Ps Keith Heale- The Nativity

The nativity is a common scene we witness around Christmas time. And just before Christmas is a great time to focus in on what the season is truly about, and that is the journey Ps Keith takes us on in this exciting message of hope...

Ps Keith is a favourite of Ignite Church, and we especially love his humour and the way he can take great Bible truths and make them easy to understand.  If you want to be blessed at Christmas time, this message about the Nativity and the true meaning of Christmas is a great way to achieve that!

Peace on Earth is a common phrase at Christmas time.  And it is nearly Christmas. Soon you will see chubby old men in red suits, pine trees covered in fake snow and occasionally a manger scene with the caption “Peace on Earth”. As we lead into the holiday season, I want to examine what this caption is really talking about, because most people would suggest that seeing Peace on earth for mankind is something of a false hope.

Luke 2:10-15 (ESV Strong's)

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

WHAT PEACE?

As human beings, it seems we know nothing about peace at all!

 

Over the past 3,400 years of human history, there have only been a reported 268 years of peace. In the twentieth century alone more than 105 million people have been killed in wars, and even as we speak today men, women and children are losing their lives in conflicts across the globe, many of which are so mundane they fail to rate a mention in our news.

 

Mankind loves conflict. Just look at families! When the Bible says Peace on earth, what on earth is it talking about?

 

 

PIECES ON EARTH, NOT PEACE ON EARTH

 

 

We live in a fallen world, where we talk often about peace but never obtain it. We strive for peace, but only ever grasp at the illusion of peace, like a mirage where the closer we get to peace, the further away it actually seems.

 

Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain visited Munich in 1938 to meet with Hitler, who was continually posturing towards war by taking land from surrounding countries like Czechoslovakia. He was given an assurance that no more demands would be made, and he returned to Britain holding aloft the written assurance and proclaiming “Peace in our time.” A year later, the largest and most devastating war in human history erupted… Peace was never further away!

 

Even today Peace is illusive. I remember watching the wall come down in Berlin, seeing the demise of Communism and thinking, “Now we will have peace.” The Cold War was over, but enter militant Islam and the war on terror replaces it. And here’s the joke… Islam actually means peace, but I have never seen a less peace loving crowd than Islamists!

 

We don’t have peace on earth, we have pieces!  Let’a look at the passage

 

Luke 2:14 (KJV Strong's)

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

 

The KJV, which some believe is the true translation, gets this very, confusingly wrong. It implies that peace and good will is proclaimed to all men, but this is not the meaning of the passage.

 

Luke 2:14 (ESV Strong's)

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

 

This passage is proclaiming peace to those with whom He (God) is well pleased. The peace that the angels offer isn’t for everyone, it is only for those with whom God is please, those who have received Jesus Christ into their lives as Lord and Saviour.

 

We live in an evil world, controlled by evil people, so there cannot and will never be Peace on earth for all men until Jesus returns.

 

When these words were spoken by the angels to the shepherds, Roman Peace (Pax Romana) had been in effect since 27 BC. Prior to this, the Romans had invaded countries, slaughtered some people, enslaved the rest and declared peace! But the absence of war does not guarantee peace.

 

The Stoic philosopher Epictetus said, “While the emperor may give peace from war on land and sea, he is unable to give peace from passion, grief, and envy. He cannot give peace of heart for which man yearns more than even for outward peace.”

 

The Jewish word shalom (peace) means much more than a truce in the battles of life. It means well-being, health, prosperity, security, soundness, and completeness. It has to do more with character than circumstances, and it is more about inner peace than the absence of external conflict. Life at this time was difficult, just as it is today. Taxes were high, unemployment was high, morals were slipping lower, and the military state was in control. Roman law, Greek philosophy, and even Jewish religion could not meet the needs of men’s hearts. So, God sent His Son!

 

I WANT A PEACE OF IT!

 

Look at our society today. There is war across the globe, but there is war here in our society as well.

 

We face a war against morality, where militant gay activists have just won a battle. It’s a war against the sexes, it’s a war against our children. There’s no peace here. Those of us who hold to God’s view of marriage and the family are attacked constantly, but even among the LGBT community, is there peace?

 

According to their own figures, and even with the media totally on their side, gay young people are 5 times more likely to attempt suicide, and transgenders are 11 times more likely. Almost half of transgenders attempt suicide, whether they make the transition or not, so you cannot tell me that these folk have peace on earth. They proclaim their sexual freedom, but inside they are torn to pieces by conflict, guilt and shame.

 

Families are torn apart more than ever before… that’s not Peace on earth is it? Unions and employers bicker, husbands and wife’s fight, kids and parents argue… there is no peace in our society, even at Christmas!

 

And Advertising screams at us all the time, “Buy this, get this, do this,” but none of it gives a feeling of peace that lasts. You might have the most wonderful holiday, and you still have to come home to reality, right?

 

The way to inner peace is not demanding and getting your own way! One of life’s great paradoxes is that more you fight, the more you claw and scratch, the more you demand, the less peace you get.

 

Isaiah 48:22 (ESV)

“There is no peace,” says the Lord, “for the wicked.”

 

In the absence of God, if you do not know Jesus, there is no peace! I didn’t say it, God says it. And if you look around at this world this Christmas, you can verify that it is 100% true.

 

But Paul writes this…

 

Romans 5:1 (ESV)

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

True peace, peace with God, and peace within ourselves. That’s what the angels proclaimed at the first Christmas… Find the promised child and you will find true peace. Look at what was predicted for the birth of Jesus…

 

Isaiah 9:6 (KJV Strong's)

 

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder:

and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God,

The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

 

There’s that word again… Peace! In a world full of conflict, full of fear for ourselves, our nation, our futures, our country’s morals, our finances, our families, in a world full of selfishness and sin and fear, we can find peace. This Christmas, you can experience true peace, inner peace, lasting peace.

 

PEACE FROM WHAT?

 

 

Life is full of worries and anxieties. As Christmas approaches, do you feel anxious? Worried about finances, worried about family interaction, worried about being alone this Christmas?

 

People fear all kinds of things. When this is focussed and irrational, we call it a phobia. And phobias come in bewildering variety…

 

Xanthophobia- fear of the colour yellow

Turophobia- fear of cheese

Omphalophobia- fear of bellybuttons

Pogonophobia- fear of beards

Frigatriskaideaphobia- fear of long words (ironic)

Papa phobia- fear of the pope

Hylophobia- fear of trees and woods

Coulrophobia- fear of clowns (I think we can all relate to that), and here’s a modern one…

Nomophobia- fear of being without mobile phone coverage, and according to experts, more than half the people in our country suffer from this!

 

Some of you here fear many things as Christmas approaches.  Who among us does not have financial fear, worried that we have enough money to celebrate Christmas and get presents for the kids or grandkids. Many have anxiety about getting the family together and the inevitable conflicts.

 

John 14:27 (ESV Strong's)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

 

HOW CAN YOU FIND REAL PEACE THIS CHRISTMAS?

 

You won’t find peace on earth in this world. Politicians cannot debate and give us peace, lawmakers cannot legislate Peace. Pop stars can’t give it to you by songs, actors cannot fool you into it, and even religion can’t create peace in your life (even if it calls itself peace while it’s blowing you up!).

