THE BEST OF TIMES THE WORST OF TIMES

 

MAIN POINT: IT IS TIME FOR SOMETHING NEW!

 

SCRIPTURE: (ISAIAH 66:8 NIV)  WHO HAS EVER HEARD OF SUCH A THING? WHO HAS EVER SEEN SUCH THINGS? CAN A COUNTRY BE BORN IN A DAY OR A NATION BE BROUGHT FORTH IN A MOMENT? YET NO SOONER IS ZION IN LABOR THAN SHE GIVES BIRTH TO HER CHILDREN.

 

INTRODUCTION: CHRISTMAS, IT IS THE BEST OF TIMES IT IS THE WORST OF TIMES. WHY IS IT THAT THIS SEASON, WITH ITS HOPE OF ETERNAL LIFE, JOY AND PEACE ON EARTH CAN ALSO BRING SUCH DEEP DEPRESSION AND BROKENNESS? OUR TEXT THIS MORNING WILL HELP US SHINE SOME LIGHT ON BOTH THE PROBLEM AS WELL AS LEAD US TO THE ANSWER THAT IS FOUND IN CHRIST JESUS HIMSELF. THE FIRST THING I WANT TO LOOK AT IS THE CHRISTMAS SEASON ITSELF. WE WILL LOOK AT BOTH THE MATERIAL ASPECTS AS WELL AS THE SPIRITUAL INFLUENCES OF THE HOLIDAY. IT WILL BE MY HOPE THAT IN THIS EXAMINATION WE WILL FIND REASON FOR OUR ROLLERCOASTER RIDE OF EMOTIONS. SECOND WE WILL LOOK AT THE EXPECTATIONS WE OURSELVES PLACE UPON THE SEASON. WE WILL LOOK AT HOW OUR EXPECTATIONS OF OTHERS AS WELL AS OURSELVES AND EVEN OUR EXPECTATIONS OF GOD AFFECT OUR VIEW OF CHRISTMAS. LASTLY WE WILL TRY TO FIND OUT WHAT WE NEED TO CHANGE IN OUR LIVES AND HOW TO CHANGE THOSE THINGS THAT CAN MAKE NOT ONLY CHRISTMAS BUT THE ENTIRE YEAR MORE LIKE GOD INTENDS IT TO BE. A LIFE FULL OF HIS PRESENCE FOR WHERE GOD IS, THERE, IS CHRISTMAS.

 

WE KNOW FROM SCRIPTURE THAT THE REASON FOR CHRISTMAS IS IN ORDER FOR GOD HIMSELF TO GIVE US THE GIFT OF ETERNAL LIFE. IT IS BECAUSE OF HIS GREAT LOVE FOR US THAT HE FREELY STEPPED DOWN FROM HIS HEAVENLY THRONE AND HUMBLY TOOK UPON HIMSELF THE SINS OF ALL MANKIND. HE FREELY AND WILLINGLY TOOK UPON HIMSELF ALL OF OUR AFFLICTIONS IN ORDER THAT WE MIGHT BE COMFORTED BY HIM FOREVER AND EVER. HE HIMSELF WILL WIPE AWAY EVERY TEAR. THERE WILL BE NO MORE SORROW NO MORE PAIN. BECAUSE OF THIS FIRST CHRISTMAS GIFT DEATH ITSELF NO LONGER HAS ANY HOLD ON US FOR HE IS THE WAY THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE.

 

SO THEN WHY ALL THE SORROW? WHY ALL THE HEARTACHE?  LETS LOOK AT WHAT CHRISTMAS HAS BECOME AND SEE IF WE CAN GET SOME ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS.

