There is much darkness, how do we bring light?
First St Johns, Dec 24, 2013
We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and all those who look to the Holy Spirit to live the life in Jesus Christ said AMEN…and Merry Christmas, Christ is born
We sort of treat Christmas and Easter as the two musts for church, as if the Bible is entirely about the perceived, beginning and end of Jesus. That is certainly a misconception, Jesus is God the Son, eternal and as all much God as the Father, He has no beginning and end, the incarnation is only one part of the story, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God”, John’s Gospel takes a very eternal view of Jesus in contrast to the other Gospels. Isaiah, the so-called Fifth Gospel, takes a very eternal view of Jesus, in today’s reading Isaiah takes us from the point of our being in darkness, and then seeing the great light and seeing the incarnation of the “Mighty God”, “Everlasting Father”, there will be no end of His increase, of course that increase being the Resurrection where He will be a continual physical presence with us. The incarnation is only about 33 years, Jesus is year round, eternity, the great “I AM”, 24/7 – 365, for those of you who don’t know the phrase, ”I AM” well that is something that we talk about during the course of the year.
We are talking about God, He who created you, He who sustains you, He who has saved you. He has even gone to the extent of becoming a man, of actually reaching down. We are talking about a world that is so lost, yea, some of us kind of have the world on a string, most of us, yea, not so much. We’ve gone through the trials, we’ve seen others live difficult lives. We sometimes wonder “Why does God allow (fill in the blank). It can’t be about us, we don’t cause any trouble, we love our children/our spouse, part of the issue comes due to a lack of Christian maturity. The world is sorely lacking in Christian maturity. We like to think that our sophistication will save us, separate us, we are somehow special and therefore not really affected by what goes on, and then we’re back again, we know how we are affected, how everything around us is affecting us. We are back to the original issue, we know something is wrong, without Christ we are in the dark. He was that radiance that night in Bethlehem and continues to be for those who know Jesus as Lord. Not just Savior, let’s deal with that tonight. Jesus did not come into the world as a baby, to live the life and then just go to the Cross. He came to live the perfect life, to live as we do, to endure what we endure, probably much more than any of us here will ever have to endure and then by living that perfect life, and then dying as the sacrifice for all the sin that all of mankind has committed, but through no guilt of His own. He showed us how to live that perfect life, and then how to sacrifice that life for all to live. He came to be God’s revelation to us, so we could better understand our relationship with the Father. Because of these things, sacrificing for us, teaching us, living the life for us, being in relationship with us in order to guide us to a life that we know is better, He has earned the right to become Lord of your life, you can resist Him, you can reject Him, keep Him away in the times that you think are good and you don’t want to ruin those “good” times, with that religion stuff. But don’t stand there shaking your fist at God when tragedy strikes, as someone observed “Don’t ask where God is when bad things happen, if you don’t keep Him in your life during the good times.”
Those who are mature in Christ know that it is about sacrifice, it is about growing in Christ, it is more than just what I like, what I’m comfortable with. We work day in and day out and have some idea that there’s more than just this. If you’re paying any kind of attention, you realize more and more that the answer is not in the world, we rely on ourselves, we rely on our job or our company, we rely on the government, oh yeah, we always make our best effort or we should be, but we know that there are plenty of times when God takes things into His own hands. He often moves us to do the things we wouldn’t have thought of, then we balk, we don’t know that it’s God trying to move us, why? Because we’ve spent so much time focused on ourselves, our comfort zone, our preferences, that doesn’t leave room for God to push us and anytime we feel that moving of the Holy Spirit well we find some worldly way to push it down, to deny it.
