12-01-2013 message by Pastor Rich Doebler

…How Christmas intersects with God’s eternal purpose.

With Thanksgiving over, we’ve already plunged completely into that other great American tradition…Black Friday!

Shopping for bargains and great deals! Finding that perfect gift—pushing and shoving and elbowing to be first in line. It’s the American way!

But, in fact, it’s Christmas we’re getting ready for. And despite all the hassles of the season, it still points us back to genuine blessings and foundational truths.

American society has been secularized and compromised in so many ways, and yet it still hints at something deeper. You can still uncover some Christian DNA bred into our culture.

So what we have is an strange mixture—Christianity and secularism blended together. Christmas—a Christian holy day—is all around us in secular society. Even atheists can’t escape it! It’s in all the stores…decorations on the streets…Christmas cards…elevator music…TV specials.

But while it’s inescapable, so much of it is also innocuous. It’s like a vaccination—you get just enough so you don’t have to worry about catching the real disease!

So many people celebrate Christmas on a purely secular basis with next to no Christian substance. It’s superficial. And they’re not planning to catch the real thing.

  • Anybody (Christian or not) can enjoy the nice, nostalgic traditions (Let’s go for a sleigh ride passes as a Christmas song).

  • …So let’s give thanks to the Lord above…’cause Santa Claus is coming tonight…

  • Anybody can watch the TV specials (Frosty the Snowman passes as a Christmas story).

  • Anybody can give and receive gifts (even help with disaster relief)—it’s the American way to be generous.

  • You don’t have to be a believer to attend parties or Christmas programs or even send greeting cards—and maybe even a special Christmas Eve worship service.

And at the end of the season, everyone hangs it all up and easily goes back to business as usual!

So let’s explore another way to look at Christmas. Let’s see how this “Christian” holiday is actually a pivotal moment in history, an event that intersects with God’s eternal purpose!

Christmas is not just about something that happened in history—in the past! It’s also about something that happens in the fullness of time—in these last days!

This event was planned by God before the creation of the world; then it was revealed in human history when Jesus came to earth; and God is still working out the results of Jesus’ birth in these last days. Check out this fascinating passage from God’s Word…

Hebrews 1:1-3. 1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Hebrews is a fascinating book in the Bible. It provides a perspective on the way God has worked in the past—and how he is still working.

It explains how God rescues us from the mess we make of our lives—from sin and its consequences.

In the pages of the book of Hebrews, you’ll encounter deep, timeless truths—vital information for life, expressed in theological terms like salvation, righteousness, redemption, atonement, sacrifice, repentance, judgment, covenant.

  • Hebrews explains God’s plan to save a fallen world—broken, hurting people caught in a destructive cycle of sin.

  • Hebrews shows that God’s intention was to provide a way out of the mess—a way we could start over again…a way to begin a new life.

  • Hebrews proves that God wants to save us from sin and its terrible consequences. God wants to save us from ourselves—from the poor decisions and bad mistakes we make.

In fact, Hebrews offers God’s perspective on the various ways he has delivered his message of hope to us—past, present, and future. So the book begins with a simple statement: God spoke to us in the past in a certain way, but now he has spoken in a much more direct and dramatic way.

  • We have a partial understanding of the “past”—we can know certain facts about what happened. 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination—lots of media coverage and “specials,” many memorials. Dozens of ideas and theories on who was behind it—Oswold alone or with a conspiracy? Even when we know what happened in the past, we may not know why it happened.

  • We may have perhaps a better grasp of the “present”—although even that is highly subjective and depends on our personal perspective. We think we have a grasp on what is going on, but we still interpret current events in our lives through our own set of experiences—our own colored lenses.
    That’s why after an accident or crime, eye-witnesses will offer different versions of the event. Each person has a different point of view.
    If two kids are fighting and you break up the fight, you say, “What’s all this about?” One says: “He started it!” The other argues: “Did not! You started it!” They each have a different point of view.
    We even have “instant replay” now to check if what we thought we saw is actually what happened.

  • We have a very uncertain idea about the “future”—what is yet to come. Ever pay any attention to the tabloid headlines in the supermarket? See World Wide News samples…

Blue print. All of this comes together in a wonderful, overarching story—a “blue print,” if you will, of the grand design. It helps us see the big picture of God’s plan to rescue us.

This wonderful story reaches its climax when God himself stepped physically into the affairs of this world. He has always been active—sometimes very visibly, sometimes behind the scenes. But this time, on this occasion, what he did became the pivotal moment in human history.

All of history looks to that event. Everything that happened before looked forward to it; everything that has happened since has looked back to it.

God’s salvation—God come into the world—was everything the prophets had anticipated, the promises they had looked forward to. And it’s everything we look back to as we place our trust and confidence in God for the future.

  • This was the time when the Anointed One, the Christ, the Messiah, God-in-the-flesh, came to this broken planet, which was overrun by wickedness and evil and injustice.

  • This was the time when God became human—confining himself to the limitations of a human physical body.

  • This was when God lived and worked among us.

  • This was when God felt what we feel—he experienced the same emotions and pain, the highs and the lows, the joys and the sorrows.

  • This was when God took our place—and died—so we could live by his grace.

So in three messages, I want to look at the unfolding of God’s plan—past, present, and future: in the past and in these last days. I want us to see how the story of Christmas intersects with God’s eternal purpose—how this was his plan to bring us to himself.

MOVIE CLIP: The Beginning

God [Father and Son] created the world but gave man a free will—which resulted in the “Fall.” So God made plans to “re-create” the world, by sending his Son to undo the damage of sin by making everything new again.

God sent prophets to the people so they would anticipate what God would be doing to rescue them from the Fall. The OT prophecies revealed God’s “blueprint”—his amazing plan.

1. Go way back to the beginning, right after the Fall, and you’ll read how God cursed “the serpent,” the Tempter who led Adam and Eve to disobey God:
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel [a metaphor for the cross].” (Gen 3:15)

2. Later, God told Moses:
18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. 19 I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. (Deut 18:18-19)

  • Peter quoted this on the Day of Pentecost when he called on people to repent and turn to God so their sins could be wiped out and they could receive Christ in heaven, he said,
    “…until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. 22 For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you.’” (Acts 3:19-22)

  • Stephen later recalled the same words when he spoke before the High Council in Jerusalem (Acts 7).

3. Another OT prophet, Isaiah, revealed details about the Savior hundreds of years before Jesus was born and ministered here on earth:

  • The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel [God with us]. (7:14)

  • 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
    7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever… (9:6-7)

4. Later (Luke 4:18-19) Jesus himself quoted from Isaiah, the prophet, to explain who he was and what he had come to do:
1 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. (61:1-3)

5. Still later, Peter wrote about what the OT prophets had known, even though the future remained a mystery for them:
10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. (1 Pet 4:10-12)

All these prophecies (and dozens more) show that God had salvation in mind long before Jesus came into the world. From the beginning, God had a plan to rescue people from sin and its consequences.

But the prophecies are not merely something that prove Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. The prophecies prove that you were chosen by God! That he loves you! Eph 3:4 says that he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. Matt 25:34 says that God prepared a kingdom for us from the foundation of the world.

One worship song puts it well: “Before the world began you were on His mind; and every tear you cry is precious in His eyes. Because of His great love, He gave His only Son. Everything was done so you would come.” 
          © 1996 Hillsong Music Publishing (Admin. by EMI Christian Music
Russell Fragar

Christmas is not just a nostalgic, warm-hearted feeling: Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…tiny tots with their eyes all aglow…

Christmas is God’s plan to put your life in the right direction—for now…and beyond into eternity. Will you let him?

In The Beginning