Just What I Need!

John 1:1-14, 16]

On this Christmas morning, I want to remind you again that grace and peace are always for you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ, who is born for you. Amen.

For the past month or so, I’ve been asking my grandchildren, “What do you want for Christmas?” I can assure you, they are not shy about telling papa what they hope to receive Christmas Day. They keep me well informed. This begs the question, Did you receive what you wanted for Christmas?

Here is what I want you to know: God has given us exactly what we need in Jesus. God has given us exactly what we need in Jesus. A poem on a Christmas card said it this way:

“If our greatest need was for information, God would have sent an educator.
If our greatest need was for technology, God would have sent a scientist.
If our greatest need was for pleasure, God would have sent an entertainer.
If our greatest need was for money, God would have sent an economist.
But since our greatest need is forgiveness, God sent us a Savior.”

Dr. Carl Braataen, a teacher, theologian, and author, wrote this in his book, Stewards of the Mysteries: “Jesus gave us a new and paradoxical definition of God. A definition of the humility of God. Many people were offended. They wanted a God of glory – not entering the world at the bottom, not from a despised place like Nazareth in Galilee. He must come in from the top. He must be properly introduced by the right people with the appropriate protocol. Instead, the people got a man from Nazareth. He was only prepared to give them a message on the humility of God, of the identification of God, with the people and the things that don’t count very much in this world. He carried His message of God to the extreme, driving the humility of God all the way to the cross.” Perhaps people see in Jesus not what they want, but Jesus is exactly what we need!

First, Jesus is the light of new life. An artist whose specialty was as a sculptor, began work on a statue. Day after day he went into his art studio carving, chiseling. He poured himself into his creation, and slowly it took shape. Finally, he was finished. As he stepped back, he was very pleased with his creation. It was the best work of his life!

But a few weeks later, someone broke into his art studio and pushed over his creation. The statue smashed on the floor and broke apart. When the artist returned to his studio, he was heartbroken. He had no choice but to start over again.

As we read chapter 1 of John’s Gospel of the Word becoming flesh, the Word creating all things by the power of His Word, we are reminded of this image: God has created all things. But now that creation is broken, Jesus is the Word who comes to recreate all things and make them new.

Jesus is the light that shines in the darkness. John says the darkness cannot comprehend it. It cannot fully grasp it. It cannot understand. The darkness cannot swallow or overcome the light. Simply lighting a little candle in the dark room dispels the darkness.

The light shows us the truth of our hearts, but the light of Jesus also provides the way out of our darkness. You can turn on the lights in a warehouse and see rats scurry. Here is a moment where ignorance is not bliss. When Jesus shines the light into my human heart and shows me my flaws, my imperfections, my shadowy self, my sinfulness, it’s not good news and it’s not pretty. Ignorance is not bliss. My flaws are revealed to me by One who is willing to come into my darkness and clean it up. Jesus is the light shining into my heart. He illumines my house and makes me new.

Imagine that you and I were in an underground cave and suddenly our light went out. Instead of turning on our flashlight, we chose to stumble around in the dark. We fall and get hurt. We can’t find our way out of the darkness and are trapped. How much better to light one candle than curse the darkness.

Jesus is the light God shines into our darkness to invite us into His marvelous light and life.

Second, Jesus also calls to us this Christmas morning as the One with the authority for us to become children of God. Jesus is the One who grants us the privilege of becoming part of God’s family. He gives us His name. Romans 8:32 tells us, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – will he not also, with him, graciously give us all things?”

Max Lucado, in his book, In the Grip of Grace, writes, “Suppose a man comes upon a child beaten by thugs. He dashes into the mob, rescues the boy, and carries him to the hospital. The youngster is nursed to health. The man pays for the child’s treatment. He learns the child is an orphan, so he adopts him as his own and gives the boy his name.

“Then one night, months later, the father hears his son sobbing into his pillow. He goes into him and asks about the tears. ‘I’m worried, daddy. I’m worried about tomorrow. Where will I get food to eat? How am I going to buy clothes to stay warm, and how will I sleep?’

“The father is rightfully troubled. ‘Haven’t I shown you? Don’t you understand? I risked my life to save you. I gave my money to treat you. You bear my name. I’ve called you my son.’”

