Let Christmas Change Your World!
Part 1: Christmas Preparation
Sermon by: Rick Crandall
McClendon Baptist Church - Dec. 3, 2006
*I went to the mall with Mary the day after Thanksgiving. Wow! And while we were there, we went to Bath & Body Works. Double wow! There were 800 women in that little store! Not really, but it was wall to wall women.
I stood in line while Mary picked things out, and it took 30 minutes for that line to snake its way through the store. It was a phenomenon: People getting ready for Christmas, or trying to anyway, but how can we really get ready for Christmas? That’s what this Old Testament prophecy is about, so let’s look into the Word of God and see.
1. How can I get ready for Christmas? The first thing to do is share the Lord’s comfort.
1-God surely wants you to have His comfort, and we know this because He says in vs.1: “Comfort, yes, comfort My people!”
*God was speaking to people who were desperately going to need comfort. Their nation and their most holy temple were going to be destroyed. Thousands would be carried away to Babylon, and many more would be killed.
*They were going to need comfort, and so will we. Christmas is a time of celebration, but it can also be a difficult time for those whose loved ones have died. This week Donna gave me a list of our church members we have had to say Goodbye to over the last year: Bud Hill, Mot Richey, Lori Bass, Mary Lois Taylor, Kenneth Berry, Stuart Morse, Lloyd Jacks, Doc Green, and of course, Bro. Savoie.
*Many more of us lost family members and friends this past year, and it hurts, but God wants to comfort you, and He can do it. 2 Corin 1:3&4 tell us that He is the Father of mercies and God of all comfort. And that He comforts us in all our tribulation.
*We see God’s comfort here in vs. 2, where He says: “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”
*God says that “her warfare is ended,” and believers, one day our struggles will be over. Victory is coming! That’s comfort. And by the grace of God, by the Cross of Jesus Christ, all of our sins have been pardoned! That’s comfort! Christians, we are part of the Family of God, Heaven is our home and we will live forever. That’s comfort!
*Last Thursday at our senior adult luncheon, I told my table that my friend in Georgia, Mrs. Parker, was still about the same and in good spirits when I talked to her the day after Thanksgiving. (Several weeks ago, a nurse told the family that she would only last about a week, but many times they just don’t know.)
*Then Vera said they thought the same thing about her when she was sick in Shreveport last year. She said Cathy told them, “You just don’t know my Mama!”
*But Vera said that while she was in the hospital, once she was right there at the gates of Heaven. She could see how beautiful it was. Of course she wanted to go in, but she could feel herself being pulled back, because it wasn’t her time yet. But Heaven is right there waiting for her, and for all who know Jesus as Savior and Lord. That’s comfort.
2-God wants you to have it, and He wants you to give it. “Comfort, yes, comfort My people! says your God. Speak comfort to Jerusalem.”
*Those commands are not just for Isaiah or the other prophets or for preachers. Those commands are for all of God’s people. That’s why 2 Corin 1 says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
*God wants every believer to be a comforter. God wants you to comfort other people, because He knows that as long as we are in this world, people around us are going to need comfort. And you can do it. Christian, you can do it. Many of you already have.
*Last Friday we received a card from Debbie and Roger Bennett. Most of you know that Roger is in Legacy 5 and that he has been fighting a long battle against cancer. Right now Roger is in Houston for a 3rd bone marrow transplant.
*After the concert last September, we found that we had actually made almost a thousand dollars, and it seemed like the best thing to do with that money was send it to Roger. That’s what the card is about, and it says:
Dear Loved Ones at McClendon Baptist,
We are overwhelmed by your generous gift of love. It means so much to us to have the love, prayers and support of wonderful people like you. Your church has always held a special place in our hearts because of the many connections we have there.
Thank you again for thinking of us in such a tangible way, and for your continuing prayers.
May God bless you and keep you
In His Grip!
Debbie & Roger Bennett
2. God wants you to have His comfort, and He wants you to give it. So how can I get ready for Christmas? Share the Lord’s comfort, but also clear the clutter out of your life.
