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How many of you are constantly revising your plans for Christmas? It’s tough to plan right now. Things are going to have to stay pretty fluid, aren’t they?  Many families will need to be creative about how they will gather and not much can be set in stone because we cannot anticipate the direction this pandemic will take.  2020 has been the year of surprises for sure.  It’s been the most difficult year I have personally experienced.  There has been more than a cloud over the happenings of 2020, there has almost been a shroud, a sense of darkness and doom and gloom.  So how do we authentically move into the greatest season of celebration given the conditions we are dealing with?  We could definitely all use some Christmas cheer.  I’m down for a party, how about you? But legit question:  How do you celebrate in the dark times?  We celebrate in dark times by remembering what and WHO we are celebrating.

Our time is not unlike the time prophesied by the prophet Isaiah so many years ago.

Isaiah 9:2-The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.

It isn’t a coincidence to me that we celebrate Advent and Christmas during the darkest time of the year.  I’m not in love with the sun setting at 5:15 right now, but perhaps we can gain some spiritual insight by the amount of physical darkness that has been forced upon us.  You see, what happens in the natural is often a parallel for a spiritual happening when you peel back the layers.  Isaiah said that during a dark time, a light dawned. 

It wasn’t just that times were tough for Israel or that circumstances were bleak, but Israel, God’s people were walking in darkness.  They were spiritually dark because of bad choices they had made.  Everyone say, “That’s bad.” When God’s people are spiritually dark it trumps any natural disaster, any pandemic, any economic crisis. Listen, it doesn’t get darker than that.  We expect the world to be dark, right?  We expect the darkness of evil to overshadow those without God, but when the church’s light goes out, when the church’s spiritual sight grows dim, when the church can no longer see God in their midst and wait in faithful expectation for Him to move, Houston, we have a problem. It is the worst-case scenario for God’s people to be living in darkness, but Isaiah foretold that a light would dawn on the people who were living in darkness. Aren’t you glad that God won’t allow His people to stay in the dark?  

Isaiah goes on to say:  Isaiah 9:6-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.

And so, Jesus, God the Son, donned human flesh, moved into our neighborhood, and with Him, came the light to see and know God.  Jesus gives you the light you need in order to see and know God.  When Jesus began his earthly ministry, after he overcame the devil in the wilderness temptations, after the Light had overcome the Darkness in a “round one” if you will, Matthew tells us Jesus went to Capernaum to fulfill what had been prophesied by Isaiah.  He specifically went to display His light on the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, to people in Israel who were blinded to the truth about God, to God’s people, who couldn’t see Him, couldn’t hear Him and weren’t acknowledging Him.  They were about to get a big dose of the Light, Light that would be cause for celebration!  

This Advent, We celebrate that Light to see and know God has come into the world.

If you want to know God, look at Jesus.  If you want to understand the love of God, look at Jesus.  If you want to know what God wants for your life, look at Jesus. If you want to know how freedom from sin and bondage feels, look at Jesus. If you want to know how to make a positive impact on this world, look at Jesus. If you want to know the way to Heaven, look at Jesus. Jesus is the Light you need for every dark situation.  He is the illumination your mind needs, the light your soul needs, and the glow to light your life’s path.  He is the Everlasting Light in the Carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”  He is the True Light of John 1:9. He is the Light that has made God plain to us, Romans 1:19-20.

Happy Birthday, Jesus.  Happy Birthday to the Light of the World.  Church, we ought to par-tay! Go all-in this Advent, put out every decoration you have, bake everything you have time to bake, buy presents for your loved ones, sing all of the carols, turn the music up loud, watch all of the specials, post all of the Christmas memes, light candles in your home, dance like nobody is watching and worship and adore the Lord of Light this Christmas.  His coming gives us great reasons to celebrate.  In addition to celebrating that the Light to see and know God as come into the world,

We celebrate that the Savior is for everyone.

Jesus is the once-size-fits-all greatest gift ever given!  This principle is represented by the fact that the announcement of the Messiah’s birth was first given to the shepherds.  Listen to the account from Luke’s Gospel in chapter 2 and verse 8:  And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news that will cause great joy for ALL the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to YOU.  He is the Messiah, the Lord.”

Did you know that when Jewish Rabbi’s listed despised occupations, being a shepherd was at the top of the list?  It was assumed that all shepherds were thieves.  Shepherds were not even allowed to testify in court because they were considered to be liars.  They were not allowed to worship in the Temple or synagogue because they were considered to be unclean.  Not one shepherd ever told his kindergarten teacher, “When I grow up, I want to be a shepherd!” It wasn’t a revered or respected profession. It was a dead-end street. 