 

 

 

1ST POINT.  CHRISTMAS IS A TIME OF SPIRITUAL TRAVAIL. WE KNOW THAT IN THE NATURAL BIRTH OF A CHILD THERE ARE LABOR PAINS. NOW I CAN TRULY THANK GOD THAT I BEING A MAN HAVE NEVER AND WILL NEVER EXPERIENCE THE PAIN OF CHILD BIRTH. I LIKED BILL COSBYS ATTEMPT AT DESCRIBING THE PAIN BY TELLING US TO TAKE OUR BOTTOM LIP AND PULLING IT UP OVER OUR HEADS. THAT MIGHT COME CLOSE BUT I DON’T THINK ANY WORD PICTURE CAN FULLY GIVE A MAN THE INTENSITY OF THAT PAIN. THE FIRST NOEL (NOEL MEANING “BIRTH”) WAS ONE THAT WAS WROUGHT WITH TRAVAIL. WHEN WE THINK ABOUT TRAVAILING WE THINK ABOUT WRITHING IN PAIN. NOT ONLY DID MARY EXPERIENCE THE PHYSICAL TRAVAIL OF CHILD BIRTH BUT THE ENTIRE CREATION TRAVAILS WAITING FOR THE REDEMPTION THAT COMES BY THE LORD. SO THEN FROM THE FIRST CHRISTMAS ON THERE HAS BEEN A WRESTLING, A STRUGGLE TO BE SET FREE. AN INTERESTING SIDE THOUGHT TO THIS IS WHEN WE DISCOVER THAT CHRISTMAS WAS NOT ALWAYS CELEBRATED ON DEC. 25TH.  NOR WAS IT ALWAYS CELEBRATED IN JAN. AS IN THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX RELIGION. IN THE FIRST 3 CENTURIES IT WAS CELEBRATED ON NOV. 11TH. 11/11 COULD THAT BE OF SOME SIGNIFICANCE. 11 BEING THE NUMBER OF JUDGEMENT. WHO IS TO SAY? THE FACT IS THAT NOW DEC. 25TH IS KNOWN AS CHRISTMAS AND THERE ARE VERY FEW WHO QUESTION THE DATE. ON THE SPIRITUAL SIDE OF THE COIN WE CAN SEE WHY THERE MIGHT BE SO MUCH CONFLICT AROUND THIS SEASON. THE CHURCH FIRST MOVED CHRISTMAS TO THE 25TH OF DECEMBER TO COUNTER A LARGE PAGAN CELEBRATION OF THE WINTER SOLSTICE. HOW IRONIC THAT WE ARE SEEING SO MANY PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS IN THIS COUNTRY RETURNING TO THE WINTER SOLSTICE CELEBRATION AND SEPARATING THEMSELVES FROM CHRISTMAS. IN SO DOING THEY ARE SEPARATING THEMSELVES FROM GOD.  SO WITHOUT GOING DEMON HUNTING YOU CAN SEE THE SPIRITUAL WARFARE THAT IS GOING ON UNDER THE SURFACE OF THIS SEASON.

    ON THE MATERIAL SIDE THERE IS THE COMMERCIALIZATION OF CHRISTMAS THAT IS SUCH A TRAP AND YET WE GET SUCKED INTO IT FURTHER AND FURTHER EVERY YEAR. I KNOW MORE PEOPLE THAT GO INTO FINANCIAL DEBT AT THIS TIME OF THE YEAR. PEOPLE SPEND MORE MONEY THEN THEY HAVE ON GIFTS FOR PEOPLE THEY LOVE. THEN AFTER CHRISTMAS THEY STRUGGLE AND MAKE THOSE SAME LOVED ONES FEEL GUILTY FOR RECEIVING THE GIFT FROM THEM. IT IS NO WONDER THAT SOMEONE LIKE THAT WOULD BE WEARY ABOUT GOD GIVING THEM SUCH AN AWESOME GIFT AS ETERNAL LIFE. AFTER ALL IT COST HIM THE LIFE OF HIS OWN SON. SURELY HE WOULD MAKE US FEEL GUILTY IF WE TOOK HIS GIFT. THE TRUTH IS IT IS ONLY BY TAKING HIS GIFT OF ETERNAL LIFE THAT ALL YOUR GUILT CAN BE TAKEN AWAY.