*Verses 3-5 are a prophecy that John the Baptist would come to prepare the way for Jesus:
3. The voice of one crying in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; the crooked places shall be made straight, and the rough places smooth;
5. the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’’
*In vs. 3, he says: “Prepare the way of the Lord.” There is an important word picture behind the word prepare in the original language. It’s a picture of turning away from something and turning to face something else. In this case, of course, it is turning to face the Lord, and this is crucial because there are some things we need to turn away from in life.
*I am not just talking about the bad things we do. I am talking about things that may be good by themselves, but they are coming between us and God. That’s why the old cliché says that the good can be the enemy of the best. And that’s why Hebrews 12:1 tells us to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us.” Not just the sins, but every weight that holds us down,
*Vs. 4 in the New Living Translation says, “Fill the valleys and level the hills. Straighten out the curves and smooth off the rough spots”.
*Are there low places in your life? -Things that are bound to pull you down?
*Are there mountains? -Things that rise up and stand between you and God?
*What things are distracting you and steering you off the straight path of the Lord?
*What things are making your life rough? Life would go smoother if you would just let them go.
*When John the Baptist came to preach, he summed it up in one word: Repent. And it is not always an easy thing to do. It can be painful to face up to the clutter in our lives.
*Sometimes we are like Max Lucado’s daughter Andrea when she was a little girl. Once when she was about 4 or 5, Andrea got a splinter in her finger. So Max took her to bathroom and got out the tweezers, some ointment and a band-aid.
*Andrea did not like what she saw, so she said: “I just want the band-aid, Daddy.” (1)
*We are like that sometimes. It seems easier to cover up a problem than to really take care of it, but God wants all the clutter to come out.
*Lift up the low places. Tear down the hills. Straighten the curves. Smooth out the rough spots. Don’t let anything come between you and the Lord.
3. How can I get ready for Christmas? Clear the clutter out of your life, and help people connect with the true message of Christmas.
*In vs. 6, the voice of the Lord says: “Cry out!” God wants all believers to make the message of His coming loud and clear to a lost and dying world. Nothing is more important. But for most people the true meaning of Christmas gets lost in the mall or under the Christmas tree.
*Here’s the good news: People are more open to the message of Jesus Christ right now than most any other time of the year. And it is our job to help them understand. So what is the message? Isaiah breaks it down into 2 parts.
1-First there is some bad news about our lives.
*This is in vs. 6&7: “All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, because the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass.”
*God wants us to remind people that our time here is very short. “The grass withers and the flower fades away.” Almost nothing in this world will last forever.
*Think about your Christmases from long ago. Does anybody have any gift they got as a child? Almost all of it is broken and long gone.
*Actually, I do have this hair brush I got in the 7th grade! Can you believe that? I got this brush in my stocking in 1963. I have been using the same hairbrush for 43 years! But this brush is heading for the trash pile too. “The grass withers and the flower fades away.”
2-It’s true for us too. Life is short, death is sure, and we must be ready to go. People desperately need the Lord. Thank God that we have Good News about the Lord, and we see it in vs. 8-10:
8. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.’’
9. O Zion, you who bring good tidings, get up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, you who bring good tidings, lift up your voice with strength, lift it up, be not afraid; say to the cities of Judah, "Behold your God!’’
10. Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him; behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him.
*“The Word of our God stands forever!” And it is full of Good News for all who will trust in the Lord! -The good tidings: “Behold your God! Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand.” And Jesus Christ did come into the world on that first Christmas day. He came with a strong hand to save all who will trust in Him. He came to stretch out His strong arm to die on the Cross for all of our sins. And He rose again to give eternal life to all who will receive Him as Savior and Lord. Jesus Christ can save any soul. He can change any life.
*Author Stephen Ambrose told the story of an American paratrooper unit in World War 2. Some of you probably read the book, “Band of Brothers.” Some of you also saw the TV mini-series that came out a few years ago. I watched most of it on the History Channel not long ago. It has some bad language in it, but everybody ought to see it to help us appreciate the freedom we have today.
