Wednesday, December 20, 2006


A Saviour Christ the Lord

Luke 2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Sometime back, MOODY MAGAZINE told the story of a guy named George Mason. His life was consumed by his work. He lived alone, which only contributed to his work addiction. Although he had few friends, each Christmas he received several invitations to spend Christmas Day with a family. He always declined the offers. This particular Christmas was no exception. On Christmas Eve, after all his employees left, George Mason went into the office vault to get a little extra cash. To his shock, the heavy door of the walk-in safe shut behind him. Desperately, he pounded on the steel door, but no one was around to hear. Even the custodian had left early to do some last-minute Christmas shopping. The lonely miser consoled himself, "I can make it alright until morning." But suddenly he recalled, the next day was Christmas. No one would be coming in for TWO DAYS. He panicked as he tried to figure out if there would be sufficient oxygen. Then he remembered: The vault had recently been installed and was supposed to have a safety air hole built in somewhere. He felt around in the dark and eventually found the emergency feature in a corner near the floor. On the day after Christmas, early in the morning, the chief cashier arrived. As was his routine, he unlocked the vault but didn't bother opening the door. George Mason, exhausted, faint, hungry, and thirsty, exited the human-size safe without being spotted. And by the time he went home, showered, dressed, and returned to the office, no one suspected a thing. Life went on as usual - except for one thing: George Mason had missed Christmas. Can you believe it? He missed Christmas because the door to the safe closed on him. He's the only person I've ever heard of who had that happen.
But do you know what is more common? People who "miss" Christmas year after year. You understand what I mean by that, don't you? People who buy and receive presents and decorate their homes and trees and make an appearance at the appropriate number of parties and church programs, but who miss the opportunity to savor the splendor and contemplate the mystery of God's love made visible.

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people." The message was not just for religious leaders or rulers at Herod's court, but "for all the people". That included men like shepherds. Never think you are too ordinary to meet with God and hear his word. Perhaps God is speaking to you - not out in the fields at night in Palestine, but here in the quiet of this building. Luke gives no description of an "angel" or "messenger". Angels are not dead humans with wings. Contrary to TV shows (like Touched by an Angel) and movies (like Angels in the Outfield), angels are not dead humans who've earned (or are trying to earn) their "wings." Angels are a separate creation from humans. Ps 8:4-5.
We are simply told that the shepherds had an experience of the "Glory of the Lord" - an experience of great brightness - and they were terrified. But they were not to fear. Rather they were to hear the message of "good news of great joy". For, the angel went on ..."Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you."
1. A Saviour
Jesus Christ was born to "save".
A Saviour From Stress?
Sir Henry Cole - the founder of the Victoria and Albert Museum - invented the Christmas card in 1843. He found Christmas a stressful time, having to write individual Christmas letters to everyone. So he asked an artist to create a small picture that could be printed by the thousand. A survey tells us that Christmas is the most stressful time of year for 60 percent of women. And men are experiencing more and more stress. But Jesus said and still says: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matt 11.28). He comes as a saviour for those who are weary.
A Saviour For the Sad?
He also comes as a saviour for those who are sad.
Ann, along with her two small sons, went to live with her parents in Texas. It was during World War II and her Air Force husband was fighting in Europe. It was Christmas time and her mother and father were making great plans for the holidays. They wanted the boys to have a very special time this year, especially since their Dad wasn't going to be there. The tree was up and decorated, gifts had been bought, wrapped and hidden away. There was the excitement and gaiety of the Christmas season that we all associate with this time of year. The gaiety pushed the sorrows and the war aside for a time - but only for a time.
News reached the family just a week before Christmas Day that Daddy would not only be away for this Christmas, but for every Christmas to come. He had been killed in action. When Ann heard the news, she left the company of her family and closeted herself in her room. Closing the door behind her, she wanted to be alone with her grief. While she was there for a couple of hours, Grandma and Grandpa quietly talked with one another. What were they going to do, they thought? The gaiety and festivity of the season had turned into despair, sorrow and deep grief. Finally, they decided that perhaps it would be better to take the tree out and to take down all the lovely decorations.
Finally, Ann came out of her room. When she saw the empty space where the tree had been, she questioned, "Why, Mother? What have you done with the tree?" "Daddy and I set it out, Sweetheart," her mother replied. "It seemed so out of place with you and the boys so brokenhearted." Anne said, "Oh, but Mother, please let's bring it back. Christmas was made for such times as these."
There is sadness this Christmas in the home of a number of folk this year. It’s the first Christmas without.. A number here will have experienced great sadness. The all time Number One Christmas hit is "White Christmas". But it was written by a very sad man, Irving Berlin. His first wife died on their honeymoon. He then married again and his only son, Irving Jr, was born on 3 December 1928. Three weeks later, on Christmas Day, Irving Jr died. Ever after, Christmas Day in the Berlin household meant laying flowers on their son's grave. But Jesus is the saviour who has conquered the sadness of death. For he died and rose again. The first Easter the tomb was empty; a new age had begun; and death was defeated. The good news is of an assured eternity in heaven beyond death for those who trust in Christ. His resurrection confirms that truth. It also confirms his uniqueness. It confirms he is the only saviour with no equals and no successors. Mohammed's tomb is in Medina; the Buddha's tomb is in India. But in Jerusalem there is that empty tomb. Jesus alone has broken the power of death. And he alone has broken the power of sin.
He, supremely, comes as a saviour for sinners. One day the baby born at Bethlehem (as a man) would be abused, forsaken and cruelly crucified. There, on the Cross, he would bear the sin and guilt of the world. And the greatest sin, says the Bible, is to reject him. Is one of your fears for the wrong you know you have done? The good news of Christmas is that Jesus was born to take away all the failure, all the wrong and all the evil of this world. He came to bear our punishment through his death on the Cross. So you are forgiven not because of what you do, but because of what he has done. As you seek his forgiveness, you can be free from guilt.
Jesus, Thou art all compassion, Pure, unbounded love Thou art.
Visit us with Thy salvation, Enter every trembling heart.
"Today," said the angel, "in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you."

