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When the wise men come to Jesus, they bring three gifts: Gold, which is the gift for royalty, a gift for a king. Incense, which was for divinity, a gift you give a God. And myrrh, which is a funeral gift, a gift used for burial. Their gifts show amazing insight.
At first hearing, you might think these gifts were a lucky coincidence. They’re not. God set up the events of Christmas in such a way that you would know that He was carefully orchestrating each element of it, years in advance. Nine months before Christmas, God sent an angel to tell Joseph and Mary about the birth of His Son. Christmas night, God sent angels to communicate with shepherds about the birth of His Son. Hundreds of years before Christmas, God sent a holy man – Daniel – to the eastern peoples to prepare their highest caste, their wise men, (court advisors to the king) to respond to the birth of His Son. God communicated to the wise men that the Messiah would be king and God, and that He would come to die. Through a combination of Daniel’s leadership, Hebrew Scripture, and the tailor-made revelation of a star, these wise men knew as much or more about the nature of the Messiah as the Jewish people.
HEALING HOUSE: "I THOUGHT YOU WERE DEAD."
Healing House is in Kansas City, Ks. It's a home for drug addicts started by a woman named Bobbie Jo. Bobbie Jo had been walking the streets for many years but then someone cared enough to share the Gospel with her and she was born again. At the same time, her mother died and left her an inheritance. She knew that many of the women who were drug addicts turned to the streets to support their habits. When they were arrested, put in jail and then released, they had no place to go. So they went back to working the streets. So with her inheritance, Bobbie Jo bought an old retirement home that was boarded up and rehabbed it. She invited the ladies to come and live there and as they did, she would share the Gospel with them. Well, that home got filled up and then a pimp moved next door. She started praying for that house, gathered some more resources and bought that house. It filled up and she bought another and then an apartment complex. One woman whose life was racked with sin but who had been freed from it, then passed on the Good news through which they became free.
At Christmas time, they would take an offering from the ladies who would give out of their meager earnings. They would buy presents and then take them to the homeless on the streets that they knew saying, "This is a Christmas gift for you to remind you that there is still hope and there's a Savior who can save you." Last Christmas Eve, they pulled into a gas station to fill up the house van and two police officers were there. He recognized one of the girls in the van and walked over and said to her, "What are you doing here? I thought you were dead." He recognized another and then another and said, to all of them, "I thought you all were dead"! He called his partner over and showed him the women saying, "They're alive!" And in truth, they were dead, dead in their sins but now they were alive in a Savior who was born as a babe 2000 years ago. This I know: all of us need to be saved from something and this Jesus came to save you.
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In 1994, two Christian missionaries answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach morals and ethics in a large orphanage. About 100 boys and girls who had been abandoned, abused, and left in the care of a government-run program were in the orphanage.
It was nearing Christmas and they decided to tell them the story of Christmas. It would be the first time these children had heard the story of the birth of Christ. They told them about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem. Finding no room in the inn, the couple went to a stable, where the baby Jesus was born and placed in a manger. Throughout the story, the children and orphanage staff sat in amazement as they listened. Some sat on the edges of their stools, trying to grasp every word.
When the story was finished, they gave the children three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manger. Each child was given a small paper square, cut from yellow napkins that they had brought with them since no coloured paper was available in the city.
Following instructions, the children tore the paper and carefully laid strips in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel, cut from a worn-out nightgown an American lady was throwing away as she left Russia, were used for the baby’s blanket. A doll-like baby was cut from tan felt which the missionaries had also brought with them.
It was all going smoothly until one of the missionaries sat down at a table to help a 6 year old boy named Misha. He had finished his manger. When the missionary looked at the little boy’s manger, she was startled to see not one, but two babies in the manger. Quickly, she called for the translator to ask Misha why there were two babies in the manger.
Crossing his arms in front of him and looking at this completed manger scene, Misha began to repeat the story very seriously. For such a young boy, who had only heard the Christmas story once, he related the happenings accurately until he came to the part where Mary put the baby
Jesus in the manger.
