Summary: It’s Christmas time, & all kinds of sounds remind us of that - bells ringing, choirs singing, & music filling the air. But in the midst of all the joyous sounds there are other sounds - sounds of anguish & grief. (PowerPoints available - #194)
MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER
RIDGE CHAPEL, KANSAS, OK
(PowerPoints used with this message are available for free. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and request #194
A. It's Christmas week again, & all kinds of sounds remind us of that bells ringing, choirs singing, & music filling the air. But in the midst of all the joyous sounds of our "jolly, holly holiday" there are other sounds - sounds of anguish & grief.
Now, to illustrate that point I could have turned on one of the TV news stations this morning, or glanced at the news in any of our Sunday newspapers. But, if you will, permit me to go back in my memory – to this same Sunday in 1998 - & mention some of the sounds we were hearing in Brownsville at that time.
ILL. There was the anguish of 3 children who had seen their step father stab their mother to death. And then they had to stand by helplessly as he fled, backing his car over her lifeless body.
ILL. There was also the anguish of 22 Pakistani sailors stranded helplessly on their ship 4 miles off our shore. Five months earlier the foreign owners & officers of this old ocean-going freighter had declared bankruptcy, fled the jurisdiction of the United States, & completely abandoned the ship & its crew.
So here they were – 22 sailors, all alone on an old, leaking ship. They were out of food & fuel. They had received no pay in a year & a half - since leaving their families & homes back in Pakistan. They spoke no English. They had no papers that would even allow them to come ashore & seek help.
Can you imagine their hopelessness – their tears & their prayers?
B. Now let’s go back a little over 2,000 years ago to that very first Christmas in Bethlehem, & hear some sounds there, too sounds of a busy inn, of animals feeding in a stable, of angels singing on high, of excited shepherds coming to see the baby in the manger, & I'm sure, Mary's voice in a soft lullaby.
But some time later those sounds were replaced by the shouts of soldiers, the cries of children, & the wailing of anguished mothers.
To understand what I am talking about, please realize that several weeks or even a few months had passed by since the birth of Jesus. Joseph & Mary & Jesus were no longer in the stable. Now they were living in some small house in Bethlehem. And it was during this time that the Magi, the Wise Men as we call them, came to worship Him.
Well, you know that story. So turn with me to Matthew 2:13 18, & listen as I read what happened after the Magi left Bethlehem to return to their own homeland.
“When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,' he said, ‘take the child & His mother & escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill Him.'
“So he got up, took the child & His mother during the night & left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’
“When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, & he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem & its vicinity who were two years old & under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.
“Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping & great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children & refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.'"
C. This passage of scripture reveals an insecure & nearly insane old king who felt his rule threatened when he heard that another king had been born. And when he couldn't find that child, he ordered all the little boys in Bethlehem, 2 years old & younger, to be executed.
PROP. So when we talk about the sounds of Christmas, maybe we need to remember also the shouts of soldiers, the cries of children, & the wailing of their mothers, for these were part of the Christmas sounds, too.
They are part of what God seeks to communicate to us at this season of the year.
I. THERE IS SUFFERING, & GOD CAME TO BEAR IT WITH US
If that is so, then what is God saying? First of all, He is saying, "I know that there is suffering in this world, & I've come to bear it with you."
A. The Bible is always honest. So when it tells the story of Christmas, it not only tells about angels & shepherds & wise men who come with gifts of gold & frank-incense & myrrh, but it also tells about King Herod, about soldiers, & about the murder of little children.