2. Christ.
Christ means "the anointed one" - the one who was to fulfil all God's promises the prophets had foretold. Do you fear that this world is out of control? Do you fear that your own future depends on blind chance? The message and meaning of Christmas is that God is in control of all history and so of your history. He, therefore, has a plan for you and cares for you. Jesus said: "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows" (Mat 10.29-31).
At the beginning of the 20th century a woman had been bed-ridden for 20 years. Her husband also was an incurable cripple. But they lived contented lives and brought comfort to others. A friend asked what the secret was of their amazing hope and cheerfulness. The woman replied, echoing those words of Jesus:
"His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me."
Inspired by this couple the friend wrote what became a popular Edwardian song. It opened with these words: "Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come, Why should my heart be lonely and long for heaven and home, When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He. His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me."
Perhaps you are saying, "that is all right for the early 20th century. But this is the 21st century."The most powerful woman in the world today is Condolezza Rice, the new US Secretary of State. Just after Christmas two years ago she travelled with a diverse group of friends to Florida to watch an American Football game. After dinner following the game, the group had an impromptu prayer meeting in Rice's hotel room. Laying aside their differences of gender, race and politics, one of her friends said they then sang, together, this very song: "His eye is on the Sparrow." And the group "prayed," we are told, "for each other and the world." They believed the coming of Christ that first Christmas and his second coming at the end of history proves this world is not out of control. It is under God's control.

3. The Lord
Finally, the Angel said that the Saviour is not only Christ, but Christ the Lord. The one born was God come in the flesh - God the Son, the second person of the Divine Trinity - truly God and truly man. And his kingdom comes as you confess him and obey him as the divine Lord. The Bible says:
"if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Rom 10.9).

One of my favorite poets of the nineteenth century is Christina Rosetti who lived from 1830 to 1894. Christina was the daughter of Italian immigrants, a woman of great beauty, it is said, striking beauty. A woman if immense poetic talent, a devout Christian once engaged to a Roman Catholic who promised to convert. When he had second thoughts, she broke the engagement and remained single all her life. Through that life she wrote some of the most magnificent poetry, all of it a tribute to Christ. She wrote this poem and it was set to music twelve years after her death. "In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone. Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow in the bleak midwinter long ago. Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain. Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign. In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed, the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ. Angels and archangels may have gathered there, cherubim and seraphim throng the air, but His mother only in her maiden bliss worshiped the beloved with a kiss." Then she ends with this great, great stanza, "What can I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd I'd give Him a lamb. If I were a wise man I'd do my part, but what can I give Him? Give my heart." And maybe it was John Francis Wade who died in 1786 who summed it all up in the simple words, "O come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord."

Will you receive this Saviour, Christ, your Lord?
So this Christmas open your lives to allow the "Saviour, who is Christ the Lord" into your life as your Saviour and Lord. Make it real this day.
O holy child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.

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