Then Misha started to ad-lib. He made up his own ending. He said, "And when Maria laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told him I have no mamma and I have no papa, so I don’t have any place to stay. Then Jesus told me I could stay with him. But I told him I couldn’t, because I didn’t have a gift to give him like everybody else did.
"But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift. I thought maybe if I kept him warm, that would be a good gift. So I asked Jesus, 'If I keep you warm, will that be a good enough gift' And Jesus told me, 'If you keep me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave me.'
"So I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and he told me I could stay with him--for always."
As little Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed.
The little orphan had found someone who would never abandon nor abuse him, someone who would stay with him--FOR ALWAYS.
1 Corinthians 13:1-13:8
CYMBALA'S EASTER STORY
Jim Cymbala preaches at a church in the slums of New York. He tells the following story: It was Easter Sunday and I was so tired at the end of the day that I just went to the edge of the platform, pulled down my tie and sat down and draped my feet over the edge. It was a wonderful service with many people coming forward. The counselors were talking with these people.
As I was sitting there I looked up the middle aisle, and there in about the third row was a man who looked about fifty, disheveled, filthy. He looked up at me rather sheepishly, as if saying, “Could I talk to you?”
We have homeless people coming in all the time, asking for money or whatever. So as I sat there, I said to myself, though I am ashamed of it, “What a way to end a Sunday. I’ve had such a good time, preaching and ministering, and here’s a fellow probably wanting some money for more wine.”
He walked up. When he got within about five feet of me, I smelled a horrible smell like I’d never smelled in my life. It was so awful that when he got close, I would inhale by looking away, and then I’d talk to him, and then look away to inhale, because I couldn’t inhale facing him. I asked him, “What’s your name?”
“How long have you been on the street?”
“How old are you?”
“Thirty-two.” He looked fifty--hair matted; front teeth missing; wino; eyes slightly glazed.
“Where did you sleep last night, David?”
I keep in my back pocket a money clip that also holds some credit cards. I fumbled to pick one out thinking; I’ll give him some money. I won’t even get a volunteer. They are all busy talking with others. Usually we don’t give money to people. We take them to get something to eat.
I took the money out. David pushed his finger in front of me. He said, “I don’t want your money. I want this Jesus, the One you were talking about, because I’m not going to make it. I’m going to die on the street.”
I completely forgot about David, and I started to weep for myself. I was going to give a couple of dollars to someone God had sent to me. See how easy it is? I could make the excuse I was tired. There is no excuse. I was not seeing him the way God sees him. I was not feeling what God feels.
But oh, did that change! David just stood there. He didn’t know what was happening. I pleaded with God, “God, forgive me! Forgive me! Please forgive me. I am so sorry to represent You this way. I’m so sorry. Here I am with my message and my points, and You send somebody and I am not ready for it. Oh, God!”
Something came over me. Suddenly I started to weep deeper, and David began to weep. He fell against my chest as I was sitting there. He fell against my white shirt and tie, and I put my arms around him, and there we wept on each other. The smell of His person became a beautiful aroma. Here is what I thought the Lord made real to me: If you don’t love this smell, I...
There is a rather poignant Christmas story about a little girl who watched her mother & dad getting ready for Christmas. To her, it seemed that dad was preoccupied with burdens & bundles, & mom was concerned about parties & presents, & they just had no time for her.
She felt that she was being shoved aside. In fact, it seemed to her that she was always being told, "Would you please get out of the way?"
So one night in December she knelt beside her bed & prayed this prayer, "Our Father who art in heaven, please forgive us our Christmases as we forgive those who Christmas against us."
For thousands of years the Israelites had been looking for the coming of the Messiah. There in Bethlehem by the miraculous power of God, Mary, a young virgin, gave birth to the Savior of the world. Most people missed that glorious event, but a few did not.
