Archives for 12.11.06

on its beginning to look a lot like Christmas (sermon summaries 12.10.06)

Traditionally I try to preach a Christmas theme for the whole month of December and sometimes try to sneak in a few Sunday’s in November as well. I am pretty much a bah humbug kind of guy when it comes to the decorations, the trees, the commercialism, etc, but when it comes to the incarnation, well, that is a great delight. I never get tired of that story.

Today was the first day of our special Christmas preaching series this year. Since we are going chronologically through the NT this year, I decided to go back to the Matthew and Luke passages and go chronologically through the Christmas story. That means we will dedicate 12 services to working our way through the passages. My sons will be home from BJU to help with two messages each which will make Christmas just great for dear old dad.

Before I get into today’s messages, I would also like to report two visiting families today who seemed quite interesting. One is a lady who moved here from Nova Scotia a year ago who has been looking for a church all this time. She seemed quite interested and brought along a young adoptive son who is challenged with FAS, but seems like a nice boy in spite of his handicaps. The other family are friends of a family who attend our church. The attending family are immigrants from Russia with a tremendous salvation testimony. The visiting family are from the Ukraine, originally, I think, but moved here last week from Ontario. They are a young couple with a one year old son. Obviously, having had no children’s ministry for a while, we dearly covet (in a godly sort of way) new families like this.

Our first message today was from the genealogy in Matthew, entitled ‘Genealogy of the King‘. Genealogies seem dry and dull to our western minds, but they were full of significance to the Jews. The more I study them in Scripture, the richer they become. The genealogy in Matthew proves the rights of the Messiah to the throne of David, but it teaches much more than that. My proposition for this message was: ‘The plan of God is unfolding as God intended in spite of the many failings of mankind and in spite of the many failings of you.’ First we covered the Promise that is highlighted in the genealogy, first the promise to David, but also the promise to Abraham. The promise belonged to the whole nation is underscored by the prominence of David in the genealogy, and is concluded in the person of the Messiah himself. Then we considered some of the problems in the genealogy – the problems of exclusion (prominently three kings between Joram and Uzziah), but others as well. And then there are the problems of inclusion – the most wicked king of Judah, Manasseh is included. And then the four mothers of Israel with the sordid pasts (or a connection to a sordid past in the case of Ruth the Moabitess). Why all these inclusions and exclusions? The answer is in the plan of God, to display the Messiah’s title in a symmetrical list of fourteens (the numerical value of David’s name) and to display Messiah’s identification with sinners by connecting him with these who had so much wickedness, and to display Messiah’s grace, especially in the case of these women who could easily have been left out. Dr. Custer said this about Bathsheba: “Bathsheba was the woman who flaunted her beauty at King David and got invited into the palace (2 Sam 11.2-5; 12.24). The record is stained by sin, which the coming king will atone for by His death. Contrary to customary usage, all these sinful people are mentioned with a definite purpose. God’s people are not saved because they are so good; they are saved by the grace of God because He is so good and merciful. Every saint in Heaven is a sinner saved by grace.” [Stewart Custer, The Gospel of the King, p. 4.]

The next message was ‘Fear not, Zacharias‘, from the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist. The theme I concentrated on was God’s requirement of a faithful man to take one more step of faith. Zacharias and Elisabeth lived in a time of great turmoil, under the reign of Herod the Great (among others). Now in their old age, still childless, suddenly the announcement comes from God that their prayer is heard, they will have a son. God is giving him a great privilege, and calling him to greater faith. Every step of faithfulness requires the next step of faithfulness. And at this step, Zacharias falters. “I am old, my wife is old…” The angel says to him, “You will also be silent for at least nine months.” [Imagine having to let your wife do all the talking through the period of expectation of your first child!] As Zacharias emerged from the Holy place and made signs to the people since he couldn’t speak, I am sure that Zacharias doubted no longer. After his service in the temple, he went home, and God’s word came true – the next step of faithfulness was taken, and Elisabeth conceived a son in her old age. For us, too, every step of faithfulness requires the next step of faithfulness.

The last message today was in some ways my favorite. It covered the announcement of Gabriel to Mary. I called it, ‘Hail, favored one‘. Rather than do a verse by verse exposition of such a familiar passage, I covered five vital theological themes found in the announcment to Mary. One of my commentators said: “Luke now weaves deep theological meaning into his simple and delicate narrative. This section is perhaps the highest of several summits of revelation in chapters 1 and 2. The account of Jesus’ nativity, beautiful and essential as it is, rests theologically on the angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary. Luke presents the theology of the Incarnation in a way so holy and congruent with OT sacred history that any comparisons with pagan mythology seem utterly incongruous. Instead of the carnal union of a pagan god with a woman, producing some kind of semidivine offspring, Luke speaks of a spiritual overshadowing by God himself that will produce the ‘holy one’ within Mary.” [Walter L Liefield, “Luke” Expositors, vol. 8, p. 829.]

Taking this cue, we covered first of all the divine sonship of Jesus Christ. We went through a few passages speaking of the nature of the Son of God, highlighted by Heb 1.2-8. [I hope to preach through Hebrews when I am old enough.] What a passage! It is full of power! Then we went to the trial in Mk 14.61-62 where Caiaphas asks if Jesus is the Son of the Highest and Jesus says simply, ‘I am’. The second doctrine we covered was the messianic role and reign over the kingdom, launched from the angel’s announcement that the baby would reign for ever. I read through OT passages speaking of the Davidic covenant and its certain promise from 2 Sam, Ps, Isa, Jer, Ezek and Amos. Then closing this theme out with Mt 28.18. All authority is given unto me… The next theme was that of the Most High God. It is the great God, highest of all (a theme first mentioned by Melchisedec in Gen 14.19), who accomplishes this work in Mary and for our salvation. Then it was on to the theme of the power of the Holy Spirit, overshadowing Mary and causing that cell in her body to come to life, dividing, replicating, becoming the man Jesus Christ. The final them was the grace of God, given to Mary (not given by Mary), a grace she accepts: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord.’ We all stand in the same position, in much need of the work of the Most High, in much need of the grace of God, in much need of the Holy Spirit, in much need of David’s Son, in much need of the Son of God, and we must all receive by faith the grace proffered to us.

Praise the Lord for a great day of feasting on God’s Word.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3