 

Only Jesus, only a relationship with Him, only having His Holy Spirit living within you can give you peace. So let’s have a look at some of the anxieties you face this Christmas, and not what I say about peace, but what Jesus offers you this morning…

 

1.      PEACE IN LACK

 

If you are worried about finances this Christmas, and I number myself among these, then Jesus knows and understands.  We worry so much about acquiring and enjoying the things of this world, but worry is like a rocking horse… it keeps your mind occupied, but you don’t actually get anywhere.

 

Matthew 6:25-27 (ESV Strong's)

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

 

Stop, look at your life right now. Can you add even a single hour to it by worrying? Nope, no one can.  But I have discovered a great key towards stopping worry and anxiety about money and stuff in my life. And I’m not even that clever, because a few verses later, Jesus tells us the answer…

 

Matthew 6:31-33 (ESV Strong's)

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

 

This is a Christian paradox that I have proven true many times… if you worry about, obsess about and strive for money, things, clothes and food, they seem to elude you. If you seek first His Kingdom, if you set your mind on loving and drawing close to God, these things seem to come along almost miraculously. And if they don’t, you don’t care because you are more concerned with God!

 

Paul wrote

 

Philippians 4:11-12 (ESV Strong's)

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

 

You can have peace on earth, true peace on earth and contentment whether you have a lot or a little this Christmas!

 

2.      PEACE IN CONFLICT

 

For those worrying about family conflict, whatever is arrayed against you, you can have peace in the midst of all that conflict. Do not fear this Christmas, but listen to what the Lord says about conflict…

 

2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV Strong's)

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

 

A sound mind is self control. How many of you know that, when the family gets together, it only takes one misplaced word and things escalate from there. Listen, some of you have to learn the power of shutting your mouth. The power of holding your tongue, no matter how offended you might be!

 

No matter what others are saying around you, you can choose to remain silent and not escalate the situation. This Christmas, if you are worried about conflict, try being self controlled and remaining silent. Let them rant and rage… if you focus on Christ you will be an island of peace is a sea of stressed out conflict!

 

 

3.      PEACE IN BEING OVERLOOKED

 

Every Christmas many of you feel overlooked. Overlooked by family, maybe kids who have their own family. Some of you are dealing with broken families, separation, and some of you here just feel desperately, desperately lonely, especially at Christmas time.

 

Psalms 68:5-6 (NIV-WS)

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.

God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

 

If you are feeling lonely and overlooked this Christmas, defenderless, fatherless, lonely, remember that, whatever your family situation, you have a church family who loves you, right here at Ignite.

 

Please don’t be consumed with worry and loneliness this Christmas. You are important, and you will not be overlooked forever.  God says,

 

1 Peter 5:6-7 (ESV Strong's)

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

 

So today, if you are lonely or overlooked, don’t look at those around you, look up at He who gave His life for you! And cast your anxieties on Him.

 

4.      PEACE IN PAIN

 

Hurt people hurt people, and if you are in pain, or close to someone who is, chances are you’ve been tempted to or have already blamed God and attacked others around you.  I’ve seen people struggling with health problems, or dealing with separation and broken relationships, blame God, when it is His expressed desire to prosper you, not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope.

 

Pain, hurt, sickness and separation are not God’s fault. The devil and man’s sinful nature are responsible for all the evil and pain you see around you. Sometimes God allows this to happen, but He always has a greater plan to build your life and your character.

 

But this Christmas, how can you find peace on earth, even in physical or psychological pain?

 

Psalms 34:18-19 (ESV Strong's)

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.

 

Turn to Jesus this Christmas and allow Him to save your crushed spirit. Though you may have many afflictions, God can be relied upon to deliver you from all of them, so you can have perfect peace even in pain and suffering this Christmas. Trust Him, and take your eyes off the pain!

 

 

5.      PEACE IN UNEXPLAINED FEAR

 

 

Some of us only ever feel fear when we think of Christmas, not peace on earth!  Sometimes we are overwhelmed by worry, and we are not even sure what it is that’s causing it!

 

When Franklin D Roosevelt came to power in 1933, he faced the depths of the Great Depression. In his inaugural speech, he said these words… “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” and this is the very nature of the fears and anxiety that plagues us this and every Christmas.

 

Psalms 91:5-7 (ESV Strong's)

You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day,

nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.

 

If you feel like you are fearful of just about everything, maybe you’re not even sure why you fear, then you need to come before the Lord in prayer and ask Him to conquer the fears and anxieties and surround you with peace on earth…

 

HOW TO FIND PEACE ON EARTH IN YOUR HEART AND MIND

 

Peace on earth is as elusive for us to find in our own heads as it is to find it out there in the world. It is like chasing a rainbow… if there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the closer you get, the further it seems to be away.

 

So this Christmas, how can you find perfect peace no matter what the holiday season brings?

 

Picture this… it’s late at night, you are worried about tomorrow’s troubles, you can’t sleep. You try to still your mind, but it races at 100 miles an hour.

 

Does this ever happen to you?  You know that 90% of what you worry about never even occurs, but you cannot tell your brain that, right?

 

1.      PRAY

 

Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV Strong's)

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

So step 1 is to pray, when you are worried and anxious, take your eyes off the circumstances and place them firmly in Jesus. Praying is just talking to God, but when you start to pray, when you confess your worries (because after all, they are sin), and when you hand the whole situation over to God, you can experience perfect peace flooding your soul.

 

2.      READ

 

The very next verse in Philippians shows you how to obtain this perfect peace. It’s not by watching TV, it’s not by taking medication.  The peace that actually guards your hearts and minds and protects you against worry and anxiety…

 

Philippians 4:8 (ESV Strong's)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

 

If you read His Word, if you meditate on all those things. You begin to think about what it says. Then you take your eyes off the circumstances and place them on Christ, and you will experience peace. Reading the Bible every day slowly but surely changes how you think, speak and behave. Having Scripture in your heart guards it against attack, and allows peace to settle.

 

It sets your mind on God, and when you turn your eyes upon Him, everything around you grows strangely dim.

 

Isaiah 26:3 (ESV Strong's)

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

 

How can you trust someone you do not know? If some guy in the street asks me for $50, I’m likely to say no. If my wife asks me, I’m likely, indeed compelled to say yes. What’s the difference? One I know and trust, the other is unknown.

 

Read God’s Word and get to know Him, and peace will flow through you this Christmas.

 

3.      FELLOWSHIP

 

When we join our hearts together, there is a supernatural strength. That is what Church is about. It’s not about singing, preaching or raising money, it is about worshipping together and supporting one another.

 

People often say to me, “I love Jesus but hate Church.” I understand this , but they are missing out on a level of faith and peace you just cannot find by yourself. God made us to become His body, joined together. So this Christmas, don’t hate Church, just find the right one because your peace will be increased if you do.

 

 

People often think Church is about a great experience, and large churches have lights, smoke machines and world class entertainment. You can attend, sneak out afterwards and not have to do anything. But that’s Christian entertainment, folks, not Church. Church is about being connected, not being a consumer!

 

But what many people today really need is not a great experience , they need a family of believers who stand with them. The believer is encouraged to put on the full armour of God…

 

Ephesians 6:16 (ESV Strong's)

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;

 

The shield Paul has in mind is a Roman shield, which was not used by itself but with other soldiers, forming a wall of shields. Your faith can protect you a little when you are isolated and by yourself, but when joined with others in the church you have some serious protection from the enemies flaming darts.