Who are the Biblical examples for us to follow in showing adoration to the Lord Jesus Christ?
1.) Mary... having a heart that is completely surrendered to the will of God. Mary, the chosen mother-to-be of Jesus, responded to the angel Gabriel's startling announcement with, "I am the Lord's servant... may it be to me as you have said."
We do not know all Mary went through after she conceived the Christ Child by the Holy Spirit. We do know that Joseph, not understanding at first how his beloved Mary had become pregnant, had it in his mind to quietly divorce her. But God intervened for His faithful servant, Mary. An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, and told him not to be afraid to take Mary home to be his wife, that the Child in her was of the Holy Spirit. Joseph and Mary obeyed God even at personal expense (Matt. 1: 18 - 24).
2.) The shepherds... believing, responding and witnessing. Believing the announcement of the angel of the Lord, the shepherds hurried to find the Baby Jesus lying in the manger. Then they spread the word concerning what had happened and what was told them about the Child (Luke 2: 16, 17).
3.) Simeon... living a Holy Spirit-led life full of praise to God. The Holy Spirit had led Simeon, a righteous and devout man, to go into the temple courts just as Joseph and Mary came to consecrate Jesus to God when He was eight days old. Recognizing that Salvation had surely come to both the Jews and the Gentiles, Simeon took Jesus into his arms and praised God (Luke 2: 21 - 28).
4.) Anna... being thankful and always about the Lord's work. The elderly prophetess, Anna, never stopped worshiping the Lord in the temple. She often fasted and prayed. When she saw the Baby Jesus she gave thanks to God (Luke 2: 37, 38).
5.) The Magi... physically giving of themselves, their hearts, and their gifts to the Lord. The Magi from the East had come on a long and dangerous journey with one purpose in mind, to worship a newly-born King. Having thus presented themselves in worship, they then gave their gifts: gold, a tribute worthy of a King; frankincense, a fragrance often used to honor God with the smoke of incense; and myrrh, a spice used to embalm the dead, foretelling Jesus' sacrificial death to come (Matt. 2: 11).
Like these before us, if we are sincere in the surrender of ourselves to Him, we, too, should not be unwilling to part with all that is dear to us for His glory and worship--our reputations, our finances, our time, our plans.
How will you show your adoration of the Lord Jesus Christ this Christmas season? Start with inviting Christ into your heart to be both Savior and Lord!
Oh come, let us adore Him... Christ, the Lord!
A couple of years ago on America’s Funniest Home Videos, a young boy was shown on Christmas morning. He came down to see a large present beside the tree and ran over to tear it open to see what was inside. The paper went flying and suddenly he broke into a dance and jumped around the room saying, “Wow Just what I wanted I really love it. Wow ” After awhile he went over to look at it again and said with a puzzled look on his face, “What is it?”
On that first Christmas the angels announced the birth of a new child. The heavens were opened and all the company of heaven broke into praise. Shepherds went racing to Bethlehem to see what it was all about. And for two thousand years we have been jumping up and down saying, “Just what I wanted Exactly what I needed ” But in the next breath we look again inside the stable and ask, “What is it?” We are puzzled by God’s gift.
On December 17, 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright made their first flight of an airplane at Kitty Hawk NC. On their 5th attempt, the plane under the control of Orville, embarked on a 12 second flight.
Wilbur rushed to the local telegraph office and sent the following message – WE HAVE FLOWN FOR 12 SECONDS - WE WILL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS!
Upon receiving the telegram their sister, Katherine went to the newspaper office, told the editor of her brother’s new flying machine, and informed him, they would be home for Christmas, if he would like to set up an interview.
He told her that was nice, and he would be sure to put something in the paper regarding the boys.
On December 19th, the local paper placed the following headline on the 6th page of the paper: “WRIGHT BROTHERS HOME FOR CHRISTMAS”
The most important story of the year – man’s first flight – and the editor missed it!
