liff & Saltillo UM Churches
December 29, 2002
“Open Your Heart’s Door to God’s Plan”
Introduction: “There came a time--at the best time, at the right time--when the mighty Son of God turned His back on all the beauty and happiness of His forever home. And somehow--no one knows just how--He stepped out of Heaven and entered earth as a baby.
It must have seemed a long way between Heaven and earth. It must have been sad to leave such a glorious home. It must have made the angels wide-eyed and solemn to see the king they love and serve say goodbye and take that long step over the edge of Heaven
through black space to the little blue and brown planet where you and I live. Did the angels know that the man Jesus would have to die? Did they know that when He grew up He would be nailed to a Cross of Wood? Did they know their King would give up His life for all the wrong, hateful things you and I have done?” (LARRY LIBBY).
Oh, they probably did. It wasn’t too long before THEY got to come to earth too. Late one night those angels peeled back the sky with excitement just like you would tear open a Christmas present. Then with the brilliant light of heaven, they began to sing and shout, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests!” (Luke 2:14).
Today’s scripture opens at this point. What does it mean to us today? Christmas Day has come and gone. Over 2000 years have come and gone. This was God’s plan for lost and sinful people then and it still is for us today. What does it all mean to us this morning?
Today I have deliberately not lit the candles on the Advent Wreath because for some, Christmas seems to have ended. Back to business as usual, back to work, back to the same old same old. What has happened to the peace, the hope, the joy, and the love that we talked about all month? What about the light from the Christ candle that radiated out from person to person on Christmas eve?
Jesus said, “I have come that [you] may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
1. PEACE: The shepherds in the field were very ordinary people going about business as usual, but they caught the message for themselves. “He has come to bring PEACE to MY life.” They believed it! Jesus later told his troubled disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
We can believe the good news just as well as the shepherds. It is for us. If your heart is troubled today, let the peace of Jesus rule in your heart. Open your heart for His peace to enter in. [Let’s restore the candle of peace today.]
2. HOPE: The shepherds may have felt they didn’t have a lot of exciting things to look forward to sitting out there on that hillside watching the sheep. Maybe they felt there was just more of the same old same old to look forward to. But when God broke into their lives things were drastically different for them. They might have still been shepherds, but they saw the glory of the Lord surrounding them, and they opened their hearts to believe and to be changed from the inside out. God’s plan included these ordinary shepherds and it includes each of us. Scripture tells us that they not only believed what the angels said but got up quickly and went to find the baby Jesus. When they ACTED UPON the knowledge, they found Him. And it was just as they had been told. They had found the HOPE they had been seeking for a long time.
We all need HOPE for 2003 as we travel through times of uncertainty. The old song says, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness--On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” Open your heart today to His HOPE for your future in 2003. Let us relight the candle of HOPE today.
3. JOY: God understands your circumstances and we need the “Joy of the Lord to be our strength” (Nehemiah) for the days ahead. Jesus took the tough road when He came to earth. Whatever we are going through, He understands. Joy will sustain us in the tough days we go through. The shepherds knew that there was something special about this announcement by the angels that would carry them through good days and bad days as well.
David in the Psalms prayed, “Restore to me the JOY of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me” (Psalm 51:12).
We can know that because of Jesus we can be completely forgiven and radically changed. How can this happen for me, you ask? By opening the door of your heart to God’s plan. He will restore your joy. We need the candle of JOY in the year ahead.
4. LOVE--The story is told of a 17 year old evangelist who was out to “save the world” and on “fire for God.” He was preaching a revival in the Jack pines of Minnesota. He and some of the church members were hiking down the trails stopping at each little cabin inviting the folks to attend the revival. When they approached one cabin the people told the evangelist, “No use stopping there. There is an old hermit there who is the last person in the world to come to church.”
But the evangelist insisted on stopping anyway. He was ready to go anywhere to preach. The grizzled old man came to the door of the cabin; and just like the people said, had no interest in God and didn’t think God had any interest in him either.
The evangelist challenged him that if he could prove God was interested in him would he be interested in God.
He said he JUST MIGHT BE.
The young evangelist told him to read II Peter 3:3-9. The old man slowly read the scripture in an old Bible that he found in his cabin. When he finished reading, he looked up with tears in his eyes and said, “First time I ever knowed God cared about mountain men the likes of me.”
What was the scripture that touched his heart that day? Verse 9 says, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
That shows his great LOVE and his patience toward us even though we may have been disinterested for a good many years. But now it’s time to decide. Will God be my ruler or my rival. Will we keep him on the outside or invite him to come inside? Today, it is important that we recognize His great LOVE to us. We need the candle of His LOVE to shine brightly this year in our lives. If you have been indifferent toward Him, now is the time to let Him come into your life.
CONCLUSION: We come to the conclusion of our Advent Season. We have celebrated in many ways this season. We have decorated, shopped, given and received gifts, baked cookies, enjoyed the food and attended Christmas programs. No doubt we were exhausted trying to fit everything in as was this mother:
STORY: The Christmas program was on a night that Nicholas’ mother worked. He was in kindergarten and was memorizing songs for his school’s Winter Pageant. His teacher worked out a time for parents to come to the dress rehearsal if they couldn’t come that night. Nicholas seemed happy with the compromise.
Because the school system had stopped referring to the holiday as Christmas, she was surprised when the class started to sing CHRISTMAS LOVE.
Each child held up the Letters spelling Christmas Love as they sang. C is for Christmas. H is for Happy. Everything went smoothly until one little girl had the letter M upside down. The audience snickered at the mistake, however, she stood proudly holding her W.
When the last letter was added, the message read Loud and Clear--
CHRISTwasLove. And he still is.
TODAY--won’t you Open Your Heart’s Door a little wider to His Love as I light the Christ Candle.
Let us pray.