In the gift of Jesus, born for us, the One who made heaven and earth invites us to know that He has welcomed us into His family. We belong to Him. We can trust that we are loved by God, and Jesus is our brother. The glory of Christmas is “God is for us, so who could stand against us. He did not spare His own Son, but gave Him for us all, and He’ll freely with him give us all things” (Rom. 8:31-32).

Third, the Christmas message tells us we receive grace upon grace. It washes over us like the waves of an ocean.

Psychologists tell us people bear two prominent emotional scars in life: the wound of abandonment and the wound of violated trust. Again in Romans Paul writes, “Can anything separate us from the love Christ has for us?” (8:35) This is where doubt creeps in. We want to know how long God will love us. Will He really love us forever, not just on those Sundays when I dress up and go to church with my shoes shined and my hair washed? How does God feel about me when I’ve been a jerk, not just when I am lively and positive and ready to tackle world hunger? Not then. I know how God feels about me then. Even I like myself then. I want to know how God feels about me when I snap at anything that moves, when my thoughts descend to gutter level, when my tongue is sharp enough to slice a rock. How does God feel about me then? That is my concern!

Did I cross the line I can’t come back from last Tuesday when I drank vodka till I couldn’t walk? Last Thursday, when my business took me where I had no business being. Last summer when I cursed God as I stood near the grave of the child He gave me. Did I drift too far? Have I waited too long? Have I fallen too much? Can anything separate us from the love of Christ?

The answer is emphatically nothing! Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. As the angels proclaimed to the shepherds, “For to you is born a Savior, Christ the Lord.” Or as John writes, “Of his fullness, we have all received grace upon grace.”

Fourth, as we consider Jesus was born for us, we realize that this grace is not just some philosophy or some schmoozy concept. It is the Word became flesh. God who is everywhere present, who sometimes is mysteriously invisible and silent, who feels to us unattainable, unreachable, inaccessible, now has chosen to avail Himself to us in His Son, the baby Jesus. In a tangible way, this baby is God’s expression of love to us. He is the Word become flesh.

And the mission of the baby, God’s Son, took Him all the way to the cross. Never does God say, Well, I’ll forgive you this time but you better not do it again or else. Instead, in the name of Jesus, it says we have received from Him grace upon grace, and every time I fail, Jesus my Savior reminds me that is why He went to the cross.

If I were in a car dealership and I told the salespeople I wanted a free car, they would laugh me out of the show room. However, if I have an authorized letter from the owner of the dealership promising me a free car, I’d drive away with a new vehicle! Why? Because in faith, I would be claiming the authority and the power of the owner. I would be claiming the owner’s promise.

Johnny was a boy who couldn’t hit the side of a barn with his slingshot if he was inside it. One day, as he was shooting rocks out in the farmyard, he aimed at his grandma’s duck. Low and behold, he hit it and killed it dead.

In a panic, he looked every direction, then hid the dead duck in the woodpile. The only problem was his sister, Sally, was watching, and she used the secret of the pet duck to manipulate and control Johnny. She had him do all her chores, and she picked on him mercilessly. If Johnny got mad, she would just say, “Remember the duck.”

Finally, Johnny realized that facing his punishment was better than a lifetime of enslavement to his sister and the fear of discovery. So Johnny confessed his misdeed to his grandma. “I know,” she said as she hugged him. “I was at the window when you shot my duck. I saw you, and I forgave you immediately. I wondered how long you were going to let Sally make a slave of you.”

For to you is born this day a Savior, Christ the Lord. How long would you stay in the dark? How long would you live in your guilt? How long would you allow the fear of the discovery of all you’ve done prevent you from rejoicing in being a part of the family of God?

Jesus is born for you. I encourage you in faith to pick up the Baby and receive Jesus into your arms. Invite Him into your heart and life with a simple prayer: Dear Jesus, I invite you to come into my life.

Second. Receive Him for the position He holds. He is Lord of the cosmos; He is Lord of time and eternity. Invite Him to be Lord of your life.

Third. Believe in the truth of who He is: the Son of God and our Savior.