I wonder if the same could be said about us when it comes to Christmas. Lo...
Sermon Central Staff
BULLET-PROOF VEST OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
Terry Schafer, a young wife, lived with her husband in the small city of Moline, Illinois. She had a special gift she wanted to give to her husband for Christmas but was afraid that they would not be able to afford it. She started shopping for it in September, knowing it was a specialized piece of equipment and not every store would sell it. She finally found it -- and to her dismay it was way beyond their budget. But she came up the idea of laying it away and making payments to the storekeeper. She pitched her idea to the store manager. The business man sympathized with her situation and said, "Since your husband is a policeman, I doubt that you're going to take advantage of me. Why don't you give your first payment today -- and I'll let you take the gift home. Make sure you make the other payments and pay it off before Christmas." She agreed.
The only problem was she was one of those people who couldn't keep a secret. She couldn't wait till Christmas to give the gift to her husband. That September night she stood there beaming with a wrapped present on the table of their small home. She said Merry Christmas and gave her husband a peck on the cheek.
Neither one of them realized at that moment how significant that gift would end up being. In fact in the not-to-distant future it would mean the difference between life and death for her husband.
On Oct. 1 of that same year Patrolman David Schafer was working the night shift and got a call on his police radio. A drugstore robbery was in process. Racing to the scene he arrived just in time to observe the suspect getting into his car, starting the engine and speeding away. Quickly David switched on his siren and began the pursuit. Three blocks later the getaway car suddenly pulled over the side of the road and stopped. The suspect was still behind the wheel of his car as David cautiously approached. He got about three feet from the window when the suspect fired an automatic pistol sending a .45 caliber slug into David's abdomen.
7:00 AM the next morning -- Terry answered the door of their home to face a police officer telling her that her husband had been shot trying to apprehend a robbery suspect. As he detailed the news, he said he had bad news and good news. As she listened, she was glad that she didn't wait till Christmas to give her husband the gift. David had been shot point blank with a 45 caliber pistol and survived. She was very glad the shopkeeper had let her take that gift home that day. The gift Terry had purchased for her husband was a bullet proof vest -- and it had saved his life. He was in the hospital with deep bruises to his chest, not a bullet wound. She had given her husband the gift of life.
The reason Christ came -- was to provide for us a vest of righteousness. He paid the price with His blood that he might protect us with a shield that sin could not penetrate. Put it on. The only way you can lose is if you take it off.
(From a sermon by Tim Vamosi, The Breastplate of Righteousness, 1/4/2011)
Whenever a farmer in western Kansas buys a new truck or combine or something, they are hesitant to bring it out or tell anyone about it. I’m not quite sure why that is - but I think a part of it is they don’t want the other farmers to get jealous over what they’ve got and they don’t want to come off as arrogant. So they keep it to themselves as long as possible, or just don’t buy new trucks so as not to come off as being better than their neighbors. It seems rather ridiculous to a point - almost like a false modesty. If God has blessed you with the ability to get a new truck and you are still generous with your offerings and giving, why can’t you let people see your gift from God? Why can’t you use it? As long as you aren’t arrogant and flashy about it, why not enjoy it? Let them look at it and do the “oohs and aahs.”
Mary realized that there is no way she could keep this gift hidden in a garage - that it wasn’t just a gift for her - but for the world. She had to admit the bare truth of the matter - she had been given a wonderful gift. She said, From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. Soon after she gave birth, she would realize what a PUBLIC thing this was. Shepherds first came and then told all kinds of people about it. So they came and saw the baby. Then Wise Men came some months later. Here she had all these strangers coming in their house and visiting the manger on the same night as the birth, but she didn’t say, “come back tomorrow - I just gave birth for crying out loud.” She knew that all generations would know about this birth, but she didn’t want to be arrogant and flashy about it. She wanted to make sure that they kept the praise where it belonged - to the Mighty One - for doing great things for her. She didn’t want any of the credit.