*One of the few men to survive from beginning to end was Sgt. “Skinny” Sisk. After the war, Sisk had a hard time shaking his memories. In July 1991, he wrote a letter to Capt. Dick Winters to explain. Skinny wrote:
“My career after the war was trying to drink away the truckload of Krauts that I stopped in Holland, and the die-hard Nazi that I went up into the Bavarian Alps and killed. Old Moe Alley made a statement that all the killings that I did was going to jump into the bed with me one of these days and they surely did. I [had] a lot of flash backs after the war and I started drinking.
Then my sister’s little daughter, four years old, came into my bedroom. (I was too unbearable to the rest of the family, either hung over or drunk.) And she told me that Jesus loved me and she loved me. And if I would repent God would forgive me for all the men I kept trying to kill all over again.
That little girl got to me. I put her out of my room, told her to go to her Mommy. There and then I bowed my head on my Mother’s old feather bed and repented, and God forgave me for the war and all the other bad things I had done down through the years.
I was ordained in the latter part of 1949 into the ministry and believe me, Dick, I haven’t whipped but one man since, and he needed it. I have four children, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
The Lord willing and Jesus tarries I hope to see you all at the next reunion. If not I’ll see you at the Last Jump.” (2)
*Jesus Christ can save any soul. He can change any life. That is the true message of Christmas.
*Please try your best to invite people to come to church this Christmas season! Every Sunday morning they can hear a message about how Christmas can change their world. Every Sunday evening they can hear the message of Christmas through great music. There is no better time, because people are more open to the message of Jesus at Christmastime.
4. How can I get ready for Christmas? Help people connect with the true message of Christmas, and let the Lord carry you.
*Here’s more of the Good news about the Lord. We see it in vs.11:
-He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.
*What a God we have who wants to have a relationship with you! *He wants to be your Good Shepherd. He wants to provide for you and protect you.
*This is the heart of Christianity. This is the essence of salvation: A personal relationship with God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ. This is why in John 17:3, Jesus prayed to the Father and said: “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
*God wants to have a close, personal relationship with you. “He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom.” He will carry you.
*Pastor James Doyle gave a great testimony about being carried by his father. James said:
“As a 5 year old I would pretend to fall asleep during the evening worship service! If I did, I knew my dad would carry me home. I would do this because we walked to and from church. It was about 1 [mile] each way.
Being little wasn’t my problem. The length wasn’t my problem. I enjoyed the walk with my family. However, my older brothers teased me by telling me that in one of the fields we’d walk through there was a "boogey man" who would "get me". Now that frightened me!
*One night I really did fall asleep. Dad picked me up. I woke up right away but continued to pretend to be asleep as he carried me. That night we went right through that frightening field and I was not one bit afraid. I felt the warmth, the strength and the protection of my dad’s arms.
*To this day, some 50 plus years later, I can still "feel" his arms and "hear" his breathing as I remember his ultimate protection. So, it wasn’t long until I would constantly pretend to fall asleep on the pew, knowing I could go through that frightening experience safe in my dad’s arms!
*Today, when I talk about death and dying I realize that it, too, can be a frightening experience... -But [this] thing I know for sure, I am always safe in Abba’s Arms. He made me a promise that when my room was ready, He would come for me and take me there. Even the frightening experience of death is no match for our Father’s secure and strong Arms!” (3)
*Maybe you are going through a difficult time right now, maybe it’s even frightening. Let the Lord carry you. Maybe you are worn out by the stress of life, or by the extra rush of the season. Let the Lord carry you.
*He will carry you. And you will be ready for Christmas. You will be ready for all the trials of life. You will be ready when He comes again. And you will be ready for all eternity.
(1) A Gentle Thunder by Max Lucado, Word Publishing, Copyright 1995, p. 172
(2) KERUX ILLUSTRATION COLLECTION - ID Number: 20439 - SOURCE: Book: Band Of Brothers, Touchstone: 2001 - TITLE: Forgive Me For All The Men I Kept Trying To Kill - AUTHOR: Stephen E. Ambrose - DATE: 2001
(3) SermonCentral illustration Contributed by: James Doyle