Fourth. Receive Jesus by thanking God for what He has done for us by going to the cross, taking our sins upon Himself, and being raised from the dead to forgive us and give us eternal life.

Fifth. Welcome Jesus’ presence, and surrender to His Spirit within.

Sixth. Offer yourself each day in His service.

Seventh. Worship Jesus with great joy.

This Christmas, I want you to realize, no matter what you wanted for Christmas, God has already given you exactly what you need in the Baby who was born for you. Amen.

Pastor Lee Laaveg

What Child Is This? He’s Your Savior

Matthew 1:18-25

How did you pick the names of your children? When my wife, Julie, and I were choosing a name for our firstborn son, we picked Sam because it seemed like a good, strong name. When our daughter came along a few years later, we named her Martha because when our friend, Charlie Shedd, talked about his wife Martha, her name would roll off his lips like music as if it was the most beautiful name and person in the world. So we learned to love the name, too.

Names are an interesting thing, when you think about it. When we look at names in the Bible, we see they take on greater significance than just distinguishing one person from another. In fact, in Hebrew thought, a name was extremely significant.

Names weren’t chosen because it reminded them of Aunt Hilda or Uncle Harold. Parents chose names that would embody the personality and characteristics they wanted to see developed in their child. We also see the importance of a name in the New Testament. In times of crisis – if a person’s life or outlook changed – often their name was changed. Saul became Paul, for instance. When Jesus got hold of Peter, his name was Simon. Later Jesus changed it to Peter, which was in effect the name Rocky.

In today’s reading from Matthew, we’re looking at the name Christians declare as the name above all names. The story begins with a man named Joseph, who was very troubled. He had been betrothed to Mary. This commitment was far deeper than what we know today as an engagement. It was almost the same as being married without living together or having sexual relations. Midway through this engagement period, Mary became pregnant. Joseph, knowing the child couldn’t be his, was hurt and confused. Being a righteous man, but also kind, Joseph decided he would quietly break off plans with Mary in such a manner as to not publicly disgrace her. But just as he was about to do that, God’s angel spoke to Joseph in a dream and gave him some insight and direction as to what he should and shouldn’t do next.

Throughout Scripture, God frequently spoke to biblical characters through dreams. If you sense God is speaking to you through a dream, I would advise you to check it with Scripture before you follow through or act on it.

Joseph received his message in a dream. God’s message to Joseph was this: Don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for this child within her is a special child conceived by the Holy Spirit. (Just as we confess in the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary . . . “) The messenger is telling Joseph this is no ordinary child. This child is both God and man. In fact, a few moments later, Matthew describes Jesus as Immanuel, God with us.

I like this statement by the great author and theologian C. S. Lewis as he describes the amazing virgin birth of Jesus. “Jesus was conceived when God took off the glove of nature and touched Mary with his naked finger. Thus Jesus did not evolve up and out of history.”

Jesus is the Son of the Father from eternity, born of the Virgin Mary, true God and true man. Many people have come to understand and believe this about Him after a lot of reflecting and research, like John who wrote in his Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, . . . and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word (meaning Jesus) became flesh and lived among us. We have seen His glory, as of a Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” John then goes on to say, “No one has ever seen God. It is God, the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.” Jesus is no ordinary child. He is God in the flesh.

God’s messenger also went on to tell Joseph this (and it’s where I want to focus today): “She shall have a Son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” This statement answers the very question we have been addressing in this sermon series, “What Child Is This?” It’s the name that says it all, for it literally means, “the Lord saves.” This child will one day save His people from their sins, the messenger said. What child is this? This child is our Savior! He is the infinite God man who came to save us from our sins, which is our greatest problem.

I love this saying I came across years ago:

If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent an educator.
If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent a scientist.
If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent an economist.
If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent an entertainer.
But our greatest need was forgiveness, so He sent us a Savior.

You and I have a deeply-rooted problem; we are sinners, rebels going our own way before God. We are self-centered, egocentric, by nature sinful and unclean, looking out for number one and trying to run our own lives without God. In essence, we are trying to be our own gods. The Bible tells us the consequences for sin is death: spiritual death, no relationship with the God who created us, and an eternity spent without Him.