And yet, here was a group of shepherds, social outcasts, unclean by society’s standards, who were privileged to hear the news, “A Savior has been to you.”  First of all, I love that Luke says, “has been born TO you.”  He could have said “has been born for you,” and it would have been an appropriate phrase, however, the fact that a Savior was born to us has a different nuance. That word, “to” is a connecting word.  God sent Jesus to connect with us.  That word, “to” indicates that Jesus was a gift.  God the Father sent the Son and when He did, He sent the Son TO us.  He died FOR our sin, but He was given TO us as a gift.

Now, imagine the shepherds hearing the angels say, “A Savior has been born to YOU.”  Do you think they looked behind them to see if there was a group of Kings standing behind them? Do you think they thought they were being “punked” and that the TV cameras would come out at any second? Perhaps they glanced back to see if there were some religious or political elites behind them because surely the news that they were hearing about a Savior, about a Messiah, wasn’t for them.  Oh, but it was! 

Think about it.  God could have chosen to make His announcement to anyone.  Wouldn’t it have made sense to break the news to reputable people, folks that others would believe?  Or at least to successful people, to people with connections and a big network so that news would efficiently spread?  No.  Had God made His announcement to people who were considered “special,” those who didn’t feel special so much would have counted themselves out of the announcement, out of the invitation to experience Peace and Joy.  It would have been easy to conclude, “I’m not good enough” to “Go and see the Christ-child that has been born.” 

But God, in His infinite wisdom, appeared on-purpose to those that society considered questionable, to those who had a bad reputation, to those who couldn’t even be trusted, to those others didn’t want to associate with.  God strategically identified with the down and out, the poor and needy, with those who could use some Good News and a fresh start. 

The shepherds, you see, represent the universal nature of the Gospel.  Jesus is for everyone. Whosoever will may come to Jesus.  It doesn’t matter what you have done, where you have come from, or what others think of you.  It doesn’t matter your race or status, your education or upbringing, Jesus is for you!  Little ones can come to know Jesus.  Seasoned seniors can come to Jesus.  As long as you have breath, you qualify to make a decision for Christ.

Those who would accuse Christians of being elitist haven’t met true Jesus’ people or they simply don’t understand the message because the angels’ invitation to the shepherds to be first at Jesus’ baby shower was just the inaugural event of Jesus whole Messianic Mission to save the entire world.  He had come to seek and save the lost, and anyone without a relationship with God qualifies as lost.  Anyone without God is walking around in darkness. Yes, there is one way to God. That is narrow. I’ll admit that, but God has made it possible for anyone who wants to, to be able to travel that narrow road. It is only through Jesus, yes.  He is the narrow path, but if you choose Him, He opens up the wideness of God’s mercy, the expanse of God’s riches, the depths of God’s peace, the broad nature of true joy.  Freedom is so much fun when it is the freedom Christ brings to a person’s life.  Christmas is a freedom party, Church!  Maybe we ought to get Randy Parsons and Larry Evans to put us on another fireworks display on Christmas Eve to celebrate the freedom Jesus has given to us!

Who knows what went through the shepherds’ minds?  I wonder if they felt unworthy of the invitation.  I wonder if they were blinded by the glory and holiness of God that simply was part and parcel of the angelic atmosphere.  I wonder if they thought, “I’m not ready to meet the Messiah.  My life is a mess.  I can’t meet the Savior in this condition.” I can’t say for sure, but I will say this:  When God brings the revelation of WHO He is, He does it at just the right time. The shepherds were ready for it.  It was the right time for them because Luke tells us that they hurried to the manger to see the Christ-child, and any anxiety they had about not being good enough to meet God melted away when they met Jesus.  They weren’t just “in.”  They were “all-in.”  Their conversation was radically transformed as Luke tells us they spread the word about Jesus’ birth, and they returned home glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen.  Something so wonderful had happened to them that they couldn’t help but share the news about the Messiah’s birth.

What we can understand from these happenings is that if Jesus can change a shepherd’s life, He can change anyone’s life. Their lives would no longer be defined by what they had done or what others thought of them.  Their lives would be marked by the fact that God accepted them and invited them to draw close to His Son.  What do you want to define your life?  Your performance?  Other people’s opinions, or the value and worth God has placed on your life by inviting you to draw close to His Son?

Lastly, I would suggest that

We celebrate that the Wise Men found what they were looking for, and we can, too.