 

2ND POINT. FAR TOO OFTEN IT IS THE EXPECTATIONS THAT WE PUT ON CHRISTMAS THAT WILL ROB ITS JOY. WE SEE ALL THESE CHRISTMAS SPECIALS ON TV. OF HAPPY FAMILIES SINGING TOGETHER IN PERFECT HARMONY. WHY THERE IS MARTHA STEWERT WITH THE PERFECT CHRISTMAS DINNER FOR 300 OF HER CLOSE FRIENDS AND FAMILY. SHE PREPARED IT ALL HERSELF AND NEVER GOT STRESSED ABOUT ANYTHING. IT ALL CAME OUT PERFECT AND HER HAIR WAS NEVER OUT OF PLACE. WE THINK ABOUT THAT AND LAUGH BUT WE THINK; “JUST ONCE I WOULD LIKE CHRISTMAS TO BE SPECTACULAR.” IT IS SO GREAT TO STILL HAVE YOUNG KIDS BECAUSE THEY STILL HAVE THE JOY OF CHRISTMAS. OF COURSE, THEY DON’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT THE FOOD OR THE BILLS OR THE DINNER GUESTS OR THIS OR THAT OR THE OTHER THING. THEY DO WORRY ABOUT THEM THINGS THOUGH. THE ONLY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THEM AND ME AT TIMES IS THEY TRUST THEIR DADDY TO MEET THERE NEEDS. DO I? DO YOU TRUST YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER TO MEET YOUR NEEDS OR ARE YOU EXPECTING MORE AND GETTING LESS. CHRISTMAS LETS US DOWN BECAUSE WE ARE NOT CONTENT WITH THE GOODNESS OF GOD. I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO GOING TO MEXICO AT THE END OF THIS MONTH SO THAT I MIGHT BE ABLE TO NOT ONLY HELP THOSE THAT ARE LESS FORTUNATE BUT SO THAT I MIGHT APPRECIATE HOW FORTUNATE I AM. I KNOW ALL OF THIS IS GREAT TALK WHEN YOU HAVE A HAPPY FAMILY. HOW ABOUT ALL THOSE LONELY SINGLES IN THE WORLD. WHAT CAN THEY EXPECT. ANOTHER EMPTY TREE, ANOTHER TV DINNER CHRISTMAS MEAL. HOW ABOUT ALL THOSE HURTING PEOPLE, HOW ABOUT ALL THE PEOPLE THAT HAVE PASSED AWAY. DO YOU REALIZE THAT EVERY MINUTE THAT GOES BY 95 PEOPLE DIE IN THIS WORLD. 95 PEOPLE EVERY MINUTE. THAT CAN BRING ABOUT A LOT OF SORROW ESPECIALLY WHEN THOSE PEOPLE PASS ON AROUND THE CHRISTMAS SEASON. SO WHERE IS THE HOPE? WHERE IS THE JOY? HOW CAN THIS SEASON BE REDEEMED? 1ST WE HAVE TO LOOK BACK AT THE REASON FOR THE SEASON. ETERNAL LIFE. ABUNDANT AND OVERFLOWING. YOU SEE IF JESUS JUST CAME TO THIS EARTH TO DIE THEN GOD WOULD HAVE LET HAROD KILL HIM WITH IN THE FIRST 2 YEARS OF HIS LIFE. JESUS CAME TO SEEK AND TO SAVE. HE CAME TO SHOW US THE WAY HE CAME TO GIVE US THE WORDS OF ETERNAL LIFE. THOSE WORDS ARE LIFE. WE CAN ONCE AGAIN EXPECT GREAT AND WONDERFUL THINGS WHEN WE GET INTO THE WORD OF GOD AND APPLY IT TO OUR EVERYDAY LIFE. NOT JUST A VERSE HERE AND THERE BUT THE ENTIRE WORD OF GOD. YOU NEED TO RECEIVE IT ALL TO RECEIVE AT ALL. LETS GO BACK TO OUR SCRIPTURE VERSE FOR TODAY AND SEE HOW THE WORD APPLIED CAN CHANGE CHRISTMAS FOR US FOREVER.