But here is the good news: While we were still sinners, rebels, enemies, God in His love gave us His Son. He came after us to save us from sin and death and the power of the devil.

Some of us believe we are a really good person. We compare ourselves with others, believing God grades on a curve. I may not be perfect, but at least I’m better than that person! However, the Bible says ALL of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Not one of us can stand before God with our spiritual resume and say Look! I deserve to have a relationship with You and get into Your heaven, God. No, we fall way short. We lack perfection in God’s sight.

Let’s pretend God started an all-universe Hall of Fame called heaven. If you consistently play errorless baseball batting a thousand – let’s say for at least a dozen years – you can get in. Impossible, right? Even Miguel Cabrera, who’s probably the best hitter in baseball, can’t play up to those standards. Likewise, you and I as spiritual beings cannot live up to the standards necessary to have an eternal relationship with God in heaven. On our own, we always fall short.

God, who loves us, is a just and holy God. He can’t simply ignore our sinfulness. He can’t allow the impure into His heaven. This is sinful humanity’s problem. However, God provided the solution. This is what makes the gift of a Savior so special. While we were hopelessly, helplessly lost, God in His mercy and grace gave us a Savior – Jesus. He grew up, became a man and lived the perfect life of obedience, which made Him the perfect sacrifice to pay for your sins and mine.

This is exactly what Jesus did for us; He sacrificed His life. He allowed Himself to be crucified on a cross on a hill outside Jerusalem as a sacrifice to pay for our sins. He took our punishment upon Himself. The greatest transaction in history took place at the cross. Jesus took our sins upon Himself and endured the wrath of God’s holy judgment at the cross. Now He offers you and me His saving cover of righteousness. Through His sacrifice, there is forgiveness for my sinfulness. Jesus saves. He is the Savior everyone needs.

I came across a little devotional years ago by a fellow named Paul Richardson. He writes, “There it stood – the best tree in the lot. It was the second Christmas of our married life, and, with newlywed-like impulse, we decided to forgo the 2′ high plastic tree that graced our coffee-table the year before. We had found the perfect tree instead. It was wide at the base and came to a perfect point on top. With blissful Christmas cheer we paid the $25, moved it into our ‘77 Chevy Citation, and drove to our apartment.

“I cleared a spot next to the couch and set it up in the corner. At least I tried to set it up in the corner. Our perfect tree immediately fell turning our tree stand into green and red scrap metal. Another tree stand and multiple attempts only brought about the same problem. The tree just wouldn’t stand up! When I probed into the forest of green needles, I discovered our perfect tree had a huge flaw. The base of the tree began straight and centered, but the middle of the trunk contorted into pretzel-like twists, bending this way and that, but coming out straight at the top. It was perfect on the outside but hopelessly flawed within. It could never stand on its own.

“In our not-so-perfect Christmas tree, I saw the story of Christmas. On the outside we like to show that we have it all together, but inside we know differently. Hurts, pains, disappointments, anger, and bitterness. Worse yet, the Bible says our souls are contorted by sin. No matter how many ornaments my wife and I hung on our tree, we knew it could never stand on its own. Likewise, no matter how many ornaments we attach to our lives, we can never be right with God on our own.

“The Christmas story is not about God seeing how nice we were and coming down to spend time with sweet people. It’s the story of God seeing twisted, hurting, sinful people and coming down to die for us. It’s a story about love. God came to save us from sin, and while it entailed the joy of a new baby being born, it ended up with Jesus taking our sins upon Himself and dying as our substitute on the cross.”

What do we do with this discovery that has been revealed to us in this message? Matthew’s Gospel puts the spotlight on Joseph and shows us. Joseph believed the message and acted upon it. He awoke from sleep and counted on the promises of God. He went into action.

How about you? Have you awakened to this word from God of what He’s done for you through Jesus Christ and acted on it? Have you received it? That is what we are called to do. Here is the answer: Just receive Him. Like the Christmas carol says,

“How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given.
So God imparts to human hearts, the blessings of His heaven.
No ear may here His coming, but in this world of sin.
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.”

When Jesus enters in, you will be saved. Amen.