 

PEACE, MAN, PEACE

 

 

So this Christmas, the world cannot offer you peace on earth, but God can. You can let the peace on earth which passes understanding guard your heart and your mind right now.

 

But you must understand this… The peace of God is a gift; it is not something we can manipulate and it’s not something we can preorder from a catalogue or a website, because it is the fruit of being one with Him.  It is the result of letting go and letting God control and worry about what is happening in your life.

 

When our relationship with Jesus is strong and adversity strikes, we do not have to fall apart or give in to worry and anxiety. We can choose, and notice that it is a choice, we can choose to live in the steadfast and rock solid confidence of His love, His wisdom, His power, and His provision.

 

This is the basis of His unshakable peace on earth—not that we are capable of controlling circumstances, but that His help is ever-present and perfect to deliver us in every challenge we face. True peace is inner peace with God, regardless of the circumstances, and even in war we can be at peace.

 

So this Christmas, let not your heart be troubled. Let the peace of God flood your life.

 

If you are dreading something about this Christmas, if you have fear, anxiety, worry or anything else, this is you moment to have us stand with you and pray for peace on earth to those with whom He is pleased.

 

But if you don’t think God is pleased with you, if you don’t know Him or if you have been running from Him, or ignoring a Him, then we need to solve that first.  If you are far from God, or have never asked Him into your life, this is your moment

Peace on Earth- Christmas 2016

Peace on earth at Christmas time?

Luke 2:8-14

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Peace on earth … that elusive state that the whole world is yearning for, but never obtains. When I read verse 14, I sometimes wonder if the angels made a mistake. Not with the glory to God bit, but with the peace on earth bit.

 

This Christmas is no exception. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the refugee who drove a truck into a packed Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 and injuring 48. It was the same terror technique employed just a few months ago in France. Peace on earth? You're kidding aren't you?

 

One of the most famous examples of peace on earth occurred during one of the most bloodthirsty, horrifying events in modern history. The Christmas truce of 1914 was a unique event…

 

The Germans placed candles on their trenches and on Christmas trees, then continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols. The British responded by singing carols of their own. The two sides continued by shouting Christmas greetings to each other. Soon thereafter, there were excursions across No Man's Land, where small gifts were exchanged, such as food, tobacco and alcohol, and souvenirs such as buttons and hats. The artillery in the region fell silent. The truce also allowed a breathing spell where recently killed soldiers could be brought back behind their lines by burial parties. Joint services were held. In many sectors, the truce lasted through Christmas night, continuing until New Year's Day in others.[6]

 

During the time of the truce, men sang carols together, showed photos of their loved ones back home, shared cigarettes and chocolate and even had a couple of impromptu football matches, where reports are that The Scottish beat the Prussians and Hanovans 4-1, while elsewhere the Germans beat the English 3-2… some things never change!

In the middle of the mud, artillery, bullets and corpses, at Christmas time men yearned for peace.

 

PEACE ON EARTH FOR ALL MEN?

 

If you look at the passage in Luke, that first Christmas the angels didn't proclaim peace on earth for all men… They proclaimed peace on earth to those with whom He is well pleased. This proclamation of peace was never intended for all mankind, but for those who love and serve the Lord.

What the angel proclaimed that first Christmas was a message of peace to a world that had known much war. The famous “Pax Romana” (Roman Peace) had been in effect since 27 BC, some 30 years earlier, but the absence of war doesn’t guarantee the presence of peace.

 

The Stoic philosopher Epictetus said, “While the emperor may give peace from war on land and sea, he is unable to give peace from passion, grief, and envy. He cannot give peace of heart for which man yearns more than even for outward peace.”

 

The angels predicted this peace will come when we give glory to God in the highest. The peace does not come when the arms race ends. Peace will not come with arms limitations treaties. Peace does not come when ISIS or Al Qaeda is destroyed. Peace does not come when a general glow of good will wells up and we all feel magnanimous about our neighbours. The angels give us the precondition for peace—that we give glory to God in the highest. That has nothing to do with whether or not we win the arms race.

 

Isaiah 48:22

“There is no peace,” says the Lord, “for the wicked.”

 

And if we don't know Jesus as Lord and Saviour, were among the wicked. We may not be axe murderers, or thieves, or criminals, but we all sin, we all say things that hurt others, think the worst of people and we all are selfish and want to do things our way. And the more we fight for our rights, the less peace we know!

 

TRUE PEACE ON EARTH

 

True peace depends on our relationship with Jesus Christ, that very same baby who grew to become the Prince of Peace, and laid His life down for us.

 

When these words were spoken to the Shepherds, Life was difficult just as it is today. Taxes were high, unemployment was high, morals were slipping lower, and the military state of Rome occupied the land and was in control. Roman law, Greek philosophy, and even Jewish religion could not meet the needs of men’s hearts.

 

Peace depends on the same thing now as it did then. When you give your life to Jesus, you give glory to God, and His pleasure rest upon you.

 

And the very word peace, which in Hebrew is shallom, means much more than a truce in the battles of life. It means well-being, health, prosperity, security, soundness, and completeness. It has to do more with character than circumstances.

 

So this Christmas, let me highlight the peace the angels were proclaiming, and let me reveal to you how you can get it right now, this very day, whatever happens in the rest of the world.

 

1.     PEACE WITH GOD

 

The lesson God has for us here is that we need to make peace, first of all, with God. That’s where peace begins. We may be running because we are afraid of God. “Fear not,” the angel says.

 

Jesus said this…

 

John 14:27

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

 

We no longer need to rage against God. We no longer have to worry about going to hell. We don't have to be separated from God, we can be at peace with Him, we can be one with Him. If you are not at peace with God right now, even if you've made a commitment to Christ, you are missing the point. God has dealt with our sin and His grace is sufficient. We can come home. We belong to Him. Whatever we have done, we can come home and be reconciled. We can be at peace with God!

 

2.     PEACE WITH THOSE AROUND US

Have you ever noticed how stressed people are these days. Shopkeepers constantly complain about angry, unreasonable customers, people get angry at the shops, in their homes and on the road. How on earth can Christmas be a time of peace when it is a time of stress, traffic, financial suicide and family tensions?

 

Isaiah 26:3

You keep him in perfect peace

whose mind is stayed on you,

because he trusts in you.

 

We have so much in our country, but we don't have true peace. We need peace and reconciliation between the haves and the have-nots in our prosperous nation. How can we begin to be peacemakers with all those who are less fortunate than us? What about other less fortunate countries? We are called to reconciliation in families, between husbands and wives, between parents and children. We are called to effect political reconciliation between right and left, labour and liberal, the minority and the majority, gay and straight.

 

Peace does not mean we have to agree, but at least we can be agreeable, right?

 

At Christmas, a time with tremendous financial pressure, with family pressure, with traffic and tension and everybody wanting more for themselves, we can choose to live in peace with others people around us. When we honour, love and serve God, His peace on earth can become a beacon to the rest of the world that's stressed, rushed, pressured and self centred!

 

3.     PEACE WITHIN

Inner peace doesn't come from chanting and studying your navel. At Christmas we are reminded that the angels proclaimed peace on earth, and it can be ours this Christmas. But you will never find true inner peace until you find the Prince of Peace!

