Summary: Jesus Christ came to those who needed: 1. A friend. 2. A change. 3. A Savior
Two weeks ago we talked about the importance of the Old Testament prophecies about God sending his Son into the world. They provided such hope for those who waited in darkness. Last week we talked about the fulfillment of those prophecies and what they meant in the lives of the people who lived during the time that Jesus walked the earth. But the question remains: What about now? What difference does Christ make in the world today? Is he real in the lives of people here and now? Could he be real and make a difference in your life?
The witness of history, both past and present, is weighty with evidence that he has made a dramatic difference in the lives of people in every age — so much so that the course of history has been changed. He has changed so many lives, in so many ways, that it would fill the world with books telling all their stories. To whom has Jesus Christ made a difference and to whom did he come?
First of all, Jesus Christ came to: People who needed a friend. Lee Eclov tells the story of one such person. “People came early one Christmas Eve for the 11:00 pm service at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, in New York City. Among them was a recovering alcoholic, six months sober, who slipped into the eleventh row. This was his first Christmas since having lost his family. A family of four sat down two rows in front of him. Seeing them together was crushing. He decided he couldn’t handle it — he had to have a drink. As he moved from the sanctuary to the narthex, he ran into Pastor Thomas Tewell. ‘Jim, where are you going?’ the pastor asked. ‘Oh, I’m just going out for a Scotch,’ Jim replied. ‘Jim, you can’t do that,’ the pastor responded. He knew that Jim was a recovering alcoholic. ‘Is your sponsor available?’ Jim replied, ‘It’s Christmas Eve. My sponsor is in Minnesota. There’s nobody who can help me. I just came tonight for a word of hope, and I ended up sitting behind this family. If I had my life together, I’d be here with my wife and kids too.’ Pastor Tewell took Jim into the vestry to talk with a couple of other pastors. Then he slipped into the auditorium, having no idea what to do. He whispered a prayer: ‘O God, could you give me a word of hope for Jim?’ He welcomed everyone and made a few announcements. Then he said, ‘I have one final announcement. If anyone here tonight is a friend of Bill Wilson — and if you are, you’ll know it — could you step out for a moment and meet me in the vestry?’ Bill Wilson, better known as Bill W., was a cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous. From all over the sanctuary, women, men, and college students arose and made their way out. ‘And there while I was preaching in the sanctuary about incarnation,’ said Pastor Tewell, ‘the Word was becoming flesh in the vestry. Someone was experiencing hope.’” Jim experienced the friendship of Jesus Christ through the people who had been touched by him and in whom he lived.
Jesus is called the friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19). God has said that he would never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Jesus said, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). These are all the promises of a friend. The Bible says, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).
How does God become our friend? We become God’s friend when we believe in the one God sent. Jesus said, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29). The Bible says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God’s friend” (James 2:23).
But there is second group to whom Jesus came. Jesus came to: People who needed a change. Joanna was telling me about a friend she knew in college. He was a very brilliant student, but also an atheist. To look at him, he seemed like he had it all together, but he needed a change. He would not consider turning to God. The idea was preposterous to him. Another student tried to witness to him, but without success. Even though this Christian friend was not successful, he was persistent. One day the skeptic said to his Christian friend: “I’ll make you a bet. I bet that I can read through the entire Bible and still not believe in God.” So that semester he read through the entire Bible — and lost the bet. He is now a dynamic Christian who is living for God and working in missions in Asia. His life was changed — transformed. But that is what Christ does when he comes into a person’s life. When Christ was born into the world he changed the world. That’s what Bethlehem’s babe does.