Pastor Steve Kramer

What Child Is This? He’s the One!

Matthew 1:1-6

The Christmas carol, “What Child Is This?”, was written by William Dix in 1865. It has been a favorite in the Church for a long time. This carol is unique from the other Christmas carols. Most proclaim the joyous news of the Christ Child. What sets this song apart is it was written from the viewpoint of an observer who is confused about Jesus’ identity.

“Who is this Jesus?” is a question many people still ask today. What Child is this? Many people are puzzled and confused about what to make of Him. Their questions are not simply intellectual curiosities, but often are very heartfelt and emotional. Questions such as these have been asked from the very day of His arrival.

We hear it being asked again today in our text by John the Baptist. John is absolutely confused, wondering what in the world is going on. Life wasn’t working out as John thought it would. He is in prison for taking on the immoral lifestyle of King Herod. John publicly humiliated Herod by condemning him for an affair he had. He is in jail, which is a miserable place for a person who is used to living in the wide-open spaces of the wilderness.

John was a prophet, a spokesman for God. He had a great following; many people listened to him as he preached and baptized people in the Jordan River. Entire communities came out to hear him preach, perhaps because he spoke of One who was coming – God’s Messiah, the Christ. He told them to get ready for His arrival. “Repent!” And they did. John baptized hundreds, thousands of people. The day came when he even baptized Jesus, his cousin. Something special happened at Jesus’ baptism that made John absolutely sure God’s long-awaited Messiah – the Christ – was Jesus, the One spoken of by the Prophets of Old Testament Israel. John was very fired up about Jesus and consequently began pointing other people to Him and telling them to follow Him.

In today’s text, much time has passed, and John is appearing to have some doubts. He was in turmoil.

Have you ever made a decision about something, and then later wondered if you were wrong? Well, John the Baptist had that experience. He was wrestling with the question of who is Jesus in our text. He was frustrated and perhaps a little irritated with Jesus and God and himself. I imagine he was having some doubts about the Christ, Jesus.

I went all out to support this guy. I pointed people in His direction, telling them He is the One! He’s the Christ! The Anointed One chosen by God to redeem and restore His people! But lately I’ve been hearing about the behavior of this Christ. Jesus isn’t following the script I laid out. When He came, I told the people there would be judgment, fire, and blessings as well. I’m hearing a lot about blessings happening. But where’s the judgment? I’m even hearing reports of Jesus eating with lunch with tax collectors and sinners and other despicable types of people! Why in the world would He do that? It isn’t what I had in mind. In the meantime, here I am sitting in this awful dungeon! And I am one of the good guys! One of the very few! Has Jesus forgotten about me? Why doesn’t He help me? He’s letting me down. I guess I just want to know, what gives here? Are you the real deal, Jesus, or not? And if so, is this any way to treat a supporter?

John sent a message with a couple of his disciples to ask Jesus about who He is. Are you the One who is to come? (Christ, the Messiah?) “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” John is asking the question of our sermon series: “What Child Is This?” Who are you, Jesus? Are you worthy of my worship, my trust, my obedience, or should I be waiting and looking for another?

We must not be too hard on old John. We’ve probably had a few of our own John-the-Baptist moments along the way. Maybe you are having one right now in your life. Things have happened you didn’t expect. You have questions and doubts, and Jesus doesn’t seem to be living up to your personal expectations. For some it might be a difficulty in life, such as a health issue. Jesus, I thought you loved me. I thought you would be with me. Why am I sick and not getting any better?

Someone else might be wondering, You said you’d take care of me, Jesus. But I’m experiencing some terrible hardships now. What gives here?

Jesus, of course, answers those questions in Scripture by saying, Did I promise you freedom from sickness or hardship? No! I said I loved you. I will be with you in all circumstances, and one day I will take you to myself that you may be where I am.