 

We need to find the inner peace that comes from being in harmony with ourselves and with God. So many of us are taunted by the various voices in our heads that compete for favour. So many of us are conflicted and confused, divided between what we want, what we see others have or what we think we do or don't deserve. Most of us spend Christmas reacting to what goes on around us, reacting to the traffic, the car parking, the shopping, the family tension, the snide remark, and so on, rather than offering a measured, godly response.

 

Philippians 4:6-7

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

This Christmas, why not ask Him for that peace, the peace that passes all understanding? The peace to live your life as a shining beacon of peace in a world gone mad. The peace to face any crisis, any heartache, and pain and any fear. The peace that only comes from knowing God intimately.

“Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

 

Is God well please with you this Christmas? Are you giving glory to God right now?

I remember standing in church worshipping the Lord one Sunday before Christmas thinking, "What Can You Give to Jesus at Christmas?"  I’ve remembered as a child thinking to myself, “How come I get presents at Christmas time?  It’s not my birthday, it’s Jesus’ birthday!”

 

In our culture it is customary to give gifts to the birthday person, not take gifts from them, so a little voice inside my heart said, “What are you going to give me for Christmas this year, Darin?”

So what do you give the God of all creation for His birthday? I mean, He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, what are you going to get Him? A milking machine maybe?

 

GIVING TO THE GIVER- What Can You Give to Jesus?

 

Thing is, God is our Father.  And like any loving Father, His great joy is not the actual gift, but the heart of the giver of the gift.

 

I remember my kids giving me gifts that they made, perhaps at school or at church. These gifts were dodgy looking plates with distortions and holes through them, bits of paper with exquisite works of modern art on them, possibly worth a fortune one day but actually looking like they were painted by a demented chimpanzee with double vision and no arms.

 

But to me, they were worth everything! Why? Not because of what they were, but because of the heart of the giver, because they were gifts from my favourite girls, they were made, albeit unprofessionally, by my children, whom I love. That's what made them special.

 

I remember recording a special album for Fiona with myself and all the kids singing pop songs. Fiona recently found this CD, and embarrassed all the kids by playing them singing when they were young, mispronunciations, lisps, flat notes and all. She doesn't care, it's the memories of the daughters who sang, not their ability.

 

God says He loves a cheerful giver. So What Can You Give to Jesus? He loves the heart behind the giving, especially when the giving shows total devotion.  Let's look at such an occasion…

 

John 12:1-8

Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

 

THE CAST

 

Let's have a look at the cast of characters involved in this scene outside of Jesus… Martha, Mary and Judas

Martha:

Martha is a lovely woman, and she's a workaholic with the best of intentions, but What Can You Give to Jesus that really makes a difference? In this passage it simply says that Martha served, the same way she had been serving in Luke:10 38-42, true to her character as a “doer”.

 

Now don't get me wrong, we need workers in the church, and we need people working hard in their jobs and homes to shine for Jesus. Being slack, offering second rate service or substandard effort is no witness for the Lord, I can assure you. Yet Jesus in Luke 10, while not condemning her for her actions, commends her sister for hers.

 

Luke 10:41-42

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

 

If you are a human doing rather than a human being, and I include myself in this, then we must never let our business and all the things we do stand between us and a closer relationship with Jesus.

 

Servers like Martha give their all and work hard to bless people around them, and often get mad at others who do not share the same passion.

 

Martha's are great, but they need to concentrate on spending time with the Lord. They need to make sure that they do not invest so much time into serving the King, that they have no time for the King!

 

Their heart is good, but they have to mix a bit of Mary into their serving...

 

Mary:

Only John identifies this woman as Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus. She is mentioned only three times in the Gospels, and in each instance she is at the feet of Jesus.

 

First, she sat at His feet and listened to the Word of God while her sister worked serving (Luke 10:38-42); Next, she came to His feet in sorrow after the death of her brother Lazarus (John 11:28-32); and finally, she worshipped at His feet when she anointed Him with the ointment (John 12:1ff.).

 

Mary was a deeply spiritual woman. She found at the feet of Jesus her blessing, she brought to His feet her burdens, and she gave at His feet the very best she had to give. Jesus described her actions as the good portion, so What Can You Give to Jesus that is truly worth something this Christmas?"

 

And that was what the Lord was asking of me that Christmas long ago… What Can You Give to Jesus at this Christmas time?  The only acceptable answer was, as Mary displayed so beautifully, everything!
When we combine the gospel records, we learn that she anointed both His head, which was the normal place for anointing, and His feet. Then she wiped His feet with her hair. Wiping the feet of Jesus is an act of worship, and submission.

 

Touching anyone's feet was considered humiliating. Feet were dusty, calloused and often smelly. You might remember Jesus touched the feet of His disciples as an act of and an illustration of humble serving. Peter was offended by this, and said so, but Jesus told him that he needed to let his feet be washed.  In fact Jesus said,

John 13:14

If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.

 

So here's Mary, at Jesus’ feet washing them with her hair. Paul tells us that a woman’s hair is her glory (1 Cor. 11:15). So Mary was  surrendering her glory to the Lord and worshipping Him with the precious gift that she brought. It was an act of love and pure devotion that brought the most precious thing she had and let it become fragrance to the whole house.

 

It wasn't random, and it wasn't spontaneous… it was a planned act of devotion. Mary had been sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening, absorbing, understanding, soaking in His presence. She  knew that soon Jesus would die and be buried. She also knew that His body would not need the traditional care given to the dead because His body would not see corruption (Ps. 16:10; Acts 2:22-28). Instead of anointing His body after His death, she did so before His death.

 

It was an act of faith, love and total devotion. The alabaster container, in those days actually a fine marble, was broken and the perfume, possibly nard, was poured over Christ’s feet. This gift, according to Mark 14, and was worth 300 denarii, about a years wages. This would have been something she had saved all her life, for perhaps her wedding day, it was certainly the most valuable thing she had. She gave the most valuable thing she had. What will you give Jesus this Christmas?

Judas:

Seems like every time you try and give your all to the Lord, someone is there to criticise, usually a believer!

 

And when you start giving your all to the Lord, there will be people right there ready to criticise you, especially in the church. I remember as a young Christian laughing in church, and someone tapping me on the shoulder and saying, “This is church… we're not supposed to enjoy ourselves in church.”

 

Many people in church are critics. No statue was ever erected to a critic, but none the less, many people feel their spiritual gift is criticising and correcting other believers.

 

This is not a spiritual gift… it's a blight on the true church of God.

But what happens when you decide to go all out for Jesus is that not only do people criticise you, but they gather others to their side and suddenly you face a wall of people criticising.

 

In this instance the disciples did not know the true character of Judas, but Jesus did. And don't believe all that garbage about caring for the poor, he had his eyes on the cash.

 

Records show Judas was not only the treasurer of the group, but that he lined his own pockets along the way. We know the real reason Judas wanted the ointment sold: The money would go into the treasury, and he would be able to use it (John 12:6).
All this was before he betrayed Jesus with a kiss… the fact is, he was never a believer at all.

 

Judas’ criticism of Mary sounded so “spiritual” that other disciples joined him in attacking her.

 

Why did Judas follow Jesus for three years, listen to His Word, share His ministry, and then turn traitor? Some feel the motive was political, because Judas wanted Jesus to oust the Romans and become king, but I think his motives were always intensely self-serving. He was looking out for number one, and looking spiritual served his narcissistic aims.

