Summary: I was in one of my melancholy moods last week while driving on Rt. 48. If our American civilization experience is consistent with all other civilizations, there will come a day when another civilization will be conducting excavations in what used to be kn
SERMONIC / WORSHIP THEME
Opening Statement: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way. . . .”
So begins Charles Dicken’s classic work, A Tale of Two Cities. The French revolution had brought the worst of times and the best of times to both France and England. Dicken’s words were truly descriptive of the mood of the world. But these words can also be spoken about our time. There is so much to be gloomy about.
Illustration: I was in one of my melancholy moods last week while driving on Rt. 48. If our American civilization experience is consistent with all other civilizations, there will come a day when another civilization will be conducting excavations in what used to be known as America. If our life experience is consistent with the life experience of millions of others, there will come a day when death will wrap its arms around us in a grasp that we cannot escape from. If our sun is consistent with all other stars, there will come a day when it will burn out and our solar system will be driven into a deep freeze where life can no longer be sustained.
Transition: How do I shake off this atmosphere of gloom?
Explanation: Christmas. Not the kind that we’re used to here in America. A Californian doctor has given a health warning about the stress it causes! The Christmas Season is marked by more emotional stress and more acts of violence than any other season of the year! Christmas is an excuse to get drunk, have a party, spend money, over eat, and all kinds of other excesses. The kind of Christmas we need is a God-kind-of-Christmas. You see, into this gloomy world, filled with hopelessness and despair, God sent a baby. When God really wants to get a message through, a message that will penetrate the hopelessness and gloom of humanity, He wraps it up in a person. I like to call this person "Christmas Hope."
Explanation: Realizing that we did not have the power to defeat death; realizing that human civilization eventually would self-destruct due to man’s sinfulness; realizing that science and the natural universe would eventually terminate life, as we know it; and realizing that we were separated from our Creator with no moral or spiritual power to be restored to Him, God sent to us "Christmas Hope." And, surprising enough, he cried. He grew. He laughed. He listened to our stories. He lived in our towns. He ate what we ate. He got to know us. He discovered our fear of death and he wept with us as we buried our loved ones. He saw the beautiful world that we live in, as well as the temporal, passing nature of the world in which we live. And into this hopelessness and uncertainty, a light shined on planet earth.
Title: Christmas Hope
Exposition: Isaiah 9 is a strong Messianic passage. Isaiah wrote about a day that would come when a child would be given to Israel (9:6) and his name would be Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. Even though Israel was going into Assyrian captivity, Isaiah promised that a Messiah would eventually rule on David’s throne.
Isaiah 9:1 The gloom will be dispelled for those who were anxious. In earlier times he humiliated the land of Zebulun, and the land of Naphtali;
Comment: Zebulun and Naphtali were sons of Jacob. They along with the other sons of Jacob were allotted land in Israel during the time of Joshua’s conquest of the land. The statement probably alludes to the Assyrian conquest of Israel in ca. 734-733 BC when Tiglath-pileser III annexed much of Israel’s territory and reduced Samaria to a puppet state.
but now he brings honor to the way of the sea, the region beyond the Jordan, and Galilee of the nations. [Prophetic Perfect: past tense of future events] 9:2 The people walking in darkness see a bright light; light shines on those who live in a land of deep darkness.
Comment: This particular region was blessed on one hand with a major travel route that ran through it. This brought commerce and economical blessings. However, it was also a land of much blood shed and war. The geography of the land would allow armies to travel through this area easily, and so those who lived there, lived in the shadow of uncertainty, mainly because of a travel route that would accommodate rogue nations.