I’m reminded of an analogy I came across. A father is saying good night to his little daughter, and he makes a promise to her as she kisses him good night. “You are such a wonderful child, and I love you so much, I’m going to give you a nice gift on your birthday.”
A couple weeks before her birthday, the little girl asks, “Daddy have you bought my new bicycle yet?”
The father asks, “What bicycle?”
His daughter replies, “You know! The bicycle you promised me for my birthday!”
Father replied, “I never promised you a bicycle for your birthday.”
“Well,” she answers, “You said you would give me a nice gift for my birthday. That is the same thing as promising me a new bicycle”

We maybe have a tendency to do that with Jesus in our lives. Sometimes doubts arise within when it seems as if evil is getting the upper hand over good in this world. It feels like it’s 29 to nothing, evil winning. We think to ourselves, Come on, Lord. What’s going on here? This should not be happening. And so, like John, we get to a low point and start wondering, Who is this Jesus I am following Him? Is He really the One to be following?

Jesus has an answer for John and for us as well. He tells John’s disciples to “go and tell John what you hear and see.” First, tell him what you see happening around you: The blind see, the lame are healed, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news preached to them.

What is Jesus saying in this response? The script is being worked out, and Jesus is following it. Scripture is being fulfilled. The promises of the Prophets are happening now. The deaf will hear, the blind will see (Is. 29:18). “The eyes and ears of the blind and deaf shall be opened; the lame shall leap like a deer, and the mute shall speak” (Is. 35:5, 6). “One who is to come and preach good news to the poor” (Is. 61:1).

Jesus is telling John’s disciples that prophecy has been fulfilled through Christ’s mercy mission, through His healings, and through His teachings as He shares the kingdom of God.

This is the script Jesus was following. People’s lives are being changed. Broken lives are being restored! Listen to the stories of these people (Tell John about the stories you hear).

The blind man who says, I was blind, but now I see. Jesus helped me.
The outcast man who says, I was captive to my leprosy with no hope or future. I went to Jesus and asked for His help. He touched me, and now I’m clean. Free!
The master who says, I had a sick servant. Jesus just said a word, and my servant was healed.
The synagogue ruler who testifies, My daughter had died, but Jesus brought her back to life.
The man who steps forward and says, I couldn’t talk until I met Jesus. He helped me speak.

I wonder, when John’s disciples went back to him and told him these things, if his doubts were erased. John didn’t have the advantage of the greatest sign of all – the resurrection of Jesus! After Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins, God raised Him back to life on the third day. Totally unexpected. It was the ultimate affirmation that Jesus is the real deal, He is the One (the Christ) to trust and obey. We do not need to wait for another. He is the One!

By the way, those of us on this side of the resurrection must also listen to the stories of how this Christ is still restoring broken people, and changing lives.

There is Bob who says, I was a hopeless drunk. Life was totally out-of-control. I was wrecking my family. But then I met Christ, and I’ve been sober for 35 years with His help.
Another person says, I’ve gone through so many dark valleys, but Christ is carrying me through it.
Someone else says, Christ’s words of truth actually set me free – free from myself. I thought I was happy and fulfilled. Each day seemed like sheer joy to me. Life was a shower of blessings. But then Jesus showed me how much greater joy life could be when I rose above the selfish pursuit of my own happiness in the preoccupation with my own problems. Life is so much better when I lose my life for others and for Him and His work. As He told me I would, I found true life and true joy.

These are just a few of the stories I have heard along the way as a pastor.

Need I remind you once again, the resurrection is God’s stamp of approval upon Jesus as the Christ, the One we want to follow?

If you are asking questions like John and having some doubt storms within, your message from Jesus is this: Yes! I am the One you’ve been waiting for. I am the Christ, the Anointed One who restores broken lives. I’m the One foretold by the prophets, sent from God to rescue you and change your life.

The last line of Jesus’ message to John is an appeal to him and to us: Blessed are those who do not take offense at me. We know the Pharisees were offended by Jesus and other religious leaders. We know government leaders were offended by Jesus and His claims about being a King or some sort of Messiah. He rattled a lot of people’s cages and faced much rejection from them. But He says, “Blessed are those who do not take offense at me.” To offend means to make angry, to bring about resentment, to wound feelings causing someone to reject and turn away.