 

Judas’s life is a warning to those who pretend to serve Christ but whose hearts are far from God. He is also a warning to those who waste their opportunities and their lives. “Why this waste?” asked Judas when he saw that expensive ointment poured out on Jesus. Yet Judas wasted his opportunities, his life, and his soul! Jesus called him “son of perdition” (John 17:12), which literally means “son of waste.”

 

What are you doing with your life? Have a look at the last 12 months and ask yourself… “Am I totally devoted to Christ, or have I wasted my life, even as I stood in church and worshipped each week?”

 

Like many professing Christians today, Judas was in the group of believers but not of them. He criticised, he manipulated, he took advantage of others and always had his own hidden agenda. He didn't selflessly serve and encourage others, he wanted his ministry and his agenda top of the list!

 

And, if you recall, he met a sticky end. These types of people are still around, and I wouldn't like to trade places with them in Judgment Day. I wonder if What Can You Give to Jesus is acceptable, or is it like Judas, a self-serving thing?

 

GIVE IT ALL TO JESUS

 

So back to the story… Mary gave the most precious thing she had, an alabaster jar of perfume, and even more precious, she gave her heart totally and willingly to Jesus. She didn't worry about what others thought of her, she gave it all. Judas and the other disciples criticised her, albeit in a pseudo-spiritual way, but she didn't stop. And Jesus leapt to her defence.

 

When we give Jesus Christ first place in our lives, we can expect to be misunderstood and criticised by those who claim to follow Him.
Jesus rebuked Judas and the other disciples and praised Mary for her loving act of devotion. Nothing given to Jesus in love is ever wasted. Her act of worship not only brought joy to the heart of Jesus and fragrance to the house, but also blessing to the whole world. Her devotion encourages us to love and serve Christ with our very best. Such service brings blessings to others that perhaps we will know nothing about until we see Him.

 

THE SELFIE GENERATION

 

Never before in the history of the world has so many photos been taken by so many people of themselves. This is the most self-photographed, self-promoting, self-centred generation in history, and like it or not, you and I are caught up in that! What Can You Give to Jesus that isn't a selfie?

 

We live in a generation where apathy is the norm, not the exception. We are known for our addiction to video games, TV, movies and sport, we are characterised by our lack of interest in things outside ourselves, and irresponsibility.

 

Researchers suggest that this is the most biblically illiterate generation in history! All this technology, and we can't pick up the Word of life and read it!

 

It’s time to change that. When Jesus tells us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” this is not a suggestion but a command. Paul commands us…

 

Romans 12:1

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

 

It's not a suggestion, it's not a good idea, it's a command, and it's a challenge to you and me right now, in this day, in this church.

 

We live in a time when the most we are called to give God is a few hours a week on a Sunday. We say, “Here God, take this part of me, but I've got work, family, sport, TV and the like to deal with, so I’m going to keep the rest.”

 

We compromise. Giving God everything isn’t even on the radar. Sports, social media, work and friendships fill up our time, suck out our physical energy and fill our minds with loads of things that really don't matter in eternity, when we should be devoted to God.

 

Listen, Sports, friends, and Facebook are not evil in and of themselves, but when we put them in a place above God it becomes idolatry. “When we build our lives on anything but God, that thing – even though it might be a good thing – becomes an enslaving addiction, something we have to have in order to be happy” says pastor and author Timothy Keller.

 

We spend so much time in our modern life on things that just don't matter, trying to be good at things that have no eternal impact. Francis Chan says, “Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”

 

ARE YOU IN OR OUT?

 

Remember the Hokey Pokey? You put your right foot in, you put your right foot out, etc. Remember the last verse? You put your whole self in. Or you put your whole self out… that's what it's all about, and that's what the Lord is asking of you this Christmas!
Are you in or out? What Can You Give to Jesus that shows you're in, totally in?

Revelation 3:15-16

“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.

 

God would rather us be totally indifferent towards Him than halfheartedly for Him. We are either in or out, hot or cold, against Him or for Him. There is no middle ground with God.

 

Now you may be asking the same question that I am right now, “Is it worth it?” I believe it is, because in 1 Corinthians 3 we read of the Judgment Seat of Christ and rewards being handed out. I believe we should want to build gold, silver and. Costly stones into our lives, not wood, hay and straw.

 

Jim Elliot, a missionary martyred in the Amazon jungle, said this…, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

 

This Christmas, I'm not going to ask what you're getting for Christmas, I'm going to ask What Can You Give to Jesus? Not what expensive toy you've bought for your kids, not what you're going to give your spouse, what are you going to give God?

 

When He asked me this question that Christmas long ago, He placed 3 words in my heart… White Hot Passion. Not red or yellow or even blue, white is the hottest metal goes before it vaporises. I promised to give Him my life, not sometimes but always and forever, not slightly excited but totally sold out for Him, not give a little bit, but white hot passion.

 

Amidst the joy of Christmas, the lights, the music, the presents, the family events, I want to pause and consider part of the dark side of Christmas…  which only the lonely understand (as Roy Orbison said).

Now Christmas is a time of hope and a time for families, but that in itself can drive people into loneliness. Factors like family breakdown can drive many into loneliness, and dealing with extended family members can also ramp up the pressure at this time of year, but Christmas itself is not the cause for loneliness.

 

You can become lonely for many reasons… the loss of a relationship through death or separation, loss of friends, sickness, hard times and many other reasons. Often when we face difficult times we pull away, we isolate ourselves and add loneliness to our list of burdens.

 

Whatever the cause, Christmas is just an amplifier that causes feelings of loneliness that are there all the time to seem greater and more powerful for only the lonely.

 

And strangely you can be lonely even in a crowd. One of the great paradoxes of modern life is that you can have 700 Facebook friends and be the loneliest guy in the world. You see social media, as social as it might be, is no substitute for social interaction and close friends.

 

And Christmas just makes feelings of loneliness stronger.

 

Psalms 102:3-7

For my days pass away like smoke,

and my bones burn like a furnace.

My heart is struck down like grass and has withered;

I forget to eat my bread.

Because of my loud groaning

my bones cling to my flesh.

I am like a desert owl of the wilderness,

like an owl of the waste places;

I lie awake;

I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.

 

The KJV translates desert owl in its literal sense, meaning a pelican. So what the Psalmist is saying here is that he feels like a pelican, a coastal bird, in the desert… we might say a fish out of water.

 

And loneliness is like that… you feel like you just don't belong, and especially at Christmas, where everyone else seems to be having such a great time, right?

 

Les Carter said, “Loneliness is a feeling of separation, isolation or distance in human relations. It implies emotional pain, an empty feeling and a yearning to feel understood and accepted by someone.”

 

Tim Hansel observed, “Loneliness is not the same as being alone. It's feeling alone, no matter how many people are around you. It's feeling disconnected, unplugged, left out, isolated.”

 

Today I want to consider only the lonely, how you should respond to it and how you should respond to others who are struggling with loneliness.

 

MODERNISM MAGNIFIES THE MISERY

 

Loneliness has always been with us.

 

Genesis 2:18

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

 

However, our modern society escalates loneliness on a scale never seen before.

 

Albert Schweitzer said, “We are all so much together, but we are all dying of loneliness.”

 

The fact of the matter is, and if you have experienced loneliness you will understand this well, lonely people often feel left out. They feel unwanted or rejected, even when they are surrounded by others - whether it be friends, family, or a congregation of a church. With loneliness, not only can there come this feeling of being left out, but a sense of worthlessness - in other words, people reason within themselves: 'Well, since nobody wants to be with me, I guess I'm not worth being with'.

