Some of you haven’t heard, but Santa Claus has a problem this year. He’s negotiated a new contract with his union and sent out this letter:
I regret to inform you that, effective immediately, I will no longer be able to serve Southern United States on Christmas Eve. Due to the overwhelming current population of the earth, my contract was renegotiated by North American Fairies and Elves Local 209. I now serve only certain areas of Canada and the northern boarder states.
However, I made certain that your children will be in good hands with your local replacement who happens to be my third cousin, Bubba Claus. His side of the family is from the South Pole. He shares my goal of delivering toys to all the good boys and girls; however, there are a few differences between us.
Differences such as:
1. There is no danger of a Grinch stealing your presents from Bubba Claus. He has a gun rack on his sleigh and a bumper sticker that reads: These toys insured by Smith and Wesson.
2. Instead of milk and cookies, Bubba Claus prefers that children leave an RC cola and pork rinds [or a moon pie] on the fireplace. And Bubba doesn’t smoke a pipe. He dips a little snuff though, so please have an empty spit can handy.
3. Bubba Claus; sleigh is pulled by floppy-eared, flying coon dogs instead of reindeer. I made the mistake of loaning him a couple of my reindeer one time, and Blitzen’s head now overlooks Bubba’s fireplace.
4. You won’t hear On Comet, on Cupid, on Donner and Blitzen . . ., when Bubba Claus arrives. Instead, you’ll hear, On Earnhardt, on Wallace, on Martin and Labonte. On Rudd, on Jarrett, on Elliott and Petty.
5. Ho, ho, ho! has been replaced by “Yee Haw!” And you also are likely to hear Bubba’s elves respond, “I herd dat!”
6. As required by Southern highway laws, Bubba Claus’ sleigh does have a Yosemite Sam safety triangle on the back with the words “Back off”.
7. The usual Christmas movie classics such as “Miracle on 34th Street” and It’s a “Wonderful Life” will not be shown in your negotiated viewing area. Instead, you’ll see “Boss Hogg Saves Christmas” and “Smokey and the Bandit IV” featuring Burt Reynolds as Bubba Claus and dozens of state patrol cars crashing into each other.
8. Bubba Claus doesn’t wear a belt. If I were you, I’d make sure you, the wife, and the kids turn the other way when he bends over to put presents under the tree.
Sincerely Yours, Santa Claus
You know the sad thing is that some of us are going, “What’s so different about that?” I guess Christmas is kind of different everywhere, and certainly it is here in the south. But no matter where you live, some things about Christmas are always the same. You see, no matter where the celebration is, you’ll find that Scrooge is always present. That’s right, whether you’re in Rochester or Raleigh, you’ll hear the “Bah, Humbugs” flying.
Now when I say “Scrooge,” I’m not talking about someone who doesn’t like to participate in the trappings of Christmas. Yes, you may be a little out-of-step if you don’t put up a Christmas tree, nor wear out your credit card buying expensive and, sometimes, meaningless gifts. But that’s not what makes you a Scrooge, at least not in the way I’m talking about. When I say a person is a Scrooge, I am talking about those people who don’t believe in the spiritual part of Christmas, and if that’s the definition, there are plenty of Scrooges around us. Have a Christmas party, and everyone will go, but have Christmas worship and see who doesn’t show. Light up your Christmas tree and everyone will pause to wonder, but light up the criss-crossed tree and very few will stop to ponder. You see, if I celebrate the social Christmas without connecting with the spiritual Christmas, I, quite frankly, am a Scrooge.
Some of us have become Scrooges and others have become Grinches. Now the problem with the original Grinch is that he wanted to destroy it because no one ever wanted to celebrate it with him. He thought Christmas was for everyone else . . . just not for him. And there are some grinches here this morning. You see, you look at the joy everyone else has with Christmas and you feel kind of empty. You may even have, what looks like from the outside at least, a perfect situation. You may have a happy family and great health, but on the inside there is this emptiness. You get up on Christmas morning and if we could put a microphone inside your spirit and eavesdrop on your innermost thoughts we’d hear you asking “Is this all there is? Why am I so discontent? I should be happy, but there’s this huge emptiness inside of me.” You see, you’re a grinch. You think the real, deep lasting joy of Christmas is for everyone except you.
