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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Three Christmas Gifts Money Can’t Buy

Pastor Shim's sermon from December 19, 2010.
1. God's first Christmas gift is LOVE: "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
Christ is in the gift of Christmas; without Him there is no Christmas. Cross Christ out of Christmas, and what do you have left? Mas, a meaningless word. God's motive in sending His Son for our salvation or a recreated relationship was love, because God’s very essence is love (1 John 4:16) and Jesus is the manifesto. God's love includes all people everywhere. In the sentence, "God so loved the world," put your name in place of “the world.” For instance, “God loved Shim so much He gave His Son’s life to save him from Hell.” God's love should motivate us to love God. To prove His love, God gave us Himself in Jesus, Emmanuel (which means “God with us”). God’s presence is our assurance and the best way to experience it is to seek it like King David: “One thing I ask from the LORD, and this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek Him in His temple” (Psalm 27:4). David loved the Lord and sought to spend time with Him. We, too, can do that by loving God as Jesus teaches us in Mark 12:30-31: "Love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." The proof of our love for God is shown by our love to others. "Love your neighbor as yourself there is no commandment greater than these." When we choose the way of love, ultimately love finds us.
J. Allan Peterson, in “The Myth of the Greener Grass,” writes: Newspaper columnist and minister George Crane tells of a wife who came into his office full of hatred toward her husband. “I do not only want to get rid of him; I want to get even. Before I divorce him, I want to hurt him as much as he has me.”
Dr. Crane suggested an ingenious plan. "Go home and act as if you really loved your husband. Tell him how much he means to you. Praise him for every decent trait. Go out of your way to be as kind, considerate, and generous as possible. Spare no efforts to please him, to enjoy him. Make him believe you love him. After you've convinced him of your undying love and that you cannot live without him, then drop the bomb. Tell him that you're getting a divorce. That will really hurt him."
With revenge in her eyes, she smiled and exclaimed, "Beautiful, beautiful. Will he ever be surprised. "And she did it with enthusiasm. Acting "as if." For two months she showed love, kindness, listening, giving, reinforcing, and sharing.
When she didn't return, Crane called. "Are you ready to go through with the divorce?"
"Divorce!" she exclaimed. "Never! I discovered I really do love him."
Her actions had changed her feelings. Motion resulted in emotion. The ability to love is established not so much by fervent promise as often repeated deeds. Such is the power of love. Where there is love there
is joy, bursting with laughter and singing as the angels did.
2. God's second Christmas gift is JOY, Luke 2:8-12.
God and his angels were filled with joy with the birth of Jesus, so He sent His angels to share His joy with shepherds. Why did God choose to manifest his Son’s birth to the lowest people in their society? God choose to announce the greatest event in human history to shepherds, the poor, the despised, and the outcast of the society. When the angels of the Lord appeared to them "the glory of the Lord shone around them." The presence of the Lord drives away darkness. But the shepherd’s reaction was that of terror. They were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be to all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord." Jesus didn’t become Lord; He was the Lord at his birth.
Why did God choose to announce the birth of his son to shepherds? The answer is found in Jesus' circumstance of birth, family, his life and his teaching and finally at his death for us! God's choice of Mary as a mother and Joseph as an adopted father shows that God wanted to identify with the poor and the humble. The Bible's view of humility is virtuous. “For I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11:29). Jesus called himself a shepherd. "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (John 10:11). God chose shepherds to share the joy of His Son's birth because of their humble position as willing servants to others. Like his Son, they lived to protect and give their lives for the sheep. Look at Luke 2:8: “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” God chose the humble shepherd instead of the power brokers because if God were to announce the birth of Jesus at the royal palace in Rome, do you think Emperor Augustus Caesar would have gone to Bethlehem to see Baby Jesus? Not only did that God not include the king of Rom, God excluded his own people–the priests, the scribes, and all the hierarchy--except the wise men from the east who determined on their own, gazing at the stars, the birth of the King of Kings. They followed the star to find and worship Him.
When King Herod heard about the birth of the baby King, he ordered all boys under the age of two murdered (Matthew 2). Joseph was warned by God to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt for safety. Why would the Prince of Peace need to be rescued? Sometimes God's strength is manifested in weakness, and His ways are not our ways. As Isaiah put it (Isaiah 55:8), "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord." God has eternity to work with, that’s why He is so patient with us all.
3. God's third Christmas gift is PEACE (Luke 2:14, Isaiah 9:6)
The announcement of peace with Jesus birth was "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests." If peace is God's favor, how do we get it, and how do we keep it, and how do we share it? We receive God's peace, when we make peace with Him through Jesus our mediator. "We have peace with God though our Lord Jesus Christ." Romans 5:1 and Isaiah 9:6 said, "For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." "For He Himself is our peace" (Ephesians 2:14).
We have God's peace when we seek to live in peace. "Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3). "Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness" (James 3:18).
We can have peace in spite of our difficult circumstance if we focus on God as the anchor of our peace when the storm of adversity is raging.
It was 1863, and American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was seeing the effect of the American Civil War right before his eyes. His oldest son, Charles, 19, had been wounded in battle and sent home to Cambridge, MA, to recover. It wasn't the first time Longfellow had faced difficult circumstances. Four years after marrying his first wife, Mary, she took ill and died. In 1861, his second wife, Fanny, accidentally set her clothes on fire and burned to death. The fame and wealth that Longfellow had garnered from penning such classic poems as “Evangeline," "The Song of Hiawatha," and "The Courtship of Miles Standish," didn't fill the void. And now the country was at war. Longfellow pleaded with God to end the madness. On Christmas Day 1863, inspired by church bells heralding Christ's birth, Longfellow answered in the words of this carol the question that was on everyone's lips.
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men.
Then from each black, accursed mouth,
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound the carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men.
And in despair I bowed my head;
‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said;
‘For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!’
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead, nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!’
God offers us these three precious gifts that money can’t buy: Love, Joy, and Peace. These three gifts become real in our lives when we follow Jesus as Lord and Savior daily.

Pastor Shim Habte, Willows United Methodist Church, 544 N. Shasta St., Willows, CA 95988, Phone 530-934-3190
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