 

It is important that we realise that loneliness is one of the greatest problems that 21st century society faces. And Christmas is one of the most common times to feel lonely, even in a crowded service or a family gathering.

 

 

Contrast this with developing countries, where they may not have much in the way of money, possessions or even food… but they have each other! They have extended families, they have friends, they often leave doors open and share meals together, and loneliness, while still present, is not as extreme as here in our country. We've got big screen TVs, cars that work, the NBN, Centrelink and huge malls, but our society tends to isolate us.

 

So again, loneliness is not worse at Christmas, it's there all the time, but only the lonely know it is simply amplified at this time of year, when others seem to have what we do not.

 

Doesn't matter who you are, how successful you are, how famous you are, everybody experiences loneliness…

 

Jack Nicholson, after years of philandering and womanising, described himself recently as single, lonely and likely to die alone. After the death of her husband Albert, Queen Victoria said these words: 'There was no one left to call me Victoria'.

 

There was once an advertisement in a Kansas newspaper that read like this: 'I will listen to you talk for 30 minutes without comment for five dollars'. It sounds like a hoax, doesn't it? But it wasn't long before that individual who had placed the advertisement in the newspaper was bombarded by about 10 to 20 calls a day.

 

The pain of loneliness for some is so sharp that they were willing to try anything for half an hour of companionship. The scourge of loneliness is something that hits all of us at some time in our life. It can last from a moment to a lifetime.

 

Loneliness is the painful awareness that we lack meaningful contact with others. It involves within it a feeling of inner emptiness which can be accompanied by sadness, discouragement, a sense of isolation, restlessness and anxiety - and even an intense desire within to be wanted and needed by someone.

 

ONLY THE LONELY KNOW YOU’RE IN GOOD COMPANY!

 

Many people in the Bible faced loneliness.  Joseph alone in prison, Jacob miles from home.  King David often felt all alone…

 

Psalms 25:16-17

Turn to me and be gracious to me,

for I am lonely and afflicted.

The troubles of my heart are enlarged;

bring me out of my distresses.

 

The Apostle Paul was abandoned in prison, 2 Timothy 4:9-11,, and John was alone rotting on the Island of Patmos.

 

Jesus hung alone on a cruel cross for your sin and mine. Even His Father turned His back on Him. Jesus understands what it's like to be lonely, to feel abandoned and isolated.

 

Loneliness is and always has been common in human experience, and in our 21st century lifestyle, it's exacerbated. People turn to drugs, alcohol, free sex, workaholism and even suicide to cope with feelings of loneliness.

 

So as we face Christmas 2016, and the possibility that many of you will feel intense loneliness, even in a crowd of relatives, I want to have a look at the voices you will hear in your head when you're intensely lonely, and contrast that with what God says about you.

 

LONELINESS… THE VOICES IN YOUR HEAD

 

When we feel lonely we become subject to those dreaded voices in our head. You know the ones that show up when you're trying to sleep. The ones that, if you're not busy doing something, pervade your consciousness and nag your mind into believing things.

 

These little voices, seemingly so innocent, can kill you… figuratively and literally. So it is in our interest to deal with them before they start affecting us. And remember… they strike and strike hard when we are lonely.

 

So what do these voices say, what are their lies and how does God’s truth counteract them?

 

1. I AM ALL ALONE

 

THE LIE: Loneliness means I am all alone

THE TRUTH: Loneliness can strip away my dependence on others and let me find true fulfilment in Jesus Christ alone.

 

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

 

Being alone should be looked at not as a negative, but as a positive that only the lonely know.

 

Sometimes God allows us to feel alone for a season, and if we choose to we can use this experience to drive us closer to the Lord. We can choose to get into the Word of God, to pray or to get involved in church activities.

 

Jesus  alone is the only true and lasting source of comfort. Seeing us chase after relationships with people rather than Him must break his heart, so sometimes He will lovingly remove these from our lives to drive us into His arms of comfort.

 

So if you are feeling lonely at Christmas time, rather than getting despondent about it, turn things around and say thank you Lord for realigning my priorities and driving me into your arms!

 

2. NO ONE UNDERSTANDS

 

THE LIE: I'm the only one who ever suffered like this, so no one will ever understand my pain and loneliness.

THE TRUTH: Many have gone through similar or harder roads, and Jesus Himself promises He understands because He's been there and done that.

 

Hebrews 2:18

For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

 

Very often within our circle of friends and acquaintances we are not aware of someone who has gone through what we are struggling with. Even if they have, they would have handled it differently and done things differently. So we often tell ourselves that no one really understands what we face.

 

The danger of this type of thinking is that the devil uses it against us. When he convinces us that no one understands, we tend to shut others out, even those who love us and who God has placed around us for support and encouragement.

 

So if we feel alone, we often isolate ourselves further, moving away from the very ones who could help us, and moving us towards bitterness, depression, hard-heartedness, regret and ultimately, paralysing our life. When we become so alone, so isolated, we are useless to the Kingdom of God, and ripe to be attacked and even used by the enemy!

 

So we must remind ourselves of this...

2 Corinthians 1:5-6

For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.

 

Jesus is the only one who fully understands our pain, our heartache and our loneliness. He gets our fears, insecurities, emotions, needs and desires. In short, He understands!

 

John 16:32-33

Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

 

So when you feel alone, fight the temptation to withdraw further by recognising that Jesus understands and cares, and that He offers the only true comfort for the lonely. People, friends, relatives, loved ones, can never fully meet our expectations.

 

Here's the thing… once we release people from our expectations, once we look to Jesus Christ alone for comfort, then we suddenly see others in a different light. We see them as God’s provision for our lives.

 

If you lower your expectations of others, everything positive they do and say is a bonus… it's a blessing!

 

And remember that Jesus doesn't try and comfort us from afar, He is with us closer than a brother. He fills us with the Holy Spirit, He gives us strength, courage and joy. He gives us each other to love and support, to reach out to us in our loneliness.

 

3. GOD JUST DOESN’T LOVE ME

 

THE LIE: A loving God would not let you be alone like this. If He really loves me He'd give me friends who understand me, who support, encourage and care for me.

THE TRUTH: this loving God sent His own Son on the loneliest road of all for you!

 

Hebrews 12:3

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

 

Loneliness is not fun, it's miserable as only the lonely know.  Outside of the grace of God, any suffering here on earth is miserable and makes no sense! Outside of Christ, suffering has no purpose, no value and offers no hope for the believer. But when we consider Christ, when we think of the gospel, suffering suddenly has meaning!

 

One of the darkest periods of our lives was when we lost all our money in the Storm financial crisis. 20 years of work wiped out in one week, and we went from being millionaires to being debt millionaires! It was a horrible, painful, frustrating and very lonely experience. Many people we counted on just went on with their lives, and no one seemed to care. We felt isolated in our misery.

 

Now I look back on that troubled time and realise God had a plan, for our lives, our family, our ministries and our future Pastoring. Out of that pain, and loneliness, I can now care for others in a way I never could.

 

In the middle of it, I saw pain and devastation… looking back, I see the loving hand of the Father working all things for good!

 

I remember praying and saying to God, my life is a frustrated, angry, fear filled mess. But I choose to see this moment as my opportunity to shine for Jesus. Matthew 5:16.