Many people today are still offended by Jesus the Christ. He provokes questions like these:

  • Jesus, what do you mean, I’m lost and headed in the wrong direction? I’ve got my life together. I’m happy! Who do you think you are to tell me how to live my life? I like it the way it is!
  • What do you mean, forgive the person who hurt me? NO WAY! That doesn’t make any sense. The world doesn’t work that way. You’re not for me, Jesus!
  • What do you mean, you’re the only way to have a relationship with God? I find that rather arrogant, and I just can’t buy into it. No thanks!

Jesus promises us, Blessed are those who respond in the opposite way to me. God blesses those who believe in Me, who follow Me, who walk in My ways. Jesus is making an appeal to John and to us. Following Jesus leads to blessings, like an eternal relationship, a walk with Him in my life all the way into eternity. Nothing – not even death – can separate me from Him.

Following Jesus leads to forgiveness, a blessing. The old regrets of the past are erased; Jesus paid for them at the cross. You don’t have to carry them around or be fearful about them any longer. They are taken care of.

I sincerely hope John’s doubts were quelled that day. But more importantly, I hope your doubts have been driven away today.

What child is this? He’s the Christ. The One your heart has been waiting for and needing. So trust Him, and keep trusting Him, even when life doesn’t appear to be working out the way you expected. You see, He has a plan for you – to restore you and lead you all the way to the place He has prepared for you. Amen.

Rev. Steve Kramer

What Child Is This? He’s Supreme

Matthew 24:36-44

Christmas is right around the corner. Merchants and stores now have Christmas carols and songs playing on the sound systems. Shoppers have begun rushing madly around looking for gifts to give their loved ones. Even the media joins in as they ask the question in magazines or on television, Who is Jesus? What is the big deal about Jesus, whose birth we celebrate each December?

We hear all kinds of opinions and answers from people about Jesus. Some will say He was a great philosopher, a great teacher. Some say He was a fraud. Others say He was the Son of God. For the next few weeks, I want to examine some of the traditional Advent Gospel readings with you to help us come to some conclusions regarding this question.

In our reading for today, we find Jesus teaching His disciples some rather strange words for an outsider’s ears. The imagery is rather surreal – Jesus is describing His second coming, which will be the end of history as we know it. Christmas not only tells us of His unexpected coming the first time, but it also reminds us of the promise that Jesus will come again. We remind ourselves of this as we profess the Apostles’ Creed in our worship services: “He will come again to judge the living and the dead.”

In Jesus’ first coming, the kingdom of God was inaugurated. In His second coming, it will be consummated, and then His will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven. History is moving steadily toward that grand day. Jesus was telling His disciples about this event.

Jesus soon will be going to the cross to die for our sins. As they are leaving the Temple in Jerusalem, the disciples admire its beauty. It was quite a sight. However, Jesus comments that this Temple will be destroyed someday very soon. A little while later, when they’re on the Mount of Olives alone with Jesus, the disciples ask him about His comment. When are you coming again? (When is the end of the age?) Jesus’ response is, I can’t tell you. But what I can say is this: It will be sudden, catching a lot of people by surprise like in the days of Noah. Unexpectedly, the flood came and swept all the people away. There will be a judgment. Two people will be in the field, one suddenly taken. Two women grinding grain. Suddenly one will be taken and one left behind. Therefore, stay awake and live as if today is the last. Don’t get caught unaware like the sleeping master who was robbed by a thief one night.

In the midst of Jesus’ response to their question, we get a glimpse of who Jesus is as He talks about Himself. He answers the question of the Christmas Carol, What Child is this?

First, notice He calls Himself the Son of Man. Have you ever wondered why? It was Jesus’ favorite way of talking about Himself. He used it more than eighty times in the Gospels in reference to Himself. It actually is an Old Testament power figure from the book of Daniel. It is part of the apocalyptic readings from Daniel describing One who will come again as the Son of Man from God, the Ancient of Days, to rule all the world with dominion and authority. He will take over and make all things right in God’s sight.

At His trial, when asked by the high priest about His identity, Jesus replied, “You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Hearing this, the high priest tore his robes and accused Jesus of blasphemy. The Son of Man is a power figure who is coming again at the end of the age.