Many who are here were brought up as Christians, mom and dad got you to church on Sunday, to confirmation, you became a member of that church through confirmation and then ironically feel no sense of being a real part of that church. That church took you into your teens, fed you spiritually, gave you a great family of spiritual moms, dads, grandparents, brothers and sisters and well ho-hum, wasn’t so important any more. Spiritual maturity, like physical maturity gives you a sense of knowing it’s not really about you. It’s about those spiritual relationships you’ve built, it’s about not only feeling the Holy Spirit move you, but responding to that movement. Isaiah tells us: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you” You dwelt in that darkness when you were born. Your parents brought you to church had you baptized, exposed you to the light. Parents physical and spiritual spent time in worship, classes to guide you closer to the light. It wasn’t just for you, it was with the expectation that as you grew in Christian maturity, you help others to know the guiding of the Holy Spirit, who weren’t as lucky as you, who didn’t have anyone to show them Jesus. That you would be a man or woman in Christ who would live a life of excellence not just in your vocation, or in your family, but in your life in Christ. Your vocation is for a season, your life in Christ is eternal and the Holy Spirit led you to be raised in Christ in order to guide others. If you really consider this, I look back at my life and see how the Holy Spirit moved me where he wanted me and empowered me to reach people that I came into contact with. In the corporate world for twenty years, in the military for twenty nine years and other areas of my life and then moved me on.
Whether you are comfortable with it or not, God has put you where you are for a reason. He certainly put Jesus in that manger for a reason. Our God knows all of His creation, His will is for all to be saved. Sinful man chooses to separate himself from God and then feels that void, that separation. He has been raised to rely on God, but decides that’s not enough, or it’s too uncomfortable and the poor, phoney, pleasures of the world are easier, less challenging. We can all relate to a baby, we were all a baby at one time, but our God is much more, so much more than a baby. He is the all-powerful Creator and sustainer of all. That is what all that other stuff in the Bible is about, between and surrounding Jesus’ birth and death, how God has revealed Himself to us. We chose to ignore His revelation at our risk. We chose to ignore His moving in our life at our loss, we can still be saved.
God has reached down to us in baptism, He has chosen you to be baptized, then to be included in His church in order to give you, not just spiritual life, in some hazy sort of intangible life to come, but to give you life and life more abundant. In the process of that spiritual maturity, you are given so much more. Scientific research has shown the spiritual benefits of faith and church community. Dr Harold Koenig, director of Duke University’s Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University’s Medical Center writes: “So what does the research say about Jesus’ statement that His coming would give us a fuller, more abundant life? …the research says YES! Indeed, those who are more actively involved in a Christian life experience greater life satisfaction, more happiness and greater well-being than those who are less actively involved.” This is very genuine scientific research in very different areas, different populations, by researchers who really aren’t looking to grind any particular theological ax. Koenig goes on to write: “Research has repeatedly found that committed religious belief and devout practice are related to higher levels of emotional well-being, happiness and life satisfaction …more support from friends and better marriages … greater social support … research also shows better physical and emotional health.”
Based on this, you not only owe it to yourself to pick up where you left off in your Christian maturity, but also to your spouse, your children, physical and spiritual parents, brothers and sisters, those who devoted time, talent and energy to teach you your Christian faith. So you can, in turn, serve them to the best of your ability in terms of your physical strength, your emotional and spiritual strength in Christ and also for them to grow and be guided so they have the benefits that research and faith has shown we receive in our faithfulness in Christ.
The research won’t be and shouldn’t be the final word, you received your baptism in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you were confirmed in the church and through these acts were brought into a relationship with a God who was born as a baby, lived the perfect, difficult life and died to pay for your sin so that your relationship with the Father would be restored. All this for you, don’t you want that benefit to continue and grow for you, your spouse and your children in Christ? There are so many ways to show people the light of Christ in their life, that Baby who was born in such humble beginnings and yet lived the life that was perfect and to sacrifice it for us to be saved from our sins. There were many people who showed you the light of Christ, the Holy Spirit is leading you to reach those around you in Christ’s light, all those around you in the Name and all in the powerful salvation of the Lord.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amin and shalom Christ is born
 Dr Harold Koenig “The Influence of Faith on Mental Health and Well-being” Christian counseling Today Vol 20 No 3 p 48
 Ibid, pp 48, 50, 52
Great Message Pastor Jim. I love the quote, “don’t ask where God is in the bad times, if you don’t keep Him in your life in the Good times.” He knocks at the door and we will not let Him in.
Hi Bob, great to meet you and thank you very much for your kind words and encouragement. I hope you can come and worship here at First St Johns sometimes. Thank you again for reading and feedback.
God bless your New Year.
Pastor Jim Driskell