 

So if you're lonely this Christmas, rather than thinking it’s a curse, start to see it as a privilege, a calling, even a blessing to walk the same lonely road as your Saviour walked for you! The rewards are not for now but for eternity!

 

Feeling lonely? This could be your moment to shine!

 

4. I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH

 

THE LIE: If I feel alone, I mustn't have enough faith

THE TRUTH: Your feelings should not and do not represent your faith.

 

This is a modern Pentecostal, hurtful lie that has been propagated far and wide… that if you feel discouraged, alone or sad, your faith is lacking and you need to muster some more faith.

 

As people, we tend to rely on our feelings. If we feel good, if we feel joy, if we feel connected at Christmas, then we must have faith. If we feel lonely, sad or miserable, we mustn't have enough faith.

 

2 Corinthians 4:7-9

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;

 

How do you reach this point, when everything seems against you and yet you stay so positive and full of faith? Paul did not get this from watching preachers on the God channel, or by calling a 1800 number with a donation!

 

We've talked about this in recent weeks, how even a mustard seed of faith in an infinitely huge and powerful God trumps all the faith you can muster in an idol.

 

I'm sick of hearing people kicking those who are down and saying they lack faith. If you base your faith on how you feel, you'll have a roller coaster ride of emotions, and always doubt that you have any faith at all. But if you base your faith on the Word of God, on His promises, on His Spirit and His power, then regardless of how you feel, you will discover faith you never knew you had! Faith in an infinite God, faith in the One who loves you and gave Himself for you.

 

The better you get to know God, the more faith you will have!

 

So if you are feeling alone and sad this Christmas, then turn things around and see your loneliness not as a curse sent from God, but as an opportunity to grow in maturity. This growth doesn't happen by accident, but by a deliberate decision to see joy in your pain, and Gods loving hand upon you rather than His affliction, judgement or curse.

 

5. I’M JUST NOT IMPORTANT TO ANYONE

 

THE LIE:If you were important enough, famous, successful, attractive, rich enough you wouldn't be lonely like this.

THE TRUTH: Everybody experiences loneliness, important or not.

 

This is a ridiculous lie from the devil, and I only have to mention names like Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, Whitney Houston, Heath Ledger, Phillip Seymour-Hoffman and Marilyn Monroe to shoot it down.

 

Being famous or important does not make you not lonely, it actually often makes you more lonely and isolated. Don't believe the lie that successful people have lots of friends and aren't lonely. Behind the money, the fame, the big cars and houses in Beverley Hills, they're often the most lonely of all!

 

Things, fame or money doesn't buy happiness. I've seen beggars in the gutters of Kolkata laugh, eat together and have fellowship. Some of them are rich in ways we don't understand.

 

Listen, I know many poor, mistreated and less than attractive people here who have friends and are not lonely.

 

Doesn't matter who you are, there are people who love you, if you let them near! This church has people who will love you if you let them, so stop trying to be someone you're not and just let genuine people start to love and accept you.

 

Amos 3:3

“Do two walk together,

unless they have agreed to meet?

 

If you are lonely, at least make yourself agreeable! If you're nice to others, someone will be nice to you. If they reach out to you and you behave like a pig in return, don't be surprised if you're lonely! Be agreeable, be open, and no matter who you are, what your situation is, God will bring someone into your life to care.

 

So if you are feeling lonely this Christmas, open yourself to someone. Yes there's a risk, they might reject you, but nothing ventured is nothing gained. They might accept you, you never know. You don't need to be successful, rich or famous, you just need to be agreeable!

 

CLOSER THAN A BROTHER

 

Loneliness hurts, and especially at Christmas when everybody is talking about their families and friends. If you have poor relationships in your family, or no friends, it hurts even more.

 

Proverbs 18:24

A man of many companions may come to ruin,

but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

 

Loneliness is painful, but today I challenge you to turn your perception around. Loneliness is not hopelessness if you don't let it become that, instead it can empower you to know Christ more, and to make Him known. He is the friend who sticks!

 

The choice it yours… all of these voices in your head require you to choose between the lie and the truth. You can choose to believe the lies, or you can choose the truth. At this time of year the devil uses loneliness to entrap you, to ruin you, to get into your head and depress you. But it doesn't have to be that way.

 

Take your eyes off your circumstances, off the family mishaps, off the lack of friends, and open your eyes to see things Gods way.

 

Habakkuk 3:17-19

Habakkuk Rejoices in the Lord

Though the fig tree should not blossom,

nor fruit be on the vines,

the produce of the olive fail

and the fields yield no food,

the flock be cut off from the fold

and there be no herd in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the Lord;

I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

God, the Lord, is my strength;

he makes my feet like the deer's;

he makes me tread on my high places.

 

Today in the loneliness that many of us face at Christmas time, Jesus is calling you to tread in high places. You can feel lonely, all of us do at times, but there is a friend who calls to you right now in your loneliness. His arms are open to you, His heart is reaching out to you. This Christmas you may be alone, alone by yourself, or alone maybe in a crowd of relatives, but none of us is exempt from loneliness.

 

In our church I am thrilled to say I'm seeing people reaching out to each other in genuine love. You might be alone, but don't be lonely. There are people here who would love to reach out to you. There are people who care, and there a Saviour who wants to wrap His arms around you right now.

 

Psalms 139:5

I look behind me and you're there,

then up ahead and you're there, too—

your reassuring presence, coming and going.

 

Hebrews 13:5

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Christmas is a time of joy, of peace on earth and goodwill to all men who love God, but what happens when God messes up your plans for a great Christmas.  Today I want to talk about something we have probably never though if about Christmas...

 

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN GOD MESSES UP YOUR PLANS?

 

Most of you here love God, but that doesn't mean He is at your beck and call! Somehow along the way we have started to see God as a Celestial Santa Clause. If we're nice and not naughty, If we go to church, if we pray and ask in the right way, then God will grant our request, whatever it is, right?

 

Proverbs 19:21

 

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

 

In the message it says...

 

Proverbs 19:21

 

We humans keep brainstorming options and plans, but God's purpose prevails.

 

How dare we presume to tell God what we want. He's not our servant, but we should be His. We tend to tell Him what we want, and expect Him to grant our request. How rude, how presumptuous, how pathetic of us! When God messes up your plans, do you complain about it, or decide to trust Him?

 

Kristi my daughter was 4 and her mum was talking to a friend. Kristi tried to but in, and Fiona told her she had to wait, as she was talking. Kristi came back a minute later and said, "I've put the stove timer on, you've got 5 minutes!" Amusing, yet also presumptuous, rude and pathetic. She had no power or rights to enforce this, and either do we!

 

At Christmas, we expect joy, we expect people to behave in a loving way, and we are often let down. That's life folks, and I want to look at the first Christmas story to remind and to encourage you to look beyond the season to see God's reason, to look beyond Santa Clause to see God's true cause! To seek not Christmas presents, but seek His presence!

 

So today, let's look at the Christmas message, and let's find out what you can do when God messes up your plans...

 

Luke 2:1-7

 

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.

This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.

And all went to be registered, each to his own town.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,

to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

 

  1. MARY AND JOSEPH PLANNED A MARRIAGE

 

Experts think that Joseph was an older man, possibly even in his 70s, and that Mary was a young girl, around 12-14 years of age. However distasteful you may find it, this was their culture, and it was an arranged marriage, entirely normal at the time. This is why Joseph disappears from the gospels, having died of old age in the period when his stepson Jesus was growing up.

