Sermon by: Robert Austell
The audio version of this mini-sermon was even shorter (about 8 min.) and somewhat different. Our choir was doing their Christmas Cantata with a jazz trio, and I ended up playing off an illustration in the front of the Donald Miller book, "Blue Like Jazz" - about how sometimes to understand something you have to see someone who loves it. All that to say - listen to the audio!
Here's a snipit of the Rick Bean jazz trio!
In this morning’s reading, we heard about angels bringing a message of “Good News” to some shepherds living 2000 years ago. Using the message they presented, I’d like to talk to you this morning about THE story of salvation in Jesus Christ, as described in the Bible. Following that I’d like to invite you to consider your own faith story and what you will do with the Good News God has spoken this morning.
Good News of Great Joy
Angels from Heaven appeared to declare the “Good News” of the birth of Jesus. This is the basic Christian story, the story of God’s love, and cause for celebration or joy. I’d like to look with you at what the angels announced and what the Bible passes on to us as “Good News.”
Let me say all of it together first, and then unpack it for you. The Good News for the whole world is this: God caused a Savior (a Deliverer or Rescuer) to be born into the world to bring peace with God and to make things right with God.
“I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people… today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
That’s the Christmas story in a nutshell. It has everything to do with the birth of Jesus Christ, and it is a gift from God to the whole world. Jesus is not only a Savior or a Deliverer; he is also the Christ – the chosen one of God.
Why is that important? It’s crucial because human beings have an insurmountable problem when it comes to God and life and health and hope. We are separated from God and we can’t make things right. It was necessary for God to act to answer our dilemma, and He did so by sending us a Deliverer, a Rescuer, a Savior. He caused Jesus to be born into the world in order that we might have someone to save us and make things right.
The angels go on to describe what will happen when Jesus makes things right with God. There will be peace between God and us. And God’s pleasure or favor will rest upon Jesus and those he saves. That’s what the sentence means: On earth peace among men with whom He is pleased. Because God is perfectly pleased with His Son, Jesus, and because things are ultimately right between Heavenly Father and Son, those who trust in Jesus and follow him share in this peace and ‘rightness’. We become part of God’s family.
Listen to the Shepherd’s testimony – their story. Confronted with this news… the Good News of God’s rescue and salvation available for all people, the shepherds chose to act in faith. They said to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” In other words, having heard the basic Christian story, they said, “Let’s check it out!”
The very next verse describes their attitude – they “came in a hurry and found… the baby.” Having decided to act in faith and respond to the message, they went straight away and without delay. You may have heard evangelists and preachers say, “Now is the time.” That’s what the shepherds demonstrated. No procrastination, no delay, no wandering around to seek alternate plans – they heard the message and went directly to see what it was about.
Finally, having found the baby and having believed that the message was true, they “made known the statement which had been told them…” and they “went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen…”
They did not just hear the message; they checked it out and made a faith-based decision to trust God’s promise. And then they made known what God had done in their lives – they shared their story.
What About You?
That’s as complex as I want to make it this morning. The basic Christmas and Christian message is this: God loves you and has given Jesus Christ as the way to be right with God. God invites each person to come and see, to come and believe, to come and follow. The Bible says “the Word is near you.” This morning, the Word or message of God’s love for you has been described. It is near you! The Bible goes on to promise that “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” That’s it – profess or declare your faith and then act on a heartfelt commitment and desire to follow and obey Jesus Christ.
We’ve heard how this worked in the shepherds’ lives. And we’ve heard the basic message of how God has invited each person to believe and be saved.
What about you? Have you believed? Do you believe? Will you believe? Have you committed yourself and your life to Jesus Christ? If not, having heard the message and the promise, will you? What will your story be? I’d like to hear it, if you’d tell me. Please pray with me…