The Magi were people who were wise men who knew that signs in the sky pointed to the Creator God.  They understand that the sun, moon, and stars, all that has been created, point us to seek and know the God of Creation. And when the incredible star appeared in the sky over Bethlehem, they were willing to leave where they were to find Jesus.  They had learned of prophecies of old that had predicted a special star that would point to a special king. They had studied star patterns.  They did what they could to intellectually understand what could be taking place, but intellect isn’t enough in order to connect us with God. Seeking God with our mind is only part of the journey.

If you have knowledge about Jesus, but never make the trip to experience Him personally, you will never find salvation, contentment or purpose.  But if you will seek Him, if you will ask questions, if you will move closer to Jesus by exposing yourself to the Word of God, to prayer, to corporate and private worship, I promise you He will not hide Himself from you! 

You can’t experience Jesus from afar.  Share this message now with someone who has disconnected from the church during this pandemic.  God is calling them back. Friends, you can’t experience Him in fullness if you have walls built up.  Maybe you have been hurt by a church at some point.  Don’t let what people have said or done overshadow the goodness of God. Come close this Christmas.

What are you looking for?  Security?  It’s found in Jesus.  The Bible says that if we seek first the Kingdom of God and the righteousness of God, that is, if we put Jesus first, then things will begin to fall into place.  That is Matthew 6:33.  God says He will provide for all of our needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.  That is Philippians 4:19. We need to seek Him as our Provider.  Do you need healing for relationships or your body?  It’s found in Jesus.  (Psalm 103:3)  Do you need to feel significant, like your life has meaning?  It’s found in Jesus.  Take a look at 1 Peter 2:9 or Ephesians 2:10.  Do you need peace that will keep you steady and moving forward even when life is overwhelming and unpredictable?  It’s found in Jesus.  Isaiah 26:3 confirms it.  Do you need friendships with people that will care about you and invest in you?  They can be found in the Body of Christ. Check out I Corinthians 12:26. Do you need hope for some complicated or dark situation?  It’s found in Jesus.  Isaiah 40:31 will testify it is true. 

It is my pleasure to share the testimony of one of our church members with you about how seeking Jesus brought the answers to the questions of his life.  Though he had wrestled with God for many years and looking for answers in many places, he finally completely surrendered his life to the Lord a few months back, and his life has dramatically changed.  Listen to his story:

For years I struggled with an emptiness. This started with some personal issues that had come up in my life, and I didn’t know how I would ever overcome them. This led me down the wrong path both physically and spiritually. I blamed God for these things.  This allowed for anger and bitterness to fill my heart and soul. These were feelings I tried to shake alone, but to no avail. I knew there was something more.  As my life fell deeper and deeper into depression, my marriage and all of my life fell into a dark hole.  I realized that the only thing I could do was put my life into Jesus’ hands.

I had been attending this church for several years and knew there was a message for me. I started reading daily devotionals and praying that I would find comfort and forgiveness in God.  There were thousands of pounds of weight on my shoulders that could not be lifted alone. I kept asking for help with this weight and prayed more and more.

I began to realize that without faith none of the things I was praying for would take place. I began counseling with Pastor Thom, and those sessions helped tremendously. He answered all the questions I had about my life and the questions I had on what I had been reading. I started understanding more and more that Christ had died on the cross for my sins and that He could take what was so deeply seeded in my heart and soul and wipe it clean. He could take the darkness and negativity that was embedded inside my heart and soul and turn it into light and hope. I believed I could be renewed and learn to live in Jesus. One Sunday, now several months back, I gave my life to Jesus.

Surrendering to Him has made me start down that path of redemption.  At this point in my life I don’t know what I would do without him. My life and marriage had suffered. Everything that I needed was missing and was found in Jesus. On becoming closer to Jesus everything seemed to fall into place. The hardest thing was letting go of all the ill feeling I had about my life and the emptiness that was controlling my life. Finding forgiveness and knowing that God would be with me through it all cleared up the questions I had and took the weight off my shoulders.  My marriage is now thriving, and the goodness and teachings of Jesus have replaced all the darkness.  Today is a celebration! A celebration of a life renewed.

Can we give God thanks for His work in the life of Charlie Kuhl?  In fact, how about we celebrate with him as we witness his baptism and the re-baptism of his wife, Maggie?  Come on up to the platform, Charlie and Maggie! 


This Christmas, don’t go small.  Celebrate big!

Celebrate that Light to see and know God has come into the world.

Celebrate that the Savior is for everyone.

Celebrate that we can find what we are looking for!

It is all in and because of Jesus. He is the light of life and the life of my party.  He is the reason for the season, and He has given you permission to celebrate big!

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