 

So this Union was planned and arranged according to their culture, but this was pretty much the only thing that went to plan!

 

  1. THEY DID NOT PLAN A SUPERNATURAL VISITOR

 

Mary never saw the visit of an angel coming!

 

Luke 1:28-30

 

And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”

But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.

 

Confronted by a strange man, she would have been forgiven for checking around to see if she was on Candid Camera! Is this going on YouTube? She is told that she will bear a child without having sex to conceive him, and look at how she responds...

 

Luke 1:38

 

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

 

A little about Mary... The Catholic Church has made her into a saint, and Mary worship is still alive and well. She never set out to be a saint. She certainly never thought herself to have divine powers!

 

But we evangelicals have gone the other way. We give Mary next to no credit at all. In fact, Mary at the tender age of say 14, was an amazing woman of God.

 

How do I know this? Not just because God chose her to bear Messiah in Israel, possibly the greatest honour in the nation for a woman, but by how she responds to the message.

 

The Magnificat is her response recorded in Luke, and it is almost pure scripture...

 

Luke 1:46-55 (Highlights)

 

 

And Mary said,

 

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

 

He has shown strength with his arm;

he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;

 

he has brought down the mighty from their thrones

and exalted those of humble estate;

 

he has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.

 

He has helped his servant Israel,

in remembrance of his mercy,

 

as he spoke to our fathers,

to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

 

This young girl knew her Bible folks, and I know of few 14 year old girls who can quote scripture like Mary! She was a truly Godly young woman.

 

 

  1. THEY DID NOT PLAN A PREGNANCY

 

Matthew 1:18-19

 

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.

 

Joseph was shocked that Mary was pregnant, and he knew it wasn't his! My daughter Kristi had only a 5 month engage, and there was some gossip that she might be pregnant. It was false.

 

Imagine the embarrassment, the fear (possible stoning), the shame. And she was still a virgin. Mary had plans, but God messes them up!

 

  1. THEY DID NOT PLAN A TRIP

 

Nine months pregnant, Mary faced a trip back to the backwater of Bethlehem. They could have gone to a resort on the coast, they could have travelled business class, but they travelled donkey class, and walked. Imagine that at 40 weeks pregnant!

 

When Joseph and Mary set off, it wasn't a pleasure trip. Caesar Augustus, arguably the greatest of the Roman Emperors, had decreed a census, so he could extract more taxes from people.

 

So there were lots of people on the move, headed towards their home towns. Our heroes were headed to Bethlehem, about 6 miles south of Jerusalem.

 

Back in ancient Israel, it was winter. It was cold, windy and you have to travel everywhere on foot. No trains, planes or automobiles. Just feet, and if you were really lucky, maybe a donkey or a horse.

 

And Mary was 9 months pregnant! They won't even let you fly when you are beyond 37 weeks, so how about sitting on a boney old ass, or walking along a rough old road. Talk about hard traveling!

 

Plus: no Mcdonalds. No KFC. No burger joints, no truck stops and no Holiday Inns! Just hard miles in bandit controlled territory in the middle of winter. It took days, hard dusty travel, and they camped wherever they could. Which bright spark of a travel agent organised this mess! The travel agent may have planned things out, but when God messes up your plans, what can you do?

 

  1. THEY DID NOT PLAN A STABLE

 

I can imagine Mary turning to Joseph and asking, "You didn't say stable, I'm sure you said the Hilton!"

 

No room at the inn... Who planned this trip? Will our travel insurance cover our accommodation change? Where's the restaurant, where's the pool? Does it come with wifi?

 

Now I know you've see the nativity scenes, but this was unlike any of the brochures. It wasn't clean and neat, it was a stable, maybe even a cave of some sort. Dirty, smelly, full of cow poo, possibly flees, certainly dust.

 

What a place for the Saviour of the world to make His appearance!

 

Psalms 33:11

 

But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.

When God messes up your plans, are you happy to be in a stable instead of the Hilton?

 

  1. THEY DID NOT PLAN FOR VISITORS

 

Here they are, a dirty, smelly stable surrounded by animals, and next thing you know people start arriving! Guests? Already? There's no wine or cheese platters in the fridge... There's no fridge. There's not even a bed or a room. Just straw, cows, chooks and smell.

 

So Shepherds show up, and some time later the Magi or wise men from a far away nation. I know when unexpected visitors show up at our house, we have a mad clean up, and I bet you do too. But how do you clean up a stable? They brought gifts, sure, but this whole set up doesn't make any frankenscence! I can't take it any myrrh.

 

  1. THEY DID NOT PLAN TO BECOME FUGITIVES

 

Matthew 2:13

 

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

 

So there they were, new born baby, on the run from the law! Who planned this? Certainly not Mary and Joseph. Chased by the authorities, the 1st century equivalent of Tommy Lee Jones is hunting them down, it's like Breaking Bad meets 3 wise men and a baby! Even when God messes up your plans, you don't expect this do you?

 

 

  1. THEY DID NOT PLAN FOR THEIR SON TO BE MESSIAH

 

Everyone wants their child to become great. We want little Kaileigh to become an awesome, amazing woman of God. But even after the visit of the Angels, with all the plans Mary had for her child, who'd have thought things would have rolled out as they did.

 

That He would be Messiah.

 

Isaiah 9:6-7

 

For to us a child is born,

 

to us a son is given,

 

and the government will be on his shoulders.

 

And he will be called

 

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

 

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

 

Of the greatness of his government and peace

 

there will be no end.

 

He will reign on David's throne

 

and over his kingdom,

 

establishing and upholding it

 

with justice and righteousness

 

from that time on and forever.

 

The zeal of the Lord Almighty

 

will accomplish this.

 

That He would challenge the priests and authorities. That He would be faithful all his life. Who knew that He would die a cruel, criminal's death. Who saw God's plans, that the magnificent Creator, the Son of God should leave His throne and die for us?

 

Philippians 2:6-11

 

Who, being in very nature God,

 

did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

 

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

So this Christmas, with all your plans, hopes, family time, gifts, food and maybe loneliness, pain and conflict, you need to find God and draw close to Him. This Christmas, are you seeking God's hand, or are you seeking His face.

 

Is Jesus your Christian Santa, or is He the Lord of your life?

 

God has a plan for your life. It may not be exactly our plans, just as it wasn't Mary and Joseph's plans, it may not be what we want, but He sees the whole picture, not just our little, limited bit!

 

When God Messes Up Your Plans, Believe that He has a Better Plan for You

 

To illustrate, here's a poem popularised by Corrie Ten Boom

 

My Life is but a weaving

between my Lord and me;

I cannot choose the colors

He worketh steadily.

 

Oft times He weaveth sorrow

And I, in foolish pride,

Forget He sees the upper,

And I the under side.

 

Not til the loom is silent

And the shuttles cease to fly,

Shall God unroll the canvas

And explain the reason why.

 

The dark threads are as needful

In the Weaver’s skillful hand,

As the threads of gold and silver

In the pattern He has planned.

 

He knows, He loves, He cares,

Nothing this truth can dim.

He gives His very best to those

Who leave the choice with Him.

He is weaving the incredible tapestry of your life. This Christmas, as you make your plans, are you willing to let God mess them up. Even if you don't understand what He us doing? When God messes up your plans, He has something better in mind!