Sermon for Nov 27

By on November 27, 2016

The Gift of Good News

Preached to Clark’s Chapel UMC on 27 November 2016

Matthew 1:18-25

NIV Matthew 1:18 ¶ This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.” 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

 

Introduce / Establish Need

 

Our Advent series is entitled, All I Want for Christmas.  There’s a part of me that wants to complete the song and say my two front teeth, but we need to be more serious than that.  On a child’s level, Christmas is about receiving.  As we get older, we add in more of the giving value to Christmas.  Because of the busyness of the season, we can get tunnel vision and miss the real truth of Christmas.  Our series is designed for us to reflect and understand that we are on the receiving end of wonderful gifts given to us by God.

 

However, our author, Jim Moore, says that in order to receive these gifts, we need the miracle of God’s grace to see them, feel them, hear them, wrap our arms around them, and celebrate them.  As a result, he pondered a very personal question: What are the gifts we would really like to receive from Christmas this year?  His answer for us is the topic of the next 4 weeks.  Our first gift is the gift of good news.

 

Into the Biblical World

 

The biblical birth stories are familiar to us as we have heard them many times.  At a simple level, each gospel writer focuses on one of the parents of Jesus: Matthew centers on Joseph while Luke centers on Mary.  Because these stories are familiar, I’m going to spend less time with them and only draw out the items that support our theme.

 

Remember that I mentioned tunnel vision in the introduction?  I think we can easily make the argument that this is what Joseph had.  Once he found out that Mary was pregnant, he had choices to make.  His sense of right and wrong led him to do the righteous thing and divorce her quietly.  However, the amazing thing about Joseph is that his vision was not limited; he could discern and follow the leading of God.  He could walk by faith.  He had hope that what the angel told him was true.  And he continued to show love to Mary.  These three examples from the life of Joseph show us the gift of good news.

 

Into Our Experience

 

Jim Moore states that at Christmas, our faith gets a shot in the arm.  At Christmas, we renew our faith by remembering afresh the real priorities of life.  This statement about a shot in the arm might remind us of a vaccine.  We periodically get boosters so that it continues to work.  Christmas is a faith booster.  We know from experience that the reminders of the season can help us to experience the presence of Jesus.  The angel’s proclamation was that Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us and so with faith eyes and an openness to God’s Spirit, Christmas is more than a celebration that Jesus was born.  Christmas inspires our faith.

 

Christmas is also a season of hope.  Where there is faith, there is hope.  Where there is Jesus, there is hope.  Where there is salvation, there is hope.  Once again, the promise of Christmas is God with us, so we can cling to hope in God.  When we have hope, we have purpose and mission even if it seems lost.

 

One of the older Christmas carols is I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.  Written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow during the Civil War, he had learned that his son had been severely wounded.  In response, he wrote these timeless words:

 

I heard the bells on Christmas Day, their old familiar carols play

And wild and sweet, the words repeat of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair, I bowed my head, there is no peace on earth I said

For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep, God is not dead nor does he sleep

The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.

 

Friends, that is faith and hope stirring one’s soul.

 

And of course, Christmas is about love.  We love because he first loved us.  Jesus is a gift of love.  Our Christmas giving showcases our love for one another.  Love is behind shoe box gifts given to children we will never meet, but will appreciate those gifts.  Love is behind the mittens, gloves, and hats that decorate our Christmas tree.  The Christmas season is full of stories in which love makes a difference in someone’s life.  Jim Moore shares Tony Campolo’s story of a school teacher named Miss Thompson and the 5th grade boy named Teddy.  Let’s just say that Teddy was a piece of work and even tried Miss Thompson’s patience to the breaking point.  Then at Christmas, he gave her a crudely wrapped present that contained a gaudy rhinestone bracelet and a half-full bottle of perfume.  While the other children smirked over the gift, Miss Thompson, with a spirit of love, put on the bracelet and dabbed the perfume on her wrist and made over the gifts.  Afterwards, Teddy told her how his mother’s bracelet and perfume looked good and smelled good on her.  You see, Teddy’s mother had died 3 years earlier and his father had neglected him.  Miss Thompson asked God for forgiveness of her previous dealings with Teddy and made a special effort to show him love.  The story continues with Teddy and Miss Thompson staying in touch, he became a doctor, and at his wedding, he asked her to sit in his mother’s place of honor.  She was family to him.  All because of love, love inspired at Christmas, two lives became intertwined and changed forever.

 

Christmas is a time of Good News.  The birth of Jesus became good news to Joseph.  It became real to him through the eyes of faith, the sureness of hope, and the devotion of love.

 

We said that Christmas is a faith booster.  Let the season bolster your faith, whether it be in worship, season’s greeting, mission activity, or however God becomes Emmanuel to you.

 

We said that Christmas brings hope.  What uncertainty can the presence of Jesus overcome for you?

 

And Christmas is the season of love.  Who can you love with the love of Christ?

 

Yes, Christmas is a time to receive Good News.  Grant us faith, hope, and love that are grounded in your presence.  Amen!

 

 

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