Summary: The heart of the Advent Season is getting to know Jesus
Advent # 1
What’s it all about anyway?
Rumors not withstanding, I really do like the Christmas season! Bev started getting out the decorations this week. On Saturday, we’ll head out to get a tree. I’ve already got most of the gifts for which I am responsible. Three of our four kids will make their way home for the holiday week, filling up our home with noise, laughter, and dirty towels! But, that’s not the ‘it’ of Christmas!
Then, too, there are the gifts. I’m not sure why the Black Friday sales were so much a part of my consciousness this year. Perhaps it is because there are kids in the house again and I’m thinking about gifts. With all respect for those of you who were out shopping on Thanksgiving, I personally find extending shopping hours into the night of such a holiday a gross expression of what’s gone terribly wrong with Christmas! It was bad enough when stores opened at 5 AM on Friday. No matter how much they cost or how brightly they are wrapped, gifts are not the ‘it’ of Christmas.
Perhaps you’re thinking I sound like the Grinch who stole Christmas. It really is a great story and not just for kids. After he attempted to rob all the Who’s in Whoville of their Christmas, the Grinch saw them singing and stop atop his mountain to ponder. And in the famous prose of Dr. Seuss, the Grinch realized something we all need to know:
“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,
stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?
It came without ribbons.
It came without tags.
It came without packages, boxes or bags.
And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before.
What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store?
What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?”
Pastor Mike Slaughter writes that
“Christmas has been hijacked and exploited. We profess an allegiance to Jesus but celebrate His birth with an orgy of materialism. Christmas is not your birthday.”
What’s it all about anyway?
That’s what I want to talk about with you today.
Don’t tune me out or turn your mind to other things. This will not be a message that slams spending too much money on Christmas gifts. I’m not going to harp on the folly of putting this year’s debt on top of last year’s on a credit card that is already near maxed out. We know those things already. We don’t always live by them, but we know them. Instead, I want to turn your attention to Jesus and His Gospel for that is the ‘it’ of Christmas!
TEXT - Luke 4: 14-30
The passage that will be our text comes from a Sabbath sermon that Jesus preached. He was the guest speaker at the synagogue in Nazareth. The local boy who become something of a celebrity in the region, comes home.
READ - vv. 14-16
There are three important descriptions.
“In the power of the Spirit”
Jesus was operating beyond the natural. He was becoming known, not for His brilliant rhetoric, not because he could a crowd to fiery indignation about the Romans who occupied their nation, not because He was a humorist who broke the boredom of life. His words were compelling. He made you think, left you hungry for more.
“News spread through the whole country”
People were talking. There was a buzz and the bolder among the people were suggesting that maybe this young man was the one who would finally bring the revolution, giving them back the storied grandeur of David’s kingdom!
“Everyone praised him.”
They did not know a lot about him, but they liked what they knew.
So, we learn that Jesus went to the synagogue and, as in the custom of the day, was offered the opportunity to read the Scripture and make some comments. When Jesus went to the pulpit to speak that day, everyone had some expectations. What would he say? Would he offer any explanation about his plans? Who was this son of Mary and Joseph that some of the older folks remembered as having some scandal attached to his conception?
READ vv. 17-20
This text was loaded with emotion and meaning for that congregation. It was a statement universally connected to the hope of the Messiah. The Jews of that era were hoping for God’s Messenger to show up. They had mixed their own longing with the promises of the Scripture. Most were expecting a fiery revolutionary who would unite the people in common resistance to the Romans, who would restore God’s blessing and prosperity to the impoverished land. And, now Jesus chooses this passage, full of promise and hope.