Jesus also tells His followers in today’s text, I am your Lord . . . As you wait for your Lord. The Lord is a kingly figure. He is in charge. Though the world may look out of control, history is His story. Scripture tells us all things have been placed under His feet. Kingdoms come and kingdoms go. Leaders will rise and fall, but His Kingdom is forever.

This is the Christian’s hope and confidence: Jesus is Lord. The Apostle Paul says, “The day will come when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord” (Phil. 2:10-11). Someone once wrote, He came as a helpless baby. He will return again as a conquering King to reign forever.

So fear not, my dear brothers and sisters. The world may look out of control and hopeless some days. After this treacherous election season, you know how it probably feels. Sometimes, as we live in this world, it seems like evil is winning. But we learn here that Jesus has the final word over this world. Ultimately all is well. Jesus is Lord. Jesus is the Son of Man.

Someone might ask, How can you believe this? I have four words for you: THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS. The same Jesus who talked about himself with His disciples went to a cross. He was nailed to the cross as a payment for our sins even though His executioners didn’t even know it. And He rose from the grave! God has confirmed His identity and confirmed Jesus’ promises. He will come again in power and glory to judge the living and the dead. History is HIS story, and He has the final word. Good news!

What are we to do as we wait for the grand return of the Son of Man, Jesus our Lord? The first thing is believe in Him and be saved. Turn to Him, and entrust your life to Him. Confessing your sins and following Him, you will be forgiven and receive the gift of eternal life. You will be rescued for eternity. It’s not something to be put off, my dear friends. What if He were to come today? Would you be ready?

It has been said that Satan once called the emissaries of hell to himself and said he wanted to send one of them to earth to aid women and men in the ruination of their souls. When he asked which one wanted to go, one creature came forward and said, I’ll go.
Satan asked, If I send you, what will you tell the children of men?
I will tell the children of men there is no heaven.
Satan replied, They will not believe you for a bit of heaven exists in every human heart. In the end everyone knows right and good must have the victory. You may not go.
Then another came forward, darker and fouler than the first. Satan asked, If I send you, what will you tell the children of men?
I will tell them hell does not exist.
Satan looked at him and said, No. They will not believe you, for in every heart lies a conscience and an inner voice, which testifies to the truth that not only will good be triumphant, but evil will be defeated. You may not go.
One last creature came forward; this one came from the darkest place of all. Satan said to him, If I send you, what will you say to women and men to aid them in the destruction of their souls?
The creature said, I will tell them there’s no hurry.
Satan said, Go!

First, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and be saved. Second, if you already are a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, a follower of Jesus Christ, Jesus says, Stay awake! Keep trusting in Him in all circumstances. Don’t give up. Keep yourself connected to Him in the midst of life’s distractions. Pray to Him. Let Him teach you in His Word (the Bible) what God has in mind for your life. Allow Him to remind you again and again of the promises He has for you. Stay connected with Him. Don’t give up the faith.

And act like He is your King, your Lord. May He find you obediently doing His bidding in this world, making His values your values, doing the job He has given you. Tell others the Good News of what Christ has done for them on the cross and the resurrection. Give yourself away as Jesus gave Himself away for the sake of the Gospel. Live out the great commandment to love your neighbor as yourself and remember the words Jesus said to us, I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was alone, and you visited me. As you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it to me (Matt. 25:35-40).

Robbie Robbins was an Air Force pilot during the first Iraq war. After his 300th mission, he was surprised to be given permission to immediately pull his crew together and fly his plane home. They flew across the ocean to Massachusetts and then drove all night to western Pennsylvania. When his buddies dropped him off at his driveway just after sun up, he found a big banner across the garage. “Welcome home, dad!” How did they know? No one had called. The crew themselves hadn’t expected to leave so quickly.

Robbins relates, “When I walked into the house, the kids, about half dressed for school, screamed, ‘Daddy!’ My wife Susan came running down the hall. She looked terrific! Her hair was fixed; her makeup was on; she wore a crisp yellow dress. I asked, ‘How did you know?’

“‘I didn’t,’ she answered through tears of joy. ‘But once the war was over, we knew you’d be home one of these days. We knew you’d try to surprise us, so we were ready every day.’

Christ has come; He is coming again. May He find you ready. Amen.

Rev. Steve Kramer