Well, to all Scrooges and to all Grinches the prophet, Isaiah, has something to say. Read his words with me in Isa 9:2
The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined. You have multiplied the nation And increased its joy; They rejoice before You According to the joy of harvest, As men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For You have broken the yoke of his burden And the staff of his shoulder, The rod of his oppressor, As in the day of Midian. For every warrior’s sandal from the noisy battle, And garments rolled in blood, Will be used for burning and fuel of fire. For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
You may not remember now, but last year we dealt with this passage, covering the first two names of Christ given here. He is the “Wonderful Counselor,” and the “Mighty God.” This Christmas I want to turn your attention to those next two names. He is the “Everlasting Father” and the “Prince of Peace.” Today we’re looking at the Biblical title for our Messiah. He is called the “Everlasting Father,” and, believe it or not, that name addresses those of you who may be Scrooges or Grinches here today. Those two descriptions of Christ address two different doubts many people have about Him. In the first place, Scrooges say this about Our Everlasting Father. They say:
DIV 1: HE CAN’T HANDLE MY PROBLEM
Call Him everlasting if you want to, but I don’t see anything so wonderful about the Messiah. Well, if you feel that way, you’d have fit right into Isaiah’s society. They had pretty much lost hope. Now, don’t blame them, they just took their cue from their government. Not many years before, the people of Judah had celebrated the powerful reign of Uzziah. He had a reputation. He was a fighter and an awesome administrator. If He’d have been a quarterback, he’d have had a superbowl ring. Hope grew, dreams materialized, security was taken for granted, and the sky was the limit.
But, at the top of his game, Uzziah exalted himself instead of God and he fell from favor. His fall was followed by sixteen years of decline until Ahaz, his grandson came to power. By that time Syria and Ephraim were major threats and Ahaz was afraid. He didn’t have the courage nor the passion to fight, so he sought to appease his enemies and he was willing to sell his soul to do it. His policies said to the surrounding kings, “Want me to adopt your gods? No problem! Just don’t attack me. Want me to pay you tribute? Cool. I’ll just tax my people into oblivion. Just don’t invade me? Want me to sell my soul to the devil? Write up the contract and I’ll sign it with my own blood. Just don’t take me captive! And his compromise seals his judgment. Throughout the book of Isaiah, from chapter 7- 39, the prophet issues call after call for this wayward, cowardly nation to turn from dependence on others to a complete dependence on God.
But Ahaz was like many of us: He considered any talk about God’s deliverance to merely be “preacher talk.” You know: it sounds good on Sunday, but it doesn’t work Monday through Saturday. He was so caught up in the enemies around him that he couldn’t see the help above him. He thought that God had given up on him and them and so he had given up on God.
To those who were buying into Ahaz’s faithless perspective and thinking that their God “could not fix the problem,” Isaiah writes chapter nine, verse 7:
For unto us a child is born; unto us a Son is given. And the government will be upon His shoulders and His name will be called, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, The Everlasting Father . . .
Hey, he used the word “everlasting” for a reason. He was showing to these faithless children of His that, despite Ahaz’s unbelief, He was going to send a King who would be “everlasting.” He would be God in flesh and He would have all power and all authority.
Listen, you don’t have to live in doubt. Your Father, Jehovah Jireh, has sent into this world the Messiah. His name is Jesus. He is the EVERLASTING Father. And if you can bring yourself to believe it, HE CAN HANDLE YOUR PROBLEM!
Now notice, I didn’t say He would meet your demands, nor did I say that He would take AWAY your problems. That’s what we sometimes think our Heavenly Father should do if He is, indeed, real. We say things like, “God, if you really existed, you would heal me.” But God doesn’t bow to our demands. He hears our prayers and He answers according to His will but He doesn’t just do our bidding. He is much too wise to submit to our feeble complaints.
“Well,” you might be saying, “that’s just great, but what does it mean. You say that God is the everlasting God and that He can handle my problem, but if handling my problem may not mean fixing my problem, then what does it mean?”
It’s right there in this prophecy. You see, God had a divine purpose in operation even though Ahaz rejected Him. His purpose was not thwarted or even hindered by this cowardly king. No! Isaiah promised that, even though their problems seemed insurmountable, Judah would be rescued. Unto them a Son would be given and He would be their Everlasting Father.
