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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Born For This (John 18.37, 1.14, 3.16)

Sermon by: Robert Austell
December 24, 2011
Some Music Used
Preludes : "A Christmas Fantasy" - Melissa Lancaster, Handbell solo (Victor Gumma)
"From Heaven Above to Earth I Come" (Ernst Pepping)
"Away in a Manger" - festival Handbells (Cathy Moklebust)
  Hymn of Praise: "O Come, All Ye Faithful" (ADESTE FIDELES)
Congregational Carol: "Lo, How a Rose" (ES IST EIN' ROS')
Carol: "My Soul Rejoices" - Katie Meeks and worship team (Jaclyn Francois)

Carol: "Still, Still, Still" - John Kaneklides and Choir (arr. Ledger)
Carol: "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear" - choir, handbells, and Susan Slade, flute (Helvey)
Congregational Carol: "We Three Kings" (KINGS OF ORIENT)
Offering of Music: "Born That We May Have Life" (Tomlin, Maher, Cash)
Candlelighting Anthem: "All is Well" - Miller Ray, soloist (Smith, arr. R. Huff)
Congregational Carol: "Silent Night" (STILLE NACHT)
Congregational Carol: "Joy to the World!" (ANTIOCH)
Postlude: "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" (Willcocks)

Born for This
Text: John 18:37, with 1:14 and 3:16

(download) **Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**

You have heard the Christmas story this evening, through Word and music. I’d like to offer a brief meditation on WHY Jesus was born, using his own explanation, given as a grown man. The setting for that explanation is a little strange, given our focus on the birth of a baby to Mary and Joseph, but I hope you’ll see the connections. 

Born to Die (John 18:37)

I want to use three verses, all found in the Gospel of John. The first is John 18:37, and the setting is Jesus standing on trial for his life before Pontius Pilate. It is the night of his arrest and he will be crucified in the morning. Jesus’ accusers have brought him to Pilate, saying that he was claiming to be “King of the Jews” – surely, an offense to the representative of Rome in the area. Why do I choose this verse? Listen… 

Therefore Pilate said to [Jesus], “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.”

Did you hear that? On the eve of his death, Jesus very explicitly said, “This is why I was born… this is why I came into the world.” It was for THIS moment as well as all that led up to it. Jesus was born to die, born for the testimony his death would provide and crucified for the truth he proclaimed throughout his earthly ministry.

Back in the beginning of John’s Gospel, this same word – TRUTH – is used to describe Jesus. It would characterize his time on earth, from birth to death to life. 

Born to Testify (John 1:14)

Look at John 1:14. This is back among the birth narratives, though John’s explanation is more on the theological than the narrative end of things. Listen… 

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

That word – TRUTH – shows up many times (26x) in John’s Gospel. Later, Jesus says he is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). But right here at the beginning, we are told that this one who is God with skin on, God come to live with and be with us, is full of truth. So no wonder that he says at the end of his earthly ministry that he was born to testify to the truth; he has lived it, spoken it, acted it, and sung it with the very fabric of his being. Not only that, he was born to manifest God’s glory, grace, and truth – to show us God the Father living in and among the stuff of this world.

Though we don’t tend to do this at Christmastime, it is easy to make Jesus all about his death. We leave off his life and we leave off his resurrection. And it is true that he was born to die. But he was also born to testify, and not just through words, but through his very life. That’s what it means that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. And his testimony, his witness, his story was all about the glory, grace, and truth of God the Father. 

Born that We Might Have Life (John 3:16)

Finally, the phrase “only begotten” made me think of one more verse from John… perhaps the best known scripture reference in the Bible. It is John 3:16. Listen… 

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

It, too, answers the question, “Why was Jesus born?” He was born to die; he was born to testify or show us God; and he was born that we might have life. And this famous verse also adds that all this was out of God’s love for the world, a love we have been hearing about for weeks now as we’ve heard the old story from Genesis. God loves you and God has come after you in loving pursuit of life with you.

And that brings us back full circle to Jesus’ response to Pilate in John 18:37. After Jesus explained why he was born – to testify to the truth – he added, “Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” Jesus was born to die, born to testify or show us God, and born that we might live. But all of this is wasted on us unless we listen. That’s how we hear his voice, see the Father, and experience life with him… listen and believe and follow. 

Born for This

It’s easy to hear the Christmas story and leave off thinking of a little baby, lying still or gently cooing in the manger or in his mother’s arms. But Jesus was born for much more. He was born to show us the face of God; he was born to die; and in so doing, he was born that we might have life. Don’t miss that story; don’t miss that purpose; don’t miss God’s greatest, loving gesture toward you and for you. Listen, believe, and come follow him.

And come back. Starting in January we will be focusing on what it means to belong to Jesus – what it means to listen, believe, and follow. I hope you’ll come be a part of that with us. Amen.

Born That We May Have Life
Chris Tomlin

No reputation, no stately bearing
No palace bed for royalty
But a star in the heavens, a sign full of wonder
Announcing the coming of the King of kings

Rejoice! O, world Your Savior has come
Through the love of a virgin's womb
Son of God, Son of Man
Born that we may have life
You were born that we may have life

A throne in a manger, the cross in a cradle
The hidden revealing this glorious plan
A child who would suffer, a child who would conquer
The sin of every woman, the sins of every man

Rejoice! O, world Your Savior has come
Through the love of a virgin's womb
Son of God, Son of Man
Born that we may have life
You were born that we may have life

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