Friday, January 12, 2007

Advent Series: "Hope For Ordinary People" = "Personification Of Hope"

This talk was given back on 12.24.06. I'm finally getting around to posting it! :)


A couple weeks ago, my son Will woke up from a bad dream and came into our room. We told him he had to go back and sleep in his bed. He was so scared that he begged me to come sleep WITH him in his bed. At first I said “No!”, but he said, “Please” and I felt so bad for him that I said ok. We walked back into his room and I climbed into bed next to him.

It’s crazy but it’s like he instantly changed. He wasn’t scared anymore. He was totally calm. He went right back to sleep!

There’s something safe about that word “with”. When you’re scared having someone “with” you can make your fear go away.

In Matthew 1 it says Jesus will be called “Emmanuel” = “God with us”. Jesus is the ultimate gift of God. The Christmas story is the story of the moment in time when God came to be with us as one of us!

God has always been with us and will always be with us. He closer to us than the person sitting next to us today, but when Jesus came people could actually see, hear and touch the reality of his nearness.

John V. Taylor in “The Go-Between God” said it this way…

"We call Mary's child 'Emmanuel' because we see in him the God who has always been with us, always in the midst. There is no need for him to intervene as a stranger from the outside world. He is already here."

This is my last talk in our Advent series where we’re looking at the hope in Jesus’ first coming. I’m calling this series “Hope For Ordinary People” because there’s something strangely hopeful in the people and methods God chose to use for one of his greatest miracles ever.

I’ve been telling you that the Christmas story is God’s answer to everyone throughout history who has ever said, “If God’s real then why doesn’t he show himself!?!” He finally did, but the problem is that the way God came to us and the people he chose to use are so opposite of the way we’d do it that most of the world missed it!

You can tell a lot about God not just by who he chose to use, but also by who he didn’t choose!

Two Sundays ago, I talked about the strange choice God made in choosing SHEPHERDS to be the first people to see Jesus and spread the word about him.

God is still looking for everyday people like us to use to spread the story of hope that he’s come into the world. He’s still looking for everyday people to pick for his team.

Last Sunday I talked to you about Zechariah & Elizabeth.

They were people who believed in God and did all the things you were supposed to do to be blessed by God.

But, they felt like God didn’t come through for them, because He never allowed them to have any children. That was a big disgrace back then!

Zechariah & Elizabeth were people who others thought had done something wrong, because God wasn’t blessing them.

They felt like God didn’t hear their prayers. But, they had no clue that God was going to come and shock them by picking them to be a part of his plan!

It was a plan that was bigger and better than any plan they ever could’ve dreamed of! The angel told Zechariah that they were going to have a child – a son. He’d be like the prophet Elijah. He would precede the Messiah and point people to him.

I told you last Sunday that if you feel like God has left you hanging that you need to remember that his plan is bigger and better than yours! In the end, when you face God one day and you’re gonna look back and be so glad that he stuck to his plan, not yours!!!

God saying no or not yet to you isn’t because he’s powerless or doesn’t care! It’s because he IS powerful and wants to do more for you than you have planned! We just need to be patient and have faith!

The good news we heard last Sunday is that God isn’t just looking for everyday people to use, but he’s looking for failures and disgraceful people.

Some of you who have thought God forgot about you, but He hasn’t! He wants to take your mourning and turn it to laughter. When he reveals his plan for you it will be so much more amazing than your plan that you’ll be glad he didn’t listen to you when you were begging him to do it your way!

God will take your disgrace and touch it with his grace and you and other people will amazed at what God does!

Today I want to talk about Jesus coming to us in the flesh as hope personified. I want us to really look and think about this “God with us”.

We’re going to look at some passages from the Bible that aren’t you’re normal Christmas passages, but you’ll see they contain the same message of this gift from God.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of Jesus coming to be with us. Today I want to show you 3 things that should give us hope.

1. He came to be with us to help us understand and know God in the most ultimate way. There’s hope because when Jesus came we discovered God wants us to know what He’s like! He’s not playing “Hide and Seek” with us. He wants to be found and known!

Listen to how the Apostle John describes Jesus first coming from a heavenly perspective… John 1 (NIV)

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. 3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men.

The word in the Greek that we translate as “the Word” is the word “Logos”. It’s actually a pretty cool word-choice for the Holy Spirit to have John use, because it has a powerful meaning to the Greeks and the Jews.

In ancient philosophy, Logos was used to describe the order in the universe and the knowledge men had of each other.

“Logos” in Greek means the underlying order of reality that ordinary people are only unconsciously aware.