 

 

(ISAIAH 66:8 NIV)  WHO HAS EVER HEARD OF SUCH A THING? WHO HAS EVER SEEN SUCH THINGS? CAN A COUNTRY BE BORN IN A DAY OR A NATION BE BROUGHT FORTH IN A MOMENT? YET NO SOONER IS ZION IN LABOR THAN SHE GIVES BIRTH TO HER CHILDREN.

 

3RD POINT: LET THE WORD OF GOD CHANGE OUR LIVES FOR GOOD.

 

WE KNOW WHAT THE SECULAR WORLD CAN GIVE US. WE KNOW HOW WE CAN WORK OUR WHOLE LIVES ONLY TO BE CAST ASIDE BY A PROFIT DRIVEN ECONOMY. WE HAVE HEARD OF HOW WE NEED TO WAIT AND WAIT AND WAIT. WE HAVE HEARD HOW WE SHOULD NOT DO ANYTHING BUT JUST SET THERE. WE HAVE SEEN HOW THINGS DO NOT GET ACCOMPLISHED. WE KNOW THAT ROME WAS NOT BUILT IN A DAY WE KNOW THAT NOTHING HAPPENS OVER NIGHT. THIS IS WHAT WE HAVE HEARD AND SEEN OF THE WORLD. BUT GOD IS ASKING YOU TODAY; WHO’S REPORT WILL YOU BELIEVE? ARE YOU GOING TO TRUST THE LYING WORLD THAT HAS LEFT YOU LESS THEN FULFILLED OR ARE YOU READY TO TAKE A CHANCE ON SOMETHING NEW. ARE YOU GOING TO SETTLE FOR SECOND BEST OR READY TO BE SECOND TO NONE. YOU KNOW WHAT IT IS GOING TO TAKE IT IS GOING TO TAKE TRAVAIL. YES THAT’S RIGHT TRUE TRAVAIL. NOT THAT FAKE MAMBY PAMBY, SNIFFLY NOSED WEEPING ONTO THE LORD. IT IS GOING TO TAKE YOU TAKING A REAL LOOK AT  YOURSELF AND THEN TAKE A REAL LOOK AT THE HOLINESS OF GOD AND IN THAT TURNING TO HIM WITH ALL YOUR HEART. IF YOU HAVE SOME HIDDEN PAIN, A BURDEN THAT YOU HAVE BEEN SHOULDERING YOURSELF YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE TO FIGHT THAT LOOSE. YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE TO TRAVAIL. GOD WILL NOT GIVE YOU THE BIRTH OF SOMETHING NEW IF YOU DO NOT PUSH OUT ALL THAT HAS BEEN WEIGHING YOU DOWN. YOU HAVE BEEN STRUGGLING WITH BOTH GOD AND MEN. IT IS TIME FOR A CHANGE. IT IS TIME TO BRING FORTH SOMETHING NEW.

 

THE WORD OF GOD TELLS US THAT AS SOON , AS SOON AS ZION TRAVAILED SHE BROUGHT FORTH HER CHILDREN. GOD HAS SOMETHING NEW FOR YOU. GOD HAS SOMETHING GREAT FOR YOU. EMBRACE THE TRAVAILING AND KNOW THAT AS SOON AS YOU TRULY ENTER INTO TRAVAIL GOD WILL BRING FORTH YOUR COMFORT. FOR YOU SHALL RECEIVE POWER FROM ON HIGH WHEN THE HOLY SPIRIT IS COME UPON YOU AND GREAT AND MIGHTY THINGS WILL BE DONE IN THE NAME OF AND TO THE GLORY OF GOD THE FATHER THROUGH CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD AMEN.

 

LET’S PRAY; FATHER, FORGIVE ME. FORGIVE ME. FORGIVE ME FORGIVE ME. COME INTO MY HEART AFRESH CLEANS ME AND BIRTH WITHIN ME SOMETHING NEW TODAY FOR YOUR GLORY…. (CONTINUE TO PRAY IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH AND MAY GOD RICHLY BLESS YOU.)