Maker, Not A Peace Breaker.