In the Jewish understanding of “Logos”, it was the power of God himself. In Hebrew and Ancient Near Eastern thought, words weren’t just sounds, or letters on a page; words were things that "had an independent existence and which actually did things."

John shocks both the Greeks and the Jews 10 verses later in verse 14 when he says...

14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only,F4 who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

One commentator says, “John turns the concept of the Logos on its head when he claimed "the Logos became flesh and dwelt among us" (v. 14).

He’s telling the Jews and the Greeks that God, that force you’ve been talking about, came to be WITH us!

Rich Mullins in “An Arrow Pointing Toward Heaven” said it like this…
"On that night in
Bethlehem, God breathed our air for the first time."

Later, n verse 18, John tells them “the guessing game” is over when he says..

18No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known.

Jesus came to make God known! God wants you to know him!!!

You don’t have to wonder what God’s like anymore. Look at Jesus! You don’t have to worry about what he cares about or what bothers him. Listen to Jesus! You don’t have to worry about how to get to God! Follow Jesus!

God wants you to know him and now you can - like no one who lived before Jesus ever could. That same Jesus is the one that we can know today!

In an issue of Campus Life from way back in February, 1979 it says…

“Knowledge is exploding at such a rate--more than 2000 pages a minute--that even Einstein couldn't keep up. In fact, if you read 24 hours a day, from age 21 to 70, and retained all you read, you would be one and a half million years behind when you finished.”

There are so many important things you can know nowadays – things that could change your life. There are people who could help you succeed in life, if you just met them and had them in your network of friends, but Jesus/God is the most important one to know!

He is the creator of the world, the creator of what we call “wisdom”, the creator of YOU! When you know him, you know why you’re here; you can discover and fulfill your purpose.

But there’s something else hopeful that we see in him…

2. He humbled Himself and came to join us in our mess.

I read a story recently (I can’t remember where) about a guy who had a boss who was the CEO of the company, and he would join the workers on the assembly line during Christmas to help them get everything out on time.

He didn’t do it, because he HAD to. They could get the job done without him. He did it because he wanted to be with his workers. The guy who told this story said that that simple act had a huge impact on his workers.

For someone at the top to come down from his office, roll up his sleeves and join them in the mess and chaos of their work made those guys more loyal to him than ever!

Listen to how the Apostle Paul describes Jesus coming to be with us in Philippians 2:6-11 and see if it sounds similar

Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. 7He made himself nothing; F5 he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. F6 8And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal's death on a cross. 9Because of this, God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name that is above every other name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Steve Sjogren said this in his ezine “Serve” that was sent out on last Friday... “Humility is manifested in a willingness to get to work, yes, physical work! As a friend of mine puts it, being willing to get dirt under our fingernails.”

His ultimate work is in taking our place and taking our punishment on the cross. He was our substitute!

There’s one last thing that should give us hope when we think of Jesus coming to be with us…

I talked earlier about God wanting to be known, but have you ever thought about this: When He became one of us He understood and knew US in a whole new way? We can’t ever say, “You don’t know what it’s like…” He experienced it all!

Hebrews 4:14-16
That is why we have a great High Priest who has gone to heaven, Jesus the Son of God. Let us cling to him and never stop trusting him. 15This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin. 16So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.

Whether we realize it or not, we all search for people and are attracted to people who’ve been the same things we have.

Why? Because when you find someone with the same life experience you feel understood. You feel a connection.

Ex. 9/11 wives that still meet ever year. Soldiers have reunions.

God understands you! He knows what it’s like to be poor. He knows what it’s like to be weak, to be tempted. He knows what it’s like to be rejected. He knows what it’s like to feel pain. He knows what it’s like to DIE!

When we really realize this, it should give us confidence to approach him!

Sue’s Dad tell this story in the beginning of a book him and her Mom wrote called, “When The Giant Lies Down”… p. 9- top paragraph on page 11.

The choice to be WITH someone is a gift of love. That’s the gift that we remember today and celebrate tomorrow!

I want to end this time by taking Communion together. We practice open Communion, which means you don’t have to be a member of this church, you just have to believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior to take the elements.

You could even take the elements today for the first time as your way of saying to God that you’re ready to believe and receive Jesus!

If you’re not ready, it’s ok to pass them on to the next person. Don’t feel weird.

I want to read Colossians 1:15-23 before we take the bread and juice…

15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
21Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because ofF6 your evil behavior. 22But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation-- 23if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

God wants to be incarnateknown and shown through your life!

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