Here’s what you need to know: God has already provided everything you need in Christ. He may not choose to stop your bankruptcy, but He’s promised you streets of gold. You may not keep that house here, but He’s building you a mansion there. Your body may succumb to cancer here, but He’s got a new body that will never grow old there. And all of these everlasting blessings come because of your everlasting Father. You see, if you are a follower of Christ, ultimately you can’t lose! Not when the EVERLASTING Father is on your side.
And, Christian, when you really grasp this truth, it changes you. When I come to understand that, no matter what the Doctor may diagnose, I’m going to go to heaven, I lose my fear. I understand that there is nothing that can separate me from God.
And when I grasp who is in control, I change my focus. I used to live in the fear of what might happen to me, but not anymore. Now I have an everlasting Father looking out for me. My present has been secured by His love and my future is secured by His grace. I can look out on this world, no matter what is happening to me, with absolute confidence, and in the middle of that confidence, my priority and my focus changes.
May I just give you a glimpse of this? I recently had a couple come to me and talk to me about how God is working just like this in their lives. They’re both either in or nearing retirement and they started asking themselves what their retirement would be like. Listen to their story. Ronnie and Frances.
That’s what happens to me when I become to understand Who my EVERLASTING Father is. I understand that He is in control and that He is worthy of everything in my life. That truth changes my focus and I begin to understand that there is nothing to hard for Him. He can handle any problem in my life and that anything that needs to happen for me to fulfill His purpose in me, will happen as I surrender to Him. He is everlasting, so He can handle anything. But there’s a second word in His title. He isn’t just everlasting, He’s the everlasting FATHER. That title answers the second cynicism many have. You see not only do many say God can’t handle their problem they also say
DIV 2: GOD DOESN’T CARE ABOUT MY PROBLEM
Now the person who says this might believe in God and they might believe that God is even all powerful, but their indictment is not of God’s power but of His love. Even if God is strong enough to help them, He isn’t loving enough to care.
That, perhaps, describes, at least partially, what Ahaz thought of Jehovah. Whether through impotence of apathy, the God that his ancestors had honored was no longer viable. He just didn’t care enough to help so Ahaz and his people turned somewhere else.
That, again, is why the prophet Isaiah calls Jesus the everlasting FATHER. One commentator writes:
When the Messiah is called a “father” we mustunderstand the word as meaning primarily “Protector.” So Job was a father to the poor in Job 29:16 and Eliakim as “father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem”. The idea of protection, however, implied in “father” does not exhaust the connotation of the word. It contains also the notions of “Creator” and “Preserver,” of one whom we are bound to love, honor, and obey . . . The Messiah was to be “father” in all these senses. As the Second Person in the Holy Trinity, he created man; as “God with us,” he preserves him; as the typical Man, the Head of the redeemed human race, he will ever keep and protect him . . . as Heb 7:25 says “He ever lieves to make intercession for us.”
He cares enough to protect us and He cared so much He died for us. He meets our ultimate need, so why would He not meet our temporal one. I love what Romans 8:31-32 says:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
Don’t miss what it says there: If I have received salvation and I am assured of Heaven based upon the death of Christ on the cross, I can be sure that I will never lack for anything I need here. If God has already given me His Son and if Jesus has already come and died for me, why would I think for one moment that He would give me the money I need or the healing I need or the job that I need. He will freely give me all things because He is my loving Father!
And I can hear what you’re saying: “Well, if that’s true, Rusty, where is it? I don’t have a job; I don’t have the money I need; I haven’t been healed. How can this be true to me?
I get it! Listen, I can understand your skepticism. But there’s something you must know about your heavenly Father. He views life from an eternal perspective. He knows what’s best! He even knows that when His answer is “No” to that prayer you’re praying that you might even misunderstand and turn on Him, but He loves you too much to sacrifice your future for your comfort!
And again, you might be saying, “Well, I know what you’re saying up here in my head, but I have to admit that I really can’t grasp it inside my heart. My emotions are having trouble catching up with the theology of my trial. Why is this such a struggle for me?
Let me suggest three reasons grasping this is so hard for us. In the first place, we struggle with believing God really cares because we think our circumstances prove God’s indifference. The message we take from our unanswered prayer is that, somehow, God is disengaged. We pray and we really think we are praying God’s will, then things just don’t go well and we begin to doubt. What’s the problem here? Just this: We are looking at our circumstances instead of at God’s character, and as long as you make that mistake, you will have a struggle. We struggle because we think that our circumstances prove God’s indifference
We also struggle because some of us believe that our sin destroys God’s love. That’s right. We are believers and, even though we claim to be Christians, we know that we have lived rotten lives. Sin has stolen our joy and we have, maybe even for years, allowed ourselves to live lives that are contrary to God’s word. WE’ve lived together without being married; we have secret habits and addictions that no one knows. Maybe we’ve made a thousand promises to ourselves that we are going to change, only to fail again and again. Because of your constant failure, you’ve begun to think that somehow God doesn’t love you anymore. Did you know that such thought is one of the most wicked prideful thoughts you could ever think? When I say that my sin impacts God’s love, I am implying that it was my goodness that made Him love me to start with and nothing could be more wicked than that. I’m also saying that God’s love is like my own: that it’s reality often depends upon the responses of others. We struggle with believing God cares because we thinkg that our circumstances prove His indifference and that our sin can destroy His love.
There’s one more. We struggle to believe Jesus cares because we mistakenly think that our minds can grasp God’s plan. Now we might never come right out and say that, but the truth is, its what we think! We sit and ponder the left turns of our lives and think that, somehow, we ought to be able to clearly trace out the purpose and the plan of God. Isn’t that foolish?
I mean that is comparable to us flying to Chicago to do business with our two-year-old in tow. You arrive at the airport, rent a car and buy a map. When you get in the car, seated next to your two-year-old in his kiddie seat, you throw him the map, tell him the address, then say, “Tell me where to turn.” Now just how close do you think you’ll come to getting to where you want to go?
But isn’t that what we expect God to do. We’re sitting in the kiddie chair riding with our Heavenly Father who knows exactly where He’s going and how to get there and we’re trying to tell Him where to turn. WE struggle with God’s goodness because we mistakenly think that our minds can grasp God’s plan. You see, He’s the Everlasting Father, not us!
Could I just tell you, this morning what you and I need? We do not need a life that’s easy. We do not need a genie-in-a-bottle God who does what we tell Him. We do not need to have all the answers to questions we’ve not even thought about asking. We do not need a faith that presumes upon God’s sovereignty and demands relief He knows would ultimately destroy us. What we need is to firmly grasp the fact that He is our Father and that He cares. And we need to grasp the fact that He is everlasting and that He not only can, but that He will do everything necessary for you and me to fulfill His purpose in our lives. And along the way He promises that just like a loving Father, He will never, never leave us nor forsake us.
More than anything, this world needs this Everlasting Father. I found this poem that really sums it up:
There was a boy who never knew the love a father gives,
raised by his mom in anger for the man who left his kids.
The moment came in growing up, when gates were opened wide;
and the boy, whose heart was wounded, walked into the other side.
His appetite for nurture, to be given by a man,
had been left an empty vacuum as he roamed about the land.
He tried to stroke himself in closets, hidden from the light.
But it never satisfied him, so he wandered into night.
Looking for the man who would make him feel complete,
he gave himself to do such things that some would never speak.
It always started out with hope that love would finally heal,
but each encounter broke him more and left him feeling ill.
Dying for affection which he wrongly sought in man,
he turned for help to others thinking they would understand.
Instead they told him Sodom burned for such things he had done.
“How could you hurt your family so? You’re such a sorry son!”
Angered by the social pride that turns from darker things,
the lad now swore to desecrate the palaces of kings.
He bound himself in common cause with others such as he —
who had suffered long the anguish of the public mockery.
Parades were formed, and marches made, to show their new defiance.
Hand in hand, in open view, they stood in bold alliance
Supposing this would win the day and give them what they needed,
they entered into loud debate and publicly they pleaded.
“Equal right! We are deprived! Treat us true and fair!
Your moral rules are meaningless—for them we do not care!”
The rhetoric, inflamed by fear, polarized their cause;
civil strife erupted through the breaking of God’s Laws.
What they had hoped would give them peace instead provoked a war;
and a nation, known for tolerance, these things do now abhor.
And a boy who never knew the love and kindness of a father
died a victim of disease—alone—with no one who would bother.
The answer to this problem lies within the heart of those
who are filled with Christ’s compassion for the travelers on the road.
We can heal their broken bodies and restore their fallen hearts,
if only we’ll stop from judging them for how they fell apart.
The little boy who never knew, and yet became a man,
can feel the love of Christ in you, if you will touch his hand.
Help him to recover from the darkness of his fall —
for the love of God gives freedom unto any who will call.
